Saturday, June 30, 2012

Up close with Borneo primates at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary



An adult male proboscis monkey

 
Male proboscis monkeys are significantly heavier than females 

Proboscis monkeys live in groups, spending their days in trees 

Photos courtesy of and Copyright to NYL and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd


By NYL

Deep in the heart of a shimmering Borneo rainforest, a group of tourists gathers expectantly on a wooden platform in a clearing. All eyes watch the tree canopy above. A ranger calls out in an attempt to attract the monkeys. Gradually, several young females emerge from the trees, spy a cache of sugar-free pancakes and cucumber, and swing towards the feeding platform.

One adult male, its tufts of reddish-brown hair iridescent in the morning sun, hops on to the platform railing and locks eyes with a visitor. The magnificent primate, notable for its large prominent nose and extended belly, is so human in its expressions and mannerism that onlookers are moved to humble reverence.

Welcome to Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (LBPMS), one of Borneo's real treasures near Kampung Samawang, about 40 kilometres from Sandakan. Located in the heart of a mangrove forest and an oil palm estate, it is home to a variety of endangered wildlife species, with the indigenous proboscis monkey exclusively found only in Borneo.

The proboscis monkey derives its name from the long drooping, red nose of the adult male; female and young animals are snub-nosed. The role of the drooping nose, which seems to straighten out when the animal is giving out its curious honking call, is unclear, although it is likely that it helps in attracting a mate.

The monkeys are reddish-brown in colour with long, thick, white tails and white rumps. In addition, the adult males have a cream- white collar and large bellies, giving them a rather portly appearance. Males are significantly heavier than females, weighing up to 30 kg, compared with the female's maximum weight of around 15 kg. All in all, this combination of features has earned male proboscis monkeys the name of "Orang Belanda" or "Dutchman" in parts of Borneo.

The monkeys live in loose groups, spending their days in trees close to the water, though they will walk across open areas when necessary, and can swim proficiently, aided by their partly webbed feet. The creatures are most active at dawn and dusk, when moving to and from feeding sites.

Specialized plant-eaters, proboscis monkeys appear permanently potbellied because of their huge chambered stomachs, which contain various symbiotic bacteria that help digest the leaves, seeds, and green fruits that form the bulk of their diet. They avoid sweet fruits, which could cause deadly bloating from rapid fermentation. This fact, coupled with the restricted range of the proboscis monkey, makes the species vulnerable to habitat loss and hunters.

Tourism revenue helps maintain the sanctuary, while visitors learn the importance of caring for, and protecting this fragile ecosystem.

"Both the environment and tourism are important, but we are more concerned with conservation than tourism," explains Ah Seng, a guide with LBPMS. To achieve that delicate balance, tourists can only visit the sanctuary during certain hours. The feeding of the proboscis monkeys at 11.30am and 2.30pm are the best times to visit.

An observation platform offers a perfect vantage point to view the monkeys and other wildlife, and there are also plenty of marked trails to wander around.

An educational and candid film highlights the dangers these creatures face due to destruction of habitat.

In addition, LBPMS also offers fully guided treks and night walks through the jungle to observe not only proboscis monkeys but also the abundance of other wildlife, including hornbills, wild boars, crocodiles, silver leaf monkeys and orangutan.

"As well as conservation, our objective is education", says Ah Seng. "The response has been good. A lot of local children have become interested in wildlife, and they'll try to save the proboscis monkeys for future generations."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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SPArks trio set to dazzle at Tip of Borneo Sunset Music Festival


KOTA KINABALU: Three renowned members of Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SPArKS) lead their music groups to perform in Sunset Music Festival @ Tip of Borneo in Kudat today, 30 June.

It is very unusual to have three members from one organization to be invited by Sabah Tourism to participate in one of its premier events.

The three Sabah’s foremost musicians who would take centre stage at the musical extravaganza are SPArKS president Cheong Kok Ann, SPArKS vice president Roger Wang and 2010 SPArKS exco member Yap Ling.

Cheong leads his nine-piece music ensemble JACKFRUIT to present original composed songs from their two released albums and also a jazzy version of SAYANG KINABALU.

JACKFRUIT is the first Malaysian group to be invited to perform in 10th Nanjing Jazz Festival, China in 2011 and as highlight band in the 8th JB (Johor Bharu) Arts Festival in 2011.

Roger Wang presents ‘Roger & Friends’ – a platform to showcase his beautiful fingerstyle guitar playing, which features many local talents to share this wonderful musical experience with him.

Roger Wang is well known locally and internationally, and has performed in many music festivals worldwide.

He was also an award winner for a song composed for Jacky Cheung.

Yap Ling leads and conducts the Jesselton Philharmonic Orchestra, which has always been the highlight at Sunset Music Festival for a few years.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Tourism village plan in Karambunai


KOTA KINABALU: The traditional village of Kampung Ratau Karambunai is poised to make a name in the state’s tourism industry as a destination for holiday makers who seek a quiet retreat.

Located in the valley of Bukit Sepanggar, some 30 minutes’ drive from the state capital, Kampung Ratau has been identified as having immense potential to be developed into a tourism village.

And efforts are already being initiated to develop this potential and transform it into actual product that will benefit the local populace as well as the tourism sector.

Karambunai assemblywoman Datuk Jainab Ahmad, who announced the plan yesterday, said Kampung Ratau has been included as part of an integrated economic development for Karambunai constituency.

“The aim is to make it a tourism village by 2013. So, we will develop the village as a tourism product in manner that the villagers would be able to capitalize on their existing way of life to earn additional income,” he said.

Jainab said the villagers in Kampung Ratau are mostly Dusun, Kadazan and Bajau who still practise traditional agriculture they inherited from their ancestors.

Besides the daily life of the community, she said the hilly terrain and location of village next to the sea offer a scenic and tranquil experience that outsiders would not mind paying to explore.

“The plan would involve developing only the existing resources in the village, such upgrading the facilities of the homestay programme participants and developing agriculture land, apart from providing the infrastructure for suitable additional activities like jungle tracking, arts and local culture.

“It will be focused on upgrading and packaging the resources owned by the villagers that are readily available in the area and not a new development project by government or private company,” she said, adding that the main objective of the whole thing is to generate economic opportunities through tourism activities that will directly benefit the locals.

Continue reading at: Tourism village plan in Karambunai
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Procession to mark start of Borneo Cultural Festival


SIBU: A procession on the evening of July 6 will mark the opening of this year’s Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF), which will run from July 6-15 at Sibu Town Square.

Second Finance Minister and Minister of Local Government and Community Development Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh will lead the procession.

Organising chairman Daniel Ngieng told a press conference Wednesday that the procession would begin at 7pm and end at around 8.30pm.

“The 2km walk will pass through the major town roads,” he said, adding that there would a sizeable number of contingents, including five brass bands, lion and dragon dance troupes, and people from various communities.

Ngieng said the idea to have the grand parade is to showcase Sibu’s rich and colourful cultural heritage.

Anticipating a huge turnout, Ngieng urged motorists not to park their vehicles too close to the Town Square to minimise traffic congestion.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rainforest Festival launch, a ticketed event this year


KUCHING: The Sarawak Tourism Board is for the first time ticketing the launch of the Rainforest World Music Festival.

The launch, which will be held on July 12 at the Sarawak Cultural Village, is a chance for festivalgoers to meet in person, have an autograph or grab a photo with the international and Malaysian bands present.

Tickets for the night are priced at RM80 inclusive of dinner. However, for those who just wish to watch the opening show, tickets are priced at RM30.

The launching ceremony and dinner will be held at Dewan Lagenda, Sarawak Cultural Village near here, followed by the opening act by Raiz De Cafezal from Brazil and Rhythm of Borneo from Sarawak.

The full lineup for RWMF this year will be Oreka TX (Spain) Hata (Malaysia/Korean/Turkey/Taiwan), Mamadou Diabate (Mali/ Burkina Faso), Danyel Waro (Reunion Islands), Kanda Bongo Man (Congo), Khusugtun (Mongolia), Le Trio Joubran (Palestine), La Zikabilo (France), Raiz De Cafezal (Brazil), String Sisters (Scotland/Ireland/Sweden/Norway/USA), Cankisou (Czech Republic) Zee Avi (Malaysia/USA), The Diplomats of Drum (Malaysia), Rhythm of Borneo (Malaysia), Samuel Dass & Prakash (Malaysia) and The Music of Sarawak (Sarawak).

The Rainforest World Craft Bazaar (RWCB) will also be held alongside the Rainforest World Music Festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village and features prominently as an important fringe event.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Protecting The Heart Of Borneo

 
In Southeast Asia, the island of Borneo is home to one of the world’s most diverse rainforests, but its natural resources are under threat. Information from satellites is being used to evaluate the impact of the island’s future development.

The mountainous island is the third largest in the world. It is an area of exceptional biological diversity and its natural resources have tremendous social and economic value at local, national and global levels.

While still of great importance, these resources have diminished in recent years due to logging, plantation development, mining and forest fires.

“The ecosystems in the Heart of Borneo provide many local, regional and global services and benefits,” said Anna van Paddenburg, Sustainable Financing and Policy Strategy Leader for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia.

“The mountainous forests form the headwaters of most of Borneo’s 20 major rivers, providing water for agriculture, human consumption, and industry.

“The forests provide timber and non-timber forest products, and store huge amounts of carbon.

“The diverse ecosystems support endemic plants and animals, which supports eco-tourism and pharmaceutical research.”

While it is widely recognised that healthy ecosystems provide services that play a critical role in maintaining individual and societal welfare, the benefits that flow from them are not always accounted for in government and private sector decision-making.

In an effort to protect the environment and develop the area in a sustainable way, the Heart of Borneo conservation agreement was initiated by WWF and signed by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei in 2007.

In December 2010, WWF initiated an assessment of Borneo’s natural capital to quantify and understand the value of ecosystem services and benefits.

ESA provided technical assistance through Hatfield Consultants, a Canadian environmental and geomatics consulting company that has been working in Indonesia for 20 years, and NEO BV, a value-adding data provider.

The consortium closely collaborated with WWF and scientists from the Natural Capital Project and the consulting agency Witteveen+Bos.

Satellite data from different ESA projects were used to build development scenarios. Among the sources were global land cover data, which show changes in land use in Borneo.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Protecting The Heart Of Borneo
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Heritage Sabah to conduct documentation study on Atkinson Clock Tower


KOTA KINABALU: Heritage Sabah will be carrying out a documentation exercise of the Atkinson Clock Tower with the permission of Sabah Museum while on-going work to repair the 107-year-old clock tower is in progress.

This is following the decision of the museum to facilitate structural repairs on the oldest historical landmark in KK city after the Heritage Sabah NGO highlighted its poor condition to the public through their Facebook social network page.

This swift response from Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun and Sabah Museum director Joanna Kitingan prompted an investigation on the condition of the clock tower and subsequently confirmed that the clock tower was in timely need for an upgrade.

Heritage Sabah will be documenting the progress of the repair as well as prepare a measured drawing of the clock tower to be compiled as an academic reference.

A report will be handed back to Sabah Museum for safekeeping when the documentation is completed.

The approved society (officially registered in April 2012) will also be conducting a study of resources with the Sabah State Archives and other relevant government departments to trace back the history of the clock tower — which has undergone several facelifts before its current existing facade that was done in 1959 for Jesselton’s silver jubilee anniversary.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Plans for Kuching delta and Mount Kinabalu to become Unesco geoparks


KUCHING:  Plans are afoot to include the areas in Kuching delta and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah as part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) Global Geopark Network programme.

Following the extension of Langkawi in Kedah to be incorporated under the Global Geopark Network programme for another four years by the world organisation recently, the idea is for both the Kuching delta and Mount Kinabalu areas to be given recognition as the nation’s other geoparks.

“A committee has been established to work on the proposals and details to turn these two areas into geoparks. We are working for both areas to receive national recognition before they can be considered for the Unesco’s geopark programme.

“The plan is to make Kuching delta and Mount Kinabalu the country’s second and third recognised Global Geopark Network,” said Malaysian Mineral and Geosciences Department director general Dato Yunus Abdul Razak in his speech at the opening of the National Geosciences Conference 2012 (NGC 2012) at Pullman Hotel here yesterday.

Also present were Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, the ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Sudarsono Osman, state Geoscience and Mineral Department director Alexander Unya Ambun, Malaysian Geology Association president Prof Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira and Academy of Sciences Malaysia council member Datuk Ibrahim Komoo among others.

At present, Yunus opined that the state could achieve recognition ahead of neighbouring Sabah considering that presentation of the Kuching deltas as a geopark had been made to the Ministry of Resources and Environment. He hoped that national recognition would be given soon.

Unesco’s recognition under the Global Geopark Network programme is awarded every four years after strict assessment to ensure that fulfillments are met.

Yunus also revealed that regulation of the Geologist Act 2008 had been approved by the cabinet, currently awaiting final approval from the prime minister. The revision would upgrade professionalism while improving on the quality and expertise of geologists.

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Kuching South - A city to be proud of


Kuching South City Council’s vision is to build the most  well-planned, cultured, caring and healthy city in Malaysia.

MAYOR James Chan has pledged to continue with his vital role of making Kuching South City a liveable place with a strong voice and where the residents enjoy a quality and rewarding community life.

With his mayoral contract renewed for another three years, the energetic mayor spoke to thesundaypost about his vision, focus and challenge in realising the potential of Kuching South City as a metropolis.

“We have a city that’s neither huge nor small but is growing fast.

Right now, it’s sort of like a village city in the sense that we are not overcrowded, less congested, yet vibrant, convenient, lovely and calm,” he noted.

The vision of the Kuching South City Council (MBKS) is to build the most well-planned, cultured, caring and healthy city in Malaysia.

As such, Chan stressed the Council values the various communities under its jurisdiction and understands the importance of serving them efficiently and effectively.

“Like any business, my Council is tasked with managing operations within an allocated budget and ensuring our services can be assessed by the communities.”

Over the years, he said a lot had been done to shape a Kuching South City that is safe, green, clean and healthy through various community projects, programmes and activities.

“For instance, we are using more colours to create our landscaping with a variety of flowers. A more vibrant and friendly landscaping can enhance the environment and, in turn, benefit the residents.

While the city continues to grow and progress in tandem with development, Chan pledges to keep the ‘kampung spirit’ alive within the communities.

“We want to foster a welcoming, friendly and caring community where people can connect, share and bond,” he said.

“For this reason, we are holding the Community Event 2012 this weekend with an array of activities at five locations around the city.

“We want to bring people together so that they can get to know each other and have fun – and also take the opportunity to say hello to me instead of coming to see me only in times of trouble,” he quipped.

That aside, MBKS’ core functions include cleaning services, collection and disposal of waste, general maintainance of public facilities, urban beautification and landscaping as well as environmental protection and building control.

Although the Council has a leadership role, it cannot provide real and sustainable benefits unless it works closely with other agencies and the community.

Therefore, the Council is committed to re-examining the future direction of the city both in the short and long term.

Strategic plan

The Council recognises the importance of citizen inputs to enable it to further enhance the quality of life in the city. Towards this end, it makes meeting the needs of the residents the number one priority.

Chan revealed the new and improved strategic plan had been formulated within the framework of the Five Pillars outlining the shared visions of the state government and the Council for a liveable and sustainable city.

“By liveable and sustainable, we mean a city built on a strong economy and a sense of community pride.”

The plan contains five key areas of focus — neighbourliness, vibrant economy, integration and innovation of work processes, environmental management and urban beautification.

“Our focus is on preserving our natural environment as well as continuously planning and working towards improving and maintaining the quality of life for all,” he said.

“With the plan outlined, Kuching South City will continue to grow and change. We will deliver efficiently, bring about improvements, promote and foster a caring and inclusive community where city and community programmes, services and facilities contribute directly to the quality of life.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kuching South - A city to be proud of
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sandakan's vibrant attractions

A panoramic view of Sandakan

The Four Points by Sheraton, a new international hotel in Sandakan


Photos courtesy of and Copyright to NYL and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd


By NYL

Sandwiched between sea and cliffs, Sandakan, Sabah's second largest city on the east coast, holds hidden secrets, which are gradually being unlocked.

Derived from the Suluk word "sanda" meaning "to pawn", Sandakan means "a place that was pawned". Who pawned it and to whom, remains a mystery.

Englishman William B Pryer founded Sandakan in 1879. But it was William Clarke Cowie, a Scottish adventurer and engineer, who set up the first European settlement on Pulau Timbang in Sandakan Bay where a small Suluk village existed. Cowie called his base Sandakan, later known as Kampung German due to the number of German traders who visited Cowie.

The settlement was relocated to Buli Sim-Sim in 1879. It was an uninhabited jungle and mangrove area with one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. He named the new settlement "Elopura" meaning "The Beautiful City" but the name reverted to Sandakan.

By 1885, Sandakan was the capital of British North Borneo, its natural harbour and proximity to sources of timber, beeswax and edible birds' nest transforming it into a thriving commercial centre. Sabahan timber was used in the construction of Beijing's Temple of Heaven, and much of Sandakan's early trade was with Hong Kong; there is still a strong Cantonese influence in the town.

World War II saw a lot of destruction to the town and it lost its capital status to Jesselton (subsequently, renamed Kota Kinabalu) to the north.

Today, Sandakan is more notably a springboard to several fascinating destinations, including the offshore Turtle Islands Park, the divers' paradise Pulau Lankayan, Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre and Sungai Kinabatangan. Despite its lively colonial history, Sandakan's main attraction is its hot, steamy waterfront - a teeming, chaotic multi-purpose place where the fish and central market, hawker stalls and transport all seem to combine in a profusion of colour and activity.

From dawn to late morning, fruit and vegetable sellers line the front of the general market and, on the top floor, food stalls sell innumerable noodle dishes and seafood delicacies. The next building eastwards is the fish market, Sabah's largest, just behind which a row of weather-beaten old fishing boats are moored.

The streets set back from the sea are a little more serene, lined with simple coffee shops and garment stalls. To the west of the centre lies the padang - a reminder of the town's colonial heritage which is only used once a year on Independence Day.

A 10-minute walk east of the town centre, along Jalan Buli Sim-Sim deposits you in front of Sandakan's town mosque, which stands on a promontory and commands fine views of the bay. Flanking its eastern side is Kampung Buli Sim-Sim, the water village around which Sandakan expanded in the 19th century, crisscrossed by walkways.

In recent years, businesses have shifted their operations away from the town centre to the suburbs: Bandar Ramai-Ramai, Bandar Leila, Bandar Nam Tung, Bandar Maju, Bandar Kim Fung, Bandar Labuk Jaya and Bandar Sibuga Jaya, due to the presence of significant illegal immigrants in the town centre.

In 2003, the Sandakan Harbour Square, an urban renewal project, was launched in an attempt to revive the town centre as the commercial hub in Sandakan. It features new shop lots, the Sandakan Harbour Mall and the Four Points by Sheraton, a new international hotel situated at the waterfront, which has recently opened for business.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend
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Sandakan celebrates 133rd anniversary


SANDAKAN: Sandakan celebrated its 133rd anniversary last Thursday night at the Sandakan Founding Day ceremony officiated by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Peter Pang.

In his speech, Pang said after more than a century, Sandakan’s development has been rapid, encouraging and holistic, citing the Sandakan Education Hub as one of its many achievements.

“We are committed towards realising to attain city status,” he said.

The ceremony also saw the launch of the Sandakan Heritage Trail Guide of the town’s historical landmarks, published by the Sandakan Municipal Council and the Sandakan Heritage Trail Committee (SHTC).

The chairman of SHTC Lai King Hang, explained that the objective of the event was to accord recognition and appreciation to past figures and leaders for their contribution towards the economic and social developments of Sandakan.

He said the celebration promoted Sandakan as a leading tourist destination, and at the same time to remind the future generation of the importance of conserving, maintaining and preserving Sandakan’s historical heritage, especially for the tourism industry.

Continue reading at: Sandakan celebrates 133rd anniversary
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Sabah International Folklore Festival a global event


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's annual Folklore Festival is gaining interest among the international community with 75 countries requesting to take part in the seventh series of the cultural dance event this year.

However, due to financial constraints, the state could only accept 20 international dance troupes to be showcased at the festival here from July 8 to 17.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the state would have to shoulder high costs footing the bill for their accommodation, meals and transportation during their stay here.

“That is why we limited the participation to 20 teams, thus making the event much more exclusive,” Masidi said, adding the selected teams were also the cream of the crop.

Another disadvantage with having so many dance troupes was that the event would take more than two weeks to finish, he added.

“We try to pick teams with unique presentations each year so the public can have a variety of new cultural dances to witness rather than just re-runs,” Masidi said.

However, the number of participating teams could be increased in future especially when the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang near here is fully renovated to cater to international events, he said.

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Gawai Homestay event at Annah Rais on July 7


KUCHING: Visitors are in for a treat when they visit Annah Rais Longhouse near Borneo Heights Resort during the Gawai Homestay event on July 7.

They will enjoy discounted rates when staying overnight there as well as a specially-arranged itinerary including a dip at the nearby hot spring.

Organising chairman Edward Kurik said the rates on July 7 will be RM150 per person, as opposed to normal price of RM240 and RM75 for children aged 13 years old.

“They will get to participate in traditional games like blowpipe and gasing. The visitors can also enjoy the Bidayuh Traditional Spa, where they will be brought for a dip in the hot spring along selected river stones which locals say have medicinal powers.

“To make it more memorable, they will bath with local herbs believed to aid in curing ailments. They will also enjoy a traditional dinner and breakfast,” he said yesterday.

According to Kurik, also a councillor with Padawan Municipal Council (MPP), the event was formerly known as Gawai Tourism and had been held for the past three years, the last one in September last year.

This year, he said Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk James Dawos is scheduled to do the launching on July 7.

“The objective of the event is not only to promote the homestay as a tourist attraction, but also to showcase the culture of the Bidayuh from this area to the world,” he said.

He added that visitors to the longhouse are expected to arrive from 2pm on that day and they will be ushered to the longhouse and respective rooms.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

2.93 million tourists, RM5.12bn in tourism receipts for Sabah this year


KOTA KINABALU: Tourist arrivals to Sabah are expected to hit 2.93 million with tourism receipts of RM5.12 billion this year as compared to 2.84 million and RM4.98 billion, respectively in 2011.

Disclosing this, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said Sabah is continuously working towards achieving its tourism strategies to increase tourism receipts for the state and national economies.

He also said the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) would bring tourism to greater heights through a range of identified entry point projects (EPPs).

“This move will not only boost economic development in Sabah, but also create plenty of job opportunities for those keen to pursue a career in the industry.

“Apart from Sabah’s world renowned natural attractions, we will also pursue the vision of turning Kota Kinabalu into a centre for international meetings and conferences, further growing our tourism industry,” he said, when officiating at the Asian Tourism International (ATI) College’s 15th convocation here yesterday.

Musa, who is also Finance Minister, added that the state government would continue its commitment to develop the hospitality and tourism sector by allocating substantial funds through the State Budget. This industry is one of the primary income generating sectors for Sabah and the government would continue to provide the best economic stimuli to boost it.

“This is so that the industry could remain sustainable in the long run.”

He also told the graduates that they played a critical role in supporting the government to meet Sabah’s needs for skilled and knowledgeable people in this field.

Musa added that the Sabah Tourism Master Plan aimed to improve infrastructure for accessibility to all tourism spots across the state.

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Borneo Cultural Festival to feature exciting Malay/Melanau events


SIBU: A host of exciting events will be held on the Malay/Melanau stage at the forthcoming Borneo Cultural Festival (BCF), July 6-15, at the Sibu Town Square.

Coordinator of the Malay/Melanau programmes, Awang Ali Bahar, said stage entertainment would be presented by Kaswari Cultural & Arts Group on July 6; Sibu Arts Academy on July 7 and Sibu Melanau Association on July 8.

“The official launching ceremony for the BCF Malay Melanau Stage 2012 will be held on July 8 evening with Nangka assemblyman Dr Annuar Rapaee officiating,” he told a press conference recently.

Sibu Melanau Association president Drahman Jabar and vice- president Dayang Rohayah Awang Yahod were with him at the press conference.

Sibu Arts Academy will have the stage again on July 9-10 while the 9th Brigade RASCOM Camp at Mile 10 Oya Road will have its turn on July 11.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mystical creature is mascot of Sabah International Folklore Festival


KOTA KINABALU: A mystical creature known as “siwat dalan” was yesterday unveiled as a mascot of the Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) 2012, which will take place from July 8 to 17.

According to Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, siwat dalan is the name in Tuaran Dusun dialect of a small creature that is said to kidnap children who are out in the streets.

The creature, which is also known as “kalindahou” in Bahasa Brunei, has huge breasts, and is said to be active in the evening.

She will grab the child and hide him under her breasts, rendering him or her invisible to the naked eye.

Because of this, as evening approaches, parents would warn their children not to play outside as the creature would kidnap them and spirit them away.

Masidi, who officiated at the SIFF 2012 mascot launching ceremony, said that last year, the organizers introduced the “bal-bal” or the Orang Sungai community’s shaman as its mascot and it is joined by siwat dalan this year.

“Our hope is that when we extend the theme to one that is based on legendary and mystical creatures in Sabah, we can one day hold a ghost festival, as books and movies nowadays are mostly based on that theme,” he said.

“Should it materialize, the festival will be more towards mystical creatures based on our culture and not ghosts that are depicted in horror stories.”

Masidi said the Sabah Cultural Board received applications from 72 countries to participate in the SIFF 2012 but due to financial constraints and because the organizer had to choose the countries which can really reflect the variety of cultural performances, only 20 countries were selected.

“Finland and East Timor are among the new countries participating this year,” he said, adding that 12 of the countries had sent their travel itinerary and the first participating country, the Czech Republic, would be arriving on June 30.

“The whole idea actually is, other than just a cultural exchange sort of extravaganza involving many countries in the world, we want to provide people an avenue to visit Sabah and at the same time participate in a cultural activity,” he said.

“I believe the most effective way of selling Sabah is by word of mouth. Those who have come here to experience what Sabah has to offer are the best ambassadors to sell the state to the rest of the world,” he said.

Masidi explained that SIFF is not a competition for the participants although recognition will be awarded to those which the panel of judges deems to have given the best performance.

“Sabah will not be participating because we do not want to be the host and also the winner.

“Sabah is too good (and) it is very difficult to be humble when you are really good and I think we are good,” he said.

“This is not a competition, it is more of a festival. To us, all those who participate are winners because we gain victory through our good relationship with the other countries,” he said, adding that every country has its own culture and therefore no one could claim that their culture is better than others.

Meanwhile, the SIFF 2012 will kick off with a ‘KK City Folklore’ parade on July 10 in conjunction with the city’s 12th anniversary.

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20 countries confirm participating in Sabah International Folklore Festival 2012


KOTA KINABALU: Twenty countries have confirmed their participation in the 7th Sabah International Folklore Festival (SIFF) 2012 and among them are new entries, Finland and East Timor.

Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun launched the “Promotion of SIFF 2012” at Wisma Innoprise here yesterday.

According to him, the response to the festival this year is very overwhelming as a total of 75 countries have shown their interests to take part. However, only 20 were selected by the organisers.

Of the 20 countries, twelve have already submitted their travel itinerary and are expected to fly in by the 30th of this month, Masidi disclosed.

“We encouraged the participants to come in early and they will be treated as tourists as this will enable them to see the beauty of the State, its nature and the many interesting places to visit,” he said.

This is also one of the effective ways to sell Sabah to foreign visitors by words of mouth, the minister added.

Masidi also revealed that this year, Sabah will not compete in the festival on diplomatic ground that the State should not pit its culture against that of the participating countries.

Meanwhile, the theme for this year’s fest is “Peace Through Culture” and it will be a 10-day event beginning from July 8 to 17.

The SIFF 2012 is an international event that endeavours to promote peace through cultural tourism among participating countries and to introduce the State’s rich and unique cultures.

It is organised annually by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Environment through the Sabah Cultural Board (SCB) and is truly meant to be an East-West Cultural rendezvous.

The folklore fest also provides the opportunity for culture enthusiasts to enjoy and witness the beauty and uniqueness of cultural dance performances by various ethnics of the world.

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The Heart of Borneo: Investing in Nature for a Green Economy


KUCHING: WWF’s Heart of Borneo global initiative and a consortium of partners have produced a report to ‘chart the course’ for a sustainable green economic future for the planet.

‘The Heart of Borneo (HoB): Investing in Nature for a Green Economy’ is a practical regional guide on how future economic growth can be achieved while protecting the values of ecosystems and biodiversity of Borneo.

WWF describes in a press release that the Heart of Borneo as “a 220,000 sq km treasure trove of unique and often endangered animal and plant species, on the world’s third biggest island of Borneo.”

The report highlights environmental costs and forgone revenues in the current economy and shows how the valuing of ‘natural capital’ supports the building of local economies.

It also presents policy options and economic instruments, as well as on-the-ground targets and indicators necessary to build green economies across Borneo.

In particular, the report highlights the current unsustainable practices of the forestry, palm oil and mining sectors which are having far reaching impacts on other sectors.

However, the aim is not to criticise these industries, but to highlight that their erosion of natural capital leads to a corresponding erosion of long-term economic viability.

These sectors are vital to economic growth, but must embed sustainability within their practices to remain engines of growth in the future.

Other sectors which ought to flourish (and should be given incentives to do so) in an economy that values natural capital are community run biodiversity enterprises, bio-banking, bio-prospecting, as well as many other innovative green businesses which can reduce pressures for deforestation.

According to economic modelling, featured in the report, under a Business-as-Usual (BAU) scenario, by 2020 the environmental costs of economic growth are estimated to outweigh revenues from the use of natural capital.

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Bright future for Sarawak tourism sector


KUCHING: Sarawak attracted around 3.8 million visitors last year, the highest figure achieved by the state thus far.

This was revealed by Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, who pointed out that the first quarter of this year also saw an increase of 16 per cent in visitor arrivals to the state.

“This positive growth signifies that the state’s tourism sector has a bright future and I hope that by year end, we will achieve our target of four million visitor arrivals in Sarawak,” he said when launching the promotion for menu ‘Ulam Raja — Salad Fit for Kings’ at Grand Margherita Hotel here yesterday.

He also disclosed that the Tourism Ministry will be seeking new can-do approaches to market the state through the latest technology and the international
media.

“We will position ourselves in international television channels such as CNN, Discovery Channel and AXN and feature Sarawak as a state that conserves its rich biodiversity.

Continue reading at: Bright future for Sarawak tourism sector
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sibu Heritage Trail to promote Sibu as city of cultures and festivals


SIBU: The Sibu Heritage Trail at the Sibu Heritage Centre here was launched yesterday.

Speaking during the launching ceremony, Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King said the trail was another initiative of the council to promote Sibu as a city of cultures and festivals and a gateway to the central region of Sarawak.

Sibu Heritage Trail consists of nine heritage sites including the Old Mosque, Masjid An-nur, Rosli Dhobi Warriors Memorial, Old Muslim Cemetery, Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum, Hoover Memorial Square, Tua Pek Kong Temple, Sibu Central Market, and Sibu Heritage Centre.

He said the whole loop measuring about 4km and took about an hour and half if one made brief stops at all the heritage sites.

“With its earliest settlement dating back to the 1800s, followed by the early immigration led by the late Wong Nai Siong, Sibu has grown by leaps and bounds into a major urban centre in Sarawak.

“All the heritage sites identified are of great significance in the development of Sibu town,” he said.

He said the council had printed brochures, which contained a walking map, old pictures, and information of each heritage site.

The brochures would be placed at tourist information centre, hotels, travel agents, taxis, and other locations in town.

He hoped that the local Sarawak tourism players such as travel agents, tourist guides, and taxi drivers would help to disseminate the trail to tourists and visitors.

Tiong meanwhile said the council had been promoting tourism on its own initiative since the early days.

For example, Pesta Sibu was initiated in the 1980s and had since become a frequent celebration for the local communities, he said.

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Sematan - Hive of activity at Sarawak's tail


By NYL

An hour before dawn, before the rays of sunlight pierce the sky, the beach of Sematan along the South China Sea shimmers beneath the moonlight. Here, on the western end of Sarawak, it is difficult to tell where the sand ends and the water begins. Then as sunlight nudges the horizon, the beach comes to life, as it has for centuries.

Each August since time immemorial, turtles have been coming to lay their eggs at the Talang-Talang Islands about 20 minutes' boat ride from Sematan. Designated a turtle sanctuary in 1957, the islands -Talang-Talang Besar, Talang-Talang Kechil, Satang Besar and Satang Kechil, were gazetted as the Talang-Satang National Park in 1999 and is managed by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

A fishing village about one-and-a-half hours' drive from Kuching, Sematan has long been a meeting place for traders from the Malay Peninsula and Kalimantan due to its close proximity to the Indonesian border. Even until today there are still boats laden with merchandise from around Borneo coming to this township to trade.

Besides being a market place, it is also a popular destination for seafood lovers. An array of eateries here offer delectable seafood such as garlic prawns, fresh chilli crab, steamed fish with ginger, grilled stingray and more.

The Sematan Palm Beach Resort is the focal point in the area. It has a stunning landscape of coconut palms and flowering shrubs as well as 600 metres of sandy beach ideal for diving, kayaking and other water sports. There are chairs at the other end of the beach for people to sit on in the early evenings, especially on weekends, and watch life go by.

One evening, I decided to explore the rugged Cape Belinsah which begins at the edge of the beach. As I climbed higher, the scattered rocks along the seashore look like giant hippopotami lying in water, their thick hides glistening as waves lash against them.

You can sit here to do a little meditation in the early morning or evening. Keep an eye on the tide though, especially during the monsoon season between November and March. There are trails created for the more adventurous who want to trek up or around the hill.

Visitors may also rent bicycles and venture out to the local attractions. Sebat Waterfall is just a half-hour bicycle ride from the resort. Along the way, enjoy the beautiful village scenery of paddy fields and pepper farms.

Another excursion from Sematan is to Teluk Melano, a picturesque Malay fishing village sitting in a beautiful bay. This is only possible in the dry season (March- October), as the rest of the time the seas are often too high for boats to safely negotiate.

Further along the coast is Tanjung Datu National Park. The only way to get there is by boat from the jetties in Sematan and at Teluk Melano.

Situated in a mountainous region close to the Kalimantan border, the tiny park offers splendid rainforest, swift clean rivers and isolated bays. The main draws are its dazzling beaches and shallow unspoilt coral reefs perfect for snorkeling and only a short distance from the shore.

The west coast of Sarawak is called the "sleepier coast", which suits the fishing village of Lundu, about 25km north of Sematan. Nobody is in a hurry, and time seems to be measured by seasons. For the energetic, the local tourist board here can arrange trips to the Gunung Gading National Park well known for its waterfalls, bird-watching and the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saving the Sumatran rhinos from extinction


A foundation and a sanctuary have come together and, like anxious parents, are hoping for the patter of little feet someday — so that the Sumatran rhino can be saved from extinction.

IT