Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival - Pulse of the globe
If There were any doubts that the 12th Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) was going to be about anything other than music, they were dispelled on the very first day, when I walked out of my hotel room to African music in the air, courtesy of the Zawose Family from Tanzania rehearsing by the hotel poolside.
From then on, no matter where I went during those three festival days in Santubong, Sarawak – whether at the hotel corridors, the poolside or the event grounds – I heard music everywhere.
Even the usually boring press conference had performers breaking out into song or demonstrating their instruments with a tune or two.
Even so, the spectre of A(H1N1) hung over the RWMF like a fog – festival goers were subjected to a temperature scan at the gate, and anyone with a fever or cough was turned away. Face masks were the de facto fashion statement of the event, with more than 22,000 masks given out and the organisers going so far as to call it the “first ever Rainforest World Music Masquerade”.
It all made for a slightly sombre event, especially when compared to the wild celebrations of the previous two years. But still, nothing can change the fact that the RWMF is still Malaysia’s only genuine world class music festival, and probably one of the best world music festivals in the world.
The festival has come a long way since its very first show in 1997, when there were only 300 attendees. Unlike festivals in Peninsula Malaysia, the event is a lot more liberal with the sponsorship and the selection of acts; while being a lot more tourist-friendly at the same time.
According to festival organisers Sarawak Tourism Board, it cost RM2.4mil to put this year’s festival together but it was estimated to generate RM44mil in revenue for the state.
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