Speaking with Som Said and her son, Adel Ahmad, one can immediately sense the warm relationship between mother and son. And this familial warmth also extends to the workplace, given that Adel now leads Singapore’s first fully professional Malay dance company, Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts, that his mother founded in 1997. Sri Warisan is a complete family affair: Som oversees all artistic decisions, while her husband Ahmad Sawal manages the company’s finances.
Adel serves as the managing director, and his wife Marina Yusoff spearheads the marketing division. “My succession plan was executed in merely five years!” Som, a 1987 Cultural Medallion recipient, says half-jokingly. “When Adel came on board in 2000 after returning from his studies in Canada, he was able to modernise Sri Warisan, while I made sure that the practice stays rooted to tradition.”
Malay dance consists of five main types, namely the joget, masri, inang, asli and zapin, each characterised by a distinctive style, rhythm and music. The asli, for example, is a slow and graceful dance that follows the beat of the gong in counts of eight, while the joget is quick in tempo and often accompanied by the accordion and violin.
One of the first decisions by Adel upon joining the company was to digitise its operations, followed by a desire to take its practice abroad for international audiences to appreciate.
“Then, I wanted Sri Warisan to tour 100 cities in the next 20 years,” shares Adel proudly, knowing full well that his target has been met in 2016. Coincidentally, this year marks the 20th year since he took over the company, and it holds an impressive record of performances standing at 102 cities in 40 countries to date.