Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival: Forest gig

Imagine a music festival where it is easy to buy a drink and there is plenty of space to wander around markets and food stalls. A concert where there are no queues for toilets and a beer costs 8RM ($2.50).

Far from the Australian festival scene, the Rainforest World Music Festival is a three-day event held annually in Sarawak, Malaysia.

I head along to the first night of the festival, at the base of Mt Santubong, a 45-minute drive from the city of Kuching.

Held at the Sarawak Cultural Village, the festival is in the middle of the rainforest.

Although nearly 30,000 people flock to it each year, the festival has a surprisingly chilled-out vibe.

During the day there are musicians' workshops, jam sessions and a craft bazaar, and as the light fades, these give way to the main concert performances.

Many of the festival-goers I meet are content to sit on a grassy hill under trees lit up with beams of coloured light while the artists play.

Some visit market stalls to have intricate patterns cut into their hair while others relax in bars set up away from the main stages and watch all the action on big screens.

It is just the kind of place that makes me feel like getting a henna tattoo.

Despite the laid-back attitude of Rainforest World Music Festival fans, or perhaps because of it, the event has been rated one of the best 25 international festivals by British world music magazine Songlines.

We arrive about 7pm, in time to see a huge Malaysian band perform a show packed with more colour and smiles than a musical at Disneyland.

Next up are a group of Canadian singers, who in my ignorance about world music sound a little too much like wailing.

All night, the heavens threaten to open and turn the event into a giant mud puddle dotted with people in plastic sheets but, thankfully, the downpour holds off.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival: Forest gig

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