By Syafiq Affendy in Kuching, Sarawak
The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), now in its 15th year and held annually in Kuching, Sarawak, has put the East Malaysian state on the world map. It brings dazzling performances from across the globe attracting more than 20,000 international and local festival-goers to the magical land of Borneo for three days of daytime music workshops and action-packed nightly shows.
This year's RWMF, which ran from July 13 to July 15, was held on the grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village nestled against the base of Mount Santubong, about 35 kilometres north of Kuching. The festival runs workshops (mini concerts) in the afternoon followed by evening performances held on the two main stages in the village. Although there are timetables for the workshops and evening performances, visitors can enter and leave any event at will.
The daytime workshops are held inside various traditional houses in the village, where the performers and leaders of the events are often on the same floor-level as the audience, allowing them to get up close to the performers. There are also no restrictions in communicating with the performers, and the musicians themselves sometimes encourage conversation, especially if it is regarding the topic of the workshop they are running or about the traditional instruments they use.
For three days, the audience were treated to world-class music ranging from the traditional plucks of the Sarawakian guitar called 'Sape' to the magical fusion of traditional and modern musical instruments showcased on two separate stages - the main Jungle Stage and the Tree Stage.
This year, 16 performers were invited to share their music at the festival, which was estimated to have attracted as many as 30,000 people.
One of the big names who performed at this year's RWMF was Zee Avi, Malaysian singer-songwriter, guitarist and ukulele player who was born in Miri, Sarawak.
The songstress, who now lives in the United States, was first discovered from a song she had posted up on YouTube for a friend. She has since then released several albums and made a special appearance at the festival, courtesy of the Sarawak State Government. Aside from performing her hit songs, Zee Avi sang some local Sarawakian songs during the festival.
Other performers included The Music of Sarawak (Malaysia), Hata - The One (Malaysia, Korea, Turkey and Taiwan), Rhythm of Borneo (Malaysia), Mamadou Diabate (Mali / Burkina Faso), Le Trio Joubran (Palestine), Samuel Dass & Prakash (Malaysia), Khusugtun (Mongolia), Diplomats Of Drum (Malaysia), Raiz De Cafezal (Brazilian Amazonian Indians), La Zikabilo (France), Oreka Tx (Spain), String Sisters (Celtic music from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and US), Kanda Bongo Man (Congo - UK Based), Cankisou (Czech Republic) and Danyel Waro (Reunion Island).
As with previous festivals, the audience had been warned that rain might occur during the event, and that raincoats or ponchos should be brought along to avoid from getting wet.
However, some have a different idea - they embrace the rain. The stage grounds are left in its natural state - either it is covered in grass or the earth is exposed under their feet.
Some would even dive into the puddles of mud after a good few minutes of rain, and this joyful spirit quickly infects those around and soon you'll see groups of people exiting the festival site, fully covered in mud.
The festival has been mentioned in many international music-related publications, including Songlines from the UK, where it has been listed as one of the top 25 international music festivals.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend