Thursday Oct 27

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Written by Shaun Lim Friday, 16 September 2016 13:41

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Editor's Note: Introducing indie music duo, TheElleWan. In this feature, we learn about Michelle and Erwan's music origins, ambitions, creative music making processes, and some of the challenges they have faced. We have posted some of their videos below (including their RB Jingle), but to find out more about them, check out their YouTube channel. They are on Instagram too.

Have you known each other for a while? Any hobbies?
We’ve been schoolmates since high-school. We did A-levels together at Maktab Duli and then Universiti Brunei Darussalam for our degrees. Michelle did Linguistics and Erwan did Professional Communications.

One hobby we both share is that we like to make music, play music, and listen to music! But personally, I (Michelle) like reading and watching YouTube videos - real regular stuff. I actually like watching documentaries a lot. The odder the better, like sci-fi or weird creatures from the sea.

When did your interest for music begin?

Our interest in music started way before we met each other. We both come from very talented, musically inclined families. It was natural for us to drift towards music on our own. Erwan and I both can play the guitar and a little bit of the piano, and we do dabble in other instruments like drums and pan flute. Odd I know!

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When did you decide to pursue music and how did you come up with the name 'TheEllewan'?

We were jamming in Maktab Duli during our A-levels in 2011 and just thought, why not try our luck and start a band and a YouTube channel together!? We didn’t think it would get this far actually, to the point where we would get gigs an actually produce our own songs! It’s been a crazy ride so far!

The name ‘TheEllewan’ came about by accident, well, by default actually. We originally wanted to go by our own names ‘Erwan and Michelle’ but when we signed up for YouTube, that name was already taken. ‘TheEllewan’ was one of the suggested names. It has stuck with us since! By the way! It’s pronounced 'the-elle-one' not 'the-ellie-one'! 

A trademark of TheEllewan is our mash-up of covers. We do write our own songs, but we got inspired by Youtubers before us for mash-ups to give different dimensions to the songs. On top of that, we are writing originals and boy, is that a process in and of itself.

Tell us about one of your earlier performances.

Our first ever performance was for a Telbru event and actually Aziz Harun’s manager Bahzi Damit got it for us; great guy by the way! This was all before Aziz’s rise to the music scene. And we remember it quite well because we were so nervous to be on the JP Amphitheater stage, hands shaking and boy did we fake our coolness!

There were about 20-30 people in the audience and when we got on stage we just sang our heart out, with feedback deafening us, it was actually an awesome first performance!

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Tell us about the process you go through when writing music.

When it comes to covers, we kinda just go with what song really stuck with us that week or if we hear a cool song that we like. We’ll just text one another and say, ‘Hey, let’s cover this!’ But of course it isn’t always organized. There are many hours of just trying out songs and it failing horribly with me (Michelle) being irritated with the process and Erwan being cool and collected. You can tell who the more emotional one is! When it comes to writing originals, we both have different styles of writing and inspiration.

I think between the two of us, we have written hundreds of songs but because they were written at a particular time in our life, we may not pursue completing the songs. Actually, the best songs we’ve written so far stem from really tough seasons in our lives. I guess it helps, to write down what you’re feeling, get it out of your system and make it beautiful.

What are some of the challenges faced trying to get in the music industry?

One of the challenges we faced was finding out how we were going to do it. We knew about YouTube but you don’t get paid for videos in Brunei. Then there is the question of what sort of songs to do. It really made us think about who we are and more importantly, who we wanted to be. And honestly, to this day, we’re still figuring out. Someone once told us that this industry is an industry of rejection and we’re no stranger to that. But we think that if you have a dream and it means something to you, you just have to do something about it.

Any future plans for TheEllewan?

We launched our first original song ‘Maybe’ a couple of months ago and wow, it is surreal to hear it played on the radio! We’re planning on writing and producing more original music in the near future. We will also do more gigs and concerts, whether here or overseas. Overall, we just want to inspire people through what we do. Hopefully to encourage them to do something about that dream of theirs. We’re just a couple of ordinary people who have a passion and it’s great that we get to do what we love.

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Any final words for your fans or future fans?

