Sabri Buang

Singapore Infopedia


Sabri Buang (b. 1964, Singapore–d. 26 March 2021) is both a writer and director of theatre and television in Singapore and abroad.1 In his earlier days, Sabri acted in Malay dramas for both theatre and television, and has built up a body of directorial works in English and Malay.2 Known for his professional work in theatre, Sabri has trained actors in Singapore, the United States, Norway and Denmark. He was the head of LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts (now Lasalle College of the Arts) School of Drama from 1999–2003.3 In 2004, Sabri became the creative director at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur's performing arts centre.Sabri Buang passed away suddenly from a pulmonary embolism [blood clot in the lungs] on 26 March 2021.5

Education and qualifications
Sabri is the eighth of 12 children. As a child, he was more interested in playing football. His involvement in drama began only when he was doing his pre-university studies at the Tanjong Katong Technical School. Sabri graduated as a physical education teacher at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, and subsequently pursued his dreams to study theatre at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.6
He graduated with top honours in performing arts in 1991 and returned to Singapore, determined to develop the theatre scene here. By 1993, Sabri had already been actively contributing to the local arts scene for 10 years such as by directing and penning plays, which were mainly in Malay.7 In 1993, he was awarded the $35,000 S. Rajaratnam Scholarship Award to further his studies at the University of Hawaii where he obtained a Master of Fine Arts (Theatre and Drama).8

International accomplishments
In June 2000, Sabri was selected to represent Singapore at the Mødestedet 2000 International Theatre Festival in Slagese, Denmark.9 For the festival, he wrote, directed and produced a double bill production: an English play titled Waves and a Malay drama, Sangkar (“Cage”). The productions received rave reviews from the organiser, theatre artistes and the audience. The LaSalle-SIA Foundation, Lee Foundation, National Arts Council and the organiser, Mødestedet, sponsored the trip for the entire troupe.10 Besides Singapore, India was the other Asian participant in the event.11 

Following his successful showing at the festival, Sabri received invitations to develop new works for professional theatre companies in Denmark, Russia and Venezuela. In 2000, Sabri was approached by Rick Sperling, artistic director of the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, to direct their drama performance in Detroit for three weeks. Sabri was the first Asian to be invited by an accomplished theatre company like Mosaic, a recipient of the prestigious Taller Award by former US president Bill Clinton. The result of the joint effort was the reinterpretation of classical Greek drama Medea, which was staged in Detroit in late 2000 and in Singapore in July 2001.12

In December 2001, Sabri became the only Asian director to have his work presented at the 5th International Theatre Awards in Caravcas, Venezuela.13 In November the following year, Sabri’s Asian interpretation of the classical Greek play Antigone was staged at the UNESCO-ITI World Theatre Festival in Athens, making his young LASALLE-SIA performers the first Asian group to perform at the festival.14 His expertise, knowledge and experience have been much sought after by theatre companies and arts institutions in Singapore as well as overseas.

Other involvements
In 1996, Sabri collaborated with retired footballer Fandi Ahmad, the former Singapore Television Twelve and Yayasan Mendaki to produce a 13-episode docu-drama, Meniti Pelangi (“Follow the Rainbow”), which highlighted the successes and struggles of the Malay community.15

In 1998, Sabri was appointed an executive member of Majlis Pusat Pertubuhan-Pertubuhan Budaya Melayu Singapore (Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations Singapore) to help revitalise its  programmes.16 At the same time, he also became the creative director of Raistar Productions Private Limited (later Raistar International), a local Malay production company.17

A year later, in 1999, Sabri was appointed head of the Public Relations and Education Committee for the Kampong Glam Malay Heritage Project.18 Sabri was the director for the Malay version of the controversial play, Talaq (“Divorce” in Arabic), in 2000. However, the play was not staged due to religious and cultural sensitivities.19 Besides his various roles as playwright, lecturer and creative director, Sabri was also a senior marketing executive at Scotts Holdings and wrote for The Straits Times and Berita Harian newspapers.20

In 2004, Sabri was appointed the creative director for Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur’s performing arts centre. He was the creative force behind the successful Konsert Kasih –Tangan Yang Memberi (“The Hand That Gives Concert”) staged at the centre in January 2005. The concert featured popular Malaysian and Singaporean stars, and was held to raise funds for the victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.21

In 2005, Sabri returned to Singapore to direct the star-studded concert Ribut Damai held on 10 April. The concert was aimed at raising funds for the tsunami-hit Aceh on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.22 During his stint as artistic director at Istana Budaya, Sabri also oversaw several other stage performances such as Teater Puteri Hang Li Po (“Princess Hang Li Po Theatre”), Konsert Nur and Konsert 100 Simfoni Rakyat (“Concert for The 100 People Symphony”).23

