Good flash, bad flash


IMAGINE this. You’re taking a relaxing stroll in the local mall, feasting your eyes on the flashy displays in the shops and boutiques when, out of nowhere, several people around you (who also seemed like ordinary shoppers) suddenly break into song and dance.

Then even more join in, all synchronised in their dance steps and song.

Sounds like a scene right out of a musical or a Bollywood movie right?

Well, don’t think you’re going to get your two seconds of fame being a passer-by in a movie scene, because it is not a movie shoot.

It’s a flash mob.

What exactly is a flash mob? No, it is not a bunch of flashers getting together and flashing their ‘wares’, but rather, a large group of people who suddenly assemble in a public place to perform an act – usually a dance or a song – for a brief time and, as quickly as they assembled, they quickly disperse.

This is how Wikipedia defines a flash mob.

The concept of a flash mob was first ‘created’ in 2003 by Bill Wasik, a senior editor of Harper’s Magazine and took place in Manhattan, New York.

Why do people join flash mobs? Essentially, flash mobs are a means to express a common interest, usually an artistic expression.

Flash mobs are initiated online. The organisers set up a website, mailing list, or use social networking sites to send a message and necessary instructions to potential participants.

This of course includes the date, time, and venue. Sometimes the organisers will provide dance steps or routines to learn.

These days, flash mobs have also become a way to advertise a product. Telecommunications companies are among businesses that usually use flash mobs to advertise their products.

These are of course carefully choreographed and staged by talent or events companies.

The participants of a flash mob mingle with the crowd at the given venue and time. When the leader (participants will know what or who to look out for) gives the cue, they break into a repertoire of dance or song, or even a pantomime.

Sarawakians have yet to witness an actual flash mob.

KL folk, however, have experienced flash mobs since 2009, and most recently, the national airlines organised a surprise song and dance flash mob at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport as a way to promote the airlines.

Needless to say, many whipped out their handphones to capture videos and photos of the song and dance routine. Many (mostly foreigners) also joined in, which is also an aim of a flash mob – to get public participation.

A friend recently commented on how flash mobs can become a point of contention, especially these days with certain parties who are out to organise mass rallies.

While the spirit of a flash mob is purely to express a form of art and to promote a culture or product in an entertaining way, this friend was worried that those with their own agendas may use flash mobs as a cover to expressing their ideologies in a more aggressive way.

Or, they could find out about a flash mob, and ride on it – turning it into an opportunity to promote their propaganda.

This, according to her, would kill the true spirit of organising flash mobs, which are supposed to be fun and entertaining.

Of course, the fact that there is a need to apply for permits for all forms of gatherings from sporting events to political rallies will also put a damper on those who are out to promote the arts by using flash mobs.

It would be nice to have a flash mob once in a while here in Sarawak – purely to promote culture and arts, that is – a potential means of promoting tourism and culture (this is a hint for industry players to pick up the idea).

And, Eye hope that if someone does organise a flash mob to promote Sarawak arts and culture, it will be facilitated
and encouraged (not hampered) by the authorities and carried out in the true spirit of togetherness that we live by here in Sarawak.