Yes! For those who know us and those who don’t, we believe that you are capable of so much. Your dreams and passions aren’t small or insignificant. If something matters to you, pursue it. Work hard for it. Don’t let the fear of failure or rejection hold you back. We’re so thankful for the many friends we have who have been supporting us from day one and now as we’re moving towards a new chapter, we’re exciting to see what’s going to happen next! We love you Brunei, dream big!


Written by Shaun Lim Wednesday, 24 August 2016 09:16

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Editor's Note: Rachael Lee is an international certified Personal Trainer from Fitness Institute Australia and a certified Les Mills group exercise instructor. She graduated from the University of Western Australia, Perth in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science (Major in Sports, Exercise and Health Science). In this feature, we ask Rachael about her passions for people and for fitness.

Tell us about yourself.

Hello! I am Rachael Lee (26 years old) from a small town called Kuala Belait. I now live in Bandar Seri Begawan. I give back my passion and strength for sports and fitness to the community - the world's most priceless and fulfilling job. I am also a part-time volunteer basketball and fitness coach for athletes with intellectual disabilities and special needs in Brunei.

I have always been a sports athlete (basketball, netball, track and field, futsal) since young with basketball as my main sport - of which I hold close to my heart until today as a player for the Brunei Women's Team since I was 18 years old. 

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How did you get into fitness?

I was a sports athlete from young, but a late bloomer in fitness. Fitness made its way into my life as my daily fix from my early 20s. Since my university years, I realised it helped me become a better sports player and athlete. By improving my fitness knowledge, it also helped children and individuals with motor dysfunction and special needs in improving their quality of life to their best ability. With the results shown through the conducted fitness programs for individuals with special needs, I fell in love with the thought of it.

It was during my months closing up to my final semester at university that I knew - one day, I needed to take my passion and enthusiasm for basketball and fitness one step ahead for the community back home in Brunei - be it as an athlete, a fitness trainer, a basketball coach or basketball and fitness event planner.

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Share with us about the Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam.

Coming back to Brunei after graduation and after securing a fulltime job at a health club, I was not content. I needed to be involved somehow with a special needs organisation in order to still do what ignites the fire within me. This was when I was introduced to Special Olympics Brunei Darussalam (SOBD) committee members in mid-2014, Ms Tsara Nawwarah and Ms Dawn Lee.

SOBD is a non-profit, non-government organisation, which works closely with several government ministries as well as other Brunei-based non-government organisations. The mission of SOBD is to provide individuals with intellectual disabilities with opportunities to participate in Olympic-type sports such as Bocce, Football and Bowling, while promoting a healthy lifestyle through healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy attitudes. Special Olympics fosters the competitive spirit, and allows the individuals with intellectual disabilities to be exposed to a world and cultures beyond their own.

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What are some of the challenges you face? How rewarding is it? 

Challenges I face include the inability to safety accomodate all athletes in one session. I try to ensure that each attending athlete benefits as much as they can. I would like to be able to conduct a session for 25 athletes - however, sometimes with the lack of volunteers and with the different conditions of athletes present at session - a big number can be a chaotic.

Another challenge is that currently there are only two of us volunteering as fitness coaches. We would like to hopefully scout for new volunteer fitness coaches to do the same so that we will be able to open more sessions to accomodate other athletes who are unable to make it to our current weekly schedule.

The rewarding part of it that keeps me looking forward to every SOBD coaching session? Despite all the different levels of intellectual disabilities and special needs, it is the many warm happy high-fives and welcomes of 'Hi Coach Rachael!' that gives me a positive boost of energy. The visible excitement of the athletes, and their fitness improvements drives me forward. And of course not to forget, all the satisfied happy parents shaking my hands and constant gratitude from them after every session conducted. =)

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Tell us about the Adaptive Fitness Programme.

After being involved with SOBD for over six months as a volunteer basketball coach - I wanted the athletes to improve more as a sportsperson and better their general well-being as an individual. Hence, I properly planned, launched and introduced Adaptive Fitness Programme - a similar programme that I was conducting in university. The programme is a weekly health and fitness session which focuses on introducing fitness and physical movements which are suitable to their motor capabilities. In turn, improving not only their fitness, daily motor movements - but also their social skills, mindset, moods, appetite and their overall well-being.