Sabri’s mentor was Nadiputra (Almahdi Al-Haj Ibrahim), a well-known local scriptwriter and director for local Malay television drama as well as theatre.24

Selected Malay plays
 Warna-warna Lakon (“The Colours of Acting”)25

1983: Gersang (Barren)26
1986: Laksamana Muda Lela (“Young Admiral Lela”)
1988: Arwah (“The Deceased”)
1991: Setengah Jalan Merah (“Red 1/2 Way”)27
1992: Anjing Untuk Diplomat (“A Dog for A Diplomat”)28
1999: Laluan (“Passage”)29
2001: Uri (“Placenta”)30

Selected awards
 Merit award for After Abyss (play), 8th Kemuning Society Youth Theatre Festival.31
2001: Consolation prize for Jeda (novel), Sayembara Novel Watan, Perikatan Sayembara Dayacipta (Persada).32 
2001:  Best Set Design, Best Lighting Effects and Best Sound Effects for Project Woyzeck: Last Walk Within, 5th International Theatre Awards, Caravcas, Venezuela.33
2003: Merit award for Jeda (novel), Anugerah Persuratan (Literary Awards), Malay Language Council.34

Sabri was married to Junaidah Jumair, a former dramatist.35 His younger brother is Raffi Buang, a former national sepak takraw player.36


Marsita Omar & Kartini Saparudin

1. Dewani Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama” [Sabri wants to be a catalyst for the performing arts], Berita Harian, 9 July 1993, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Irma Kamarudin, “Seniman Teater Sabri Buang Meninggal Dunia” [Theater practitioner Sabri Buang passed away]. Berita Harian, 27 March 2010, 20. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
2. Atin Amat, Persatuan Kemuning Bawa Pembaharuan Besar. [Kemuning Society brings major reforms]. Berita Harian, 13 January 2001, 18; “Karya Sabri Beri Nilai-Nilai Pemikiran” [Sabri’s works provide food for thought], Berita Harian, 20 June 1988, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Leong Liew Geok, ed., Literary Singapore: A Directory of Contemporary Writing in Singapore (Singapore: National Arts Council, 2011), 129 (Call no. RSING 809.895957 LIT); LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, Annual Report 1999–2000 (Singapore: LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, 2000), 17 (Call no. RCLOS q700.7105957 LSCAAR-[AR]); LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, Annual Report 2000–2001 (Singapore: LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, 2001), 33 (Call no. RCLOS q700.7105957 LSCAAR-[AR]); LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, Annual Report 2003–2004 (Singapore: LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, 2004), 60. (Call no. RCLOS q700.7105957 LSCAAR-[AR])
4. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Sabri Gembira Diundang Pulang Arah Konsert Ribut Damai” [Sabri is happy to be invited back to direct Ribut Damai concert], Berita Harian, 2 April 2004, 30; Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Konsert Nur: Hiburan Rohani Membanggakan” [Concert Nur: Proud of spiritual entertainment], Berita Harian, 13 October 2004, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Kamarudin, “Seniman Teater Sabri Buang Meninggal Dunia.”
6. Dewani Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama” [Sabri wants to be a catalyst for the performing arts], Berita Harian, 9 July 1993, 5; Ida Bachtiar, et al., “Work Within Constraints,” Straits Times, 10 August 1992, 3; Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Laluan: Gabungan Nadiputra & Sabri” [Passage: A collaboration between Nadiputra & Sabri]. Berita Harian, 23 May 1999, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Bachtiar, et al., “Work Within Constraints”; Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama.”
8. “Raja Fund to Give Fewer Awards,” Straits Times, 3 August 1993, 22; Saleh, “Sabri Gembira Diundang Pulang”; Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama.”
9. “College Goes to Festival,” Straits Times, 27 June 2000, 7; “Sabri Wakil Singapura Di Pesta Teater Denmark” [Sabri represents Singapore in Denmark’s theatre festival], Berita Harian, 24 June 2000, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Hanim Mohd Saleh, (2000, August 2). “Teater Melayu Mampu Ke Taraf Antarabangsa” [Malay theatre capable of international standing], Berita Harian, 2 August 2000, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “College Goes to Festival.”
12. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Kreativiti Diiktiraf” [Creativity recognised]. Berita Harian, 19 November 2000, 16; Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Teater Klasik 'Medea' Versi Sabri” [Sabri’s version of the classic play, ‘Medea’], Berita Harian, 19 November 2000, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Maktab Seni LaSalle-SIA Menang Tiga Anugerah Teater” [LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts wins three theatre awards], Berita Harian, 15 December 2001, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “LASALLE-SIA Dramatists Break New Ground in Athens Performance,” Channel NewsAsia, 17 November 2002. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
15. Tuminah Sapawi, “Fandi Fields Old Friend for TV Work,” Straits Times, 4 November 1996, 7; Tuminah Sapawi, “New TV12 Policy Allows More Variety on Malay TV,” Straits Times, 17 September 1996, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Haryani Ismail, “10 'Muka Baru' Dalam MP” [10 ‘new faces’ in MP], Berita Harian, 20 June 1998, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “'Pegangan Aktivis Teater Muda Keliru'” [Young theatre activists confused], Berita Harian, 23 May 1999, 13; Rosebi Mohd Sah, “Pengalaman Pelajar Melayu Di Luar Negeri Mungkin Di TV” [Malay students’ overseas studying experience may be aired on TV], Berita Harian, 10 October 1998, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Lima Jawatankuasa Lecil Ditubuh Untuk Gerakkan Jentera Pembangunan,” [5 sub-committees set up to move construction], Berita Harian, 4 December 1999, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Saleh, “Kreativiti Diiktiraf”; “President of Drama Group behind Talaq Play Arrested,” Channel NewsAsia, 29 October 2000. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
20. Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama”; Yaakub Rashid, “Stage Talk,” Straits Times, 21 June 1990, 10; “Raja Fund to Give Fewer Awards,” Straits Times, 3 August 1993, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
21. J. Tiong, ”A Helping Hand for Those in Need,” Malay Mail, 23 January 2005. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Saleh, “Sabri Gembira Diundang Pulang”; Saleh, “Konsert Nur”; Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Anak-Anak Seni Kita Pikul Peranan Penting Di KL” [Our artists play an important role in KL], Berita Harian, 24 October 2004, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Saleh, “Sabri Gembira Diundang Pulang.”
23. Saleh, “Konsert Nur”; Saleh, “Sabri Gembira Diundang Pulang.”
24. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Laluan: Gabungan Nadiputra & Sabri Buang” [Passage: A collaboration between Nadiputra & Sabri], Berita Harian, 23 May 1999, 13; Tuminah Sapawi, “The Humorous, Jovial, But Serious Nadi,” Straits Times, 2 August 1988, 5; Z. N. Soharman, “Special Presentation for First AnniversaryStraits Times, 7 October 1986, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Nor E. Badron, “Abyss of Chaos,” Straits Times, 18 July 1990, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Abbas, “Sabri Ingin Jadi Mangkin Seni Drama.”
27. Yaakub Rashid, “Red Hot Brew,” Straits Times, 8 August 1991, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Yaakub Rashid, “Another Dog Has Its Day,” Straits Times, 21 May 1992, 10; Yaakub Rashid, “Gone to the Dogs,” Straits Times, 18 June 1992, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Saleh, “Gabungan Nadiputra & Sabri Buang”; Helmi Yusof, “Theatre – Oh Brother, Why Must He Fall and Drown?” Straits Times, 10 June 1999. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
30. Hanim Mohd Saleh, “Tekad Cari Ilmu Lebih Membara” [Burning desire for knowledge], Berita Harian, 25 August 2001, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Yaakub Rashid, “Poly’s Winning Debut,” Straits Times, 2 January 1990, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
32. Yusmawati Yahya, “'Anugerah Buat Syamsiah' Menang” [‘Award for Syamsiah’ wins], Berita Harian, 11 November 2001, 1; Dewasi Abbas, “Sinopsis” [Synopsis],  Berita Harian, 18 November 2001, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Saleh, “Maktab Seni LaSalle-SIA Menang.”
34. Dewani Abbas, “Anugerah Persuratan 2003: Hadirin ‘Sebak’ Dengar Sajak Mohd Latiff” [Literary Awards 2003: Attendees ‘tear up’ listening to Mohd Latiff’s poems], Berita Harian, 2 November 2003, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Sapawi, “Fandi Fields Old Friend for TV Work.” 
36. Dewani Abbas, “Aktif Bersukan cemerlang Dalam Pelajaran” [Active in sports, excels in studies], Berita Harian, 13 September 1998, 14. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources
Teo Pau Lin, “Plot Thickens Over Talaq,” The Straits Times, 20 October 2000, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

Tuminah Sapawi, “Different But United,” Straits Times, 14 October 1992, 10. (From NewspaperSG)

Tuminah Sapawi, “Brother, I Want to Run Away from Home,” Straits Times, 22 May 1999, 7. (From NewspaperSG)

Yaakub Rashid, “The Young Ones,” Straits Times, 13 June 1990, 9. (From NewspaperSG)

Yohanna Abdullah, “Looking for a Woman of Substance,” Straits Times, 22 November 1992, 4. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is as valid as at 2018 and correct as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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