The first platform of the Adaptive Fitness Programme was opened for special athletes 12 years old and above at Fitness Zone Health Club. Now, we have our second platform at Hybrid Movement Gym for special athletes 8-12 years old.

The response has been great from the supportive parents with maximum numbers capped every session. There are now special centres requesting for the programme to be conducted at their venue. We are looking forward to be able to open more platforms of opportunities for other individuals with intellectual disabilities and special needs to join our fitness programme.

You recently held a workshop at Crossfit Manila on "Adaptive Fitness". Share your experience with us.

I am a CrossFit athlete and I believe in the power of sharing and educating my fitness innovatives and programme ideas for special athletes across the country - so why not, across the border? The workshop was a success - it opened the minds of not only the crossfit coaches at CrossFit Manila Mall of Asia, but also the Special Olympics Philippines coaches of the special athletes who attended the workshop. All parties now further understand that adaptive fitness training is crucial and needs to be included in their regime in order for the special athletes to better themselves for their respective sports selection in Special Olympics.

I do hope to do more cross-border educative workshop for fitness professionals of the general population and special education teachers: to educate and create awareness about the possibilities and wonders of fitness training for athletes with special needs and also share the concept of SOBD Adaptive Fitness Programme.

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Any words of encourage to those considering getting involved?

Athletes with intellectual disabilities and special needs may have their differences and limitations - but they too just want to live a normal life like all of us. They want to be given a chance to excel in what they can - in the case of the Special Olympics world: to excel and fly high in their chosen sports. They do too, represent our country, Brunei Darussalam in international competitive sporting competitions to make our nation proud. The athletes goes through weekly fitness trainings and sports trainings to make sure they are fit to compete in their sports.

SOBD welcomes all individuals with and without intellectual disabilities and special needs to be part of our family. We are an inclusive, welcoming and supportive community which ensure that everyone and anyone who gets involved the first time with our athletes - will bring home with them a very memorable and unforgettable experience.

Get involved with us today - as a volunteer or as our athlete's training buddy. If you are already a sports coach and would like to volunteer to coach our athletes in any type of sports - you are more than welcomes to speak to any of our SOBD committee members.


Written by Shaun Lim Monday, 08 August 2016 12:55


Editor's Note: In this feature, we highlight the NQB group. To find out more about them, and to follow their journey, connect with them on Facebook.

Tell us about NQB?
NQB stands for "Never Quit Bboy" We met each other during our highschool days and some of us are cousins. We started to dance during break time in school but most of the time we practiced at our house. From there we decided to create our own dance team and Ehsan Issa a.k.a Bboy Chaos as our leader.

We are like a big family, we treat each other equally, gain knowledge of dance through the dance scenes around us locally and also foreign and that is one of the great experiences about dancing. We also do other dance genre such as Street Dance, Hip-Hop, Pop & Locking but Breakdance (Bboy) will still be our foundation of dancing. We get inspiration from other dancers, movies such as  "You Got Served", "Stomp The Yard","Step Up","Battle Of The Years" and also from Youtube. From there we learn, teach and practice together. Our dream is to be one of the most successful bboy crews around the world.

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The difference between NQB and other dance team in Brunei is our style of performance, we add creative movement with comedy to make our performances more interesting. NQB Crew is also a part of Community of Dance, Bruhooders and Morning Fresh Crew.

How do you balance work life and dance?

Some members of NQB come from all different backgrounds. Some of us are used to practicing 2-4 days a week and others practice whenever they have the time. We agree to discipline ourselves by getting our work done first before dance and so far everything is great for us. Some of us are still studying in college and university.

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Share some of the highlights from your journey to date.

NQB were involved with Relentless Entertainment Dancers back in 2009-2014 and this year, a first time collaboration with The Creative Core BN to organize DANCERSMEET ‘16 Dance Competition and Showcase in Brunei Darussalam, support By Fitness Zone and D'Music Motion Studio.

In 2011, we performed for Prince Azim at Pusat Belia, BSB. Some of our other performances include Brufit Expo Event 2015, School Carnivals, private events such as Chinese Wedding, DST Anniversary, Bank Baiduri Gala night, etc. In 2015, NQB was awarded the best perfomer at Malam Pentas Belia Kelolaan JBS Tutong in conjunction of His Majesty’s 69th Birthday Celebration 2015 for Tutong District.

We have been invited by local singers for a music video production such as Jazz Hassan, Udi Luqman featuring Remmy and for the Youtube short film "HisStory" by The Nostrils Production.

Written by Shaun Lim Thursday, 07 July 2016 22:30


Editor's Note: I love coffee. I love that first sip in the morning. I love the smell of coffee. I love the jolt felt when the caffeine kicks in. I love the process of pulling an espresso. I love the discipline involved in the process of preparing pourover coffees. I love how coffee brings people together. I love coffee, and we are glad to bring you this Q n' A with another coffee lover, Waqi from the Brew Department. Read on and follow their journey on IG.

Tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Waqi Rahman. I work as a primary school teacher teaching Science, been teaching for about 8 years now. Aside from that, I’m chasing after my life goals by running Brew Department along with my wife. I would describe myself as laid back, outgoing and adventurous. Things that I love; island life, nature, travelling and coffee!

For the love and passion of coffee

When did your interest for coffee began?
Looking back on my teenage days, I had always been a “hot chocolate” kind of guy. It was my wife who was the coffee drinker! Then I slowly started drinking coffee from coffee chains. Along the way, a good friend of mine, Mutah Beale, better known as Napoleon from Tupac Shakur’s rap group “The Outlawz” came to Brunei bringing 10 kilos of grade A Colombian stuff (coffee). He asked me if the Brunei market would be interested in Specialty Coffee and I was clueless as to what it meant at that time. It was Mutah Beale who introduced the world of specialty coffee to me.

Mutah Beale better known as Napoleon from Tupacs group The Outlawz

How were your early experiences with coffee and how did you develop it?
During my travels, I went to check out some highly recommended third wave cafes. I observed baristas playing around with all these fancy tools when they were making coffee. It was as if they were doing a science experiment because they did everything with such precision. All these different methods of extracting coffee aroused my interest. My growing curiosity led me to communicate with the talented baristas and I was inspired to learn more about the art of specialty coffee.

About two years ago, I started brewing coffee manually with a Hario V60 pour over and later an Aeropress. Back then, the availability of Artisan beans in Brunei was quite limited. I would order my beans online or ask friends and family who were travelling or studying abroad to bring back some Artisan beans for me. I was truly amazed with the different tasting notes from the different coffees I tried. You feel a sense of joy and satisfaction when you sip a good cup of coffee and I wanted to share this feeling with other people.

As my interest grew deeper, I decided to take a Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) course from one of the best coffee mentors in KL. It’s a worldwide certified diploma-system course for any individual wanting to venture into the specialty coffee industry.

Daniel Liew one of the pioneer of Malaysias specialty coffee industry

What's your favorite kind of coffee brewing method?
It’s subjective to pick a favorite. Coffees can be brewed using different methods and each cup produces a unique flavor profile. For example, Brazilian and Indonesian origins have nutty notes with medium / heavy body which are nice for milk based espresso. African origins such as Kenyan and Ethiopian have fruity and floral notes, delicious for filter coffee. For richness and sweetness, Central American origins are also great! I love exploring new coffees. I like to be adventurous. You tend to improve your sensory skills as you discover new tasting notes. Usually, when I dial in new beans, I would have it as an espresso to taste its full flavor profile. Then, once it’s calibrated, I would have it as a milk-based espresso (cappuccino, flat white). I also enjoy hand brew methods using the V60 and I’ve learnt a lot about hand brews from my good friends, Aoyama Coffee, they are always on point with their Kalita!

One of my favourite brew methods V60

Cupping and exploring new coffee

Dialing in espresso

Brew Department has been seen in a few pop up events. Can you share some of your experiences?
The Collective Arts and Big BWN organized great events! I especially enjoyed event settings done in outdoor locations as it gave a unique coffee experience with a festival vibe. One of my personal favorite spot would be at Kunyit 7 Lodge located in the heart of the capital, Kampong Ayer. It was love at first sight for me. I instantly felt connected there. You guys would totally love the ambiance at Kunyit 7 Lodge! It reflects on our roots, heritage and culture.

Teamwork and support were crucial. During pop-ups, we had to stand up 6-7 hours straight pulling shots, but it was all for the love and passion of coffee. There were ups & downs. One of the challenges we faced was maintaining consistency and quality over a long line-up of orders, but we definitely enjoyed the experience of brewing coffee for the community, talking about coffee, meeting new people and best of all, serving our regulars. The sweetest moments were getting compliments and encouragement from people. It kept us motivated to serve people better.

I’m truly grateful for the amazing team behind Brew Department, especially my amazing wife, my supportive family and a very good friend of mine, Chee Yang, who have helped a lot with the movement.

Brew Department working side by side with Aoyama Coffee

Collective events happening as always

Our favorite spot Kunyit 7 Lodge

What do you think of the coffee culture in Brunei?
The coffee culture in Brunei is certainly gaining popularity and growing steadily. I would say the market is maturing, with Kapra the first local roaster opening up and also cafes that are now serving Artisanal coffee through different brewing methods. It’s great to know that consumers have better access to good coffee so they can appreciate the true value of coffee.

Any future plans with Brew Department?
As of now, I’m just going with the flow participating in pop-up events but at the same time looking into new possibilities. I plan to do more collaborations with other creatives that can help connect coffee with the community or anything outside the box. I do have plans in expanding my coffee business but I don’t want to rush into things. I want to take my time planning, identifying the risks and gaining more experience. The world of coffee is complex, every day is a learning process and I still have a lot to explore.

What would you like to see happen in the future for the local coffee scene?
I visualize big things happening in the future for Brunei’s coffee scene. I hope it would be up to par within international standards, which means consumers would have better and higher coffee knowledge and standards. I also hope to create Brunei’s Coffee Association as it would highly benefit the coffee industry here, in terms of education and growth. Lastly, it’s important to give endless support to our local roasters, cafes and baristas as they could represent Brunei in the world stage of coffee competitions. It’s something I would like to see happening in the future.

A wonderful collaborate project at the Maker Space pic cred Sip N Tell

Connecting coffee and the community


Written by Shaun Lim Tuesday, 28 June 2016 21:43

Chom Hassalblad Editor's Note: We are happy to bring you a Q n' A with Zairy, owner of Uneek Skateshop. The Uneek Skateshop is a skater owned and operated skateshop in The Souq of The Airport Mall. Be sure to drop by the next time you're at The Souq, and do check out their Facebook page.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Zairy Izhan b. Hj Ibrahim. I'm turning 40 this year. I am father of two children and I'm the owner of Uneek Skateshop.

When did your interest for skateboarding begin?
It was in the 80's when I watched this tv show, where there is a group of skateboarding team they called themselves the Bones Brigade (Lance Mountain, Mike Mcgill, Tommy Guerrero and others). I was amazed at how they could make their boards stick to their feet when they do tricks like an ollie (i.e. a jump on a skateboard). From there I bought my own skateboard from a department store and started skateboarding, learning tricks and until today, I'm still skateboarding.

Tell us about Uneek Skateshop.
We started in 2001 at Kiulap and now we have moved to a new location at The Airport Mall (The Souq). This year happens to be our 15 years of anniversary. Thank you to everyone that has been supporting us since the very beginning.

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How has the local skate scene grown through the years?
Yeah, more people have started skateboarding throughout the years - boys and girls. I'm very happy to see the scene is growing with new faces coming to shop to get their skateboards and go to skate together at the park. It's good to see their will and passion to learn. I hope this will keep going for the years to come.

What is your goal with the shop?
Our goals are to cater to the skateboarders here with the best quality brands and to support the skate community here. We also have been branding our own shop brand including tees, caps and hopefully this year we will have our own skateboard deck. Uneek Skateshop is not just a shop, to me it's a place for the skate community in Brunei, where strong bonds between skaters are formed.

You select the brands and products that comes into the store. What do you look for in a product before bringing it in?
Most of the brands that we bring in are big brands from the US and some are requested by our customers.

Are there events hosted for the local skaters?
We've done a few small events for the locals here. For example, there was the GO SKATEBOARDING DAY on 21 June 2016. Check out our IG for updates on future events.

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What would you like to see for the future local skate scene?
I hope the local skate scene here will continue to grow. With more good skate parks built, more skate competitions organised and even more local skateboarders representing Brunei at international skate events.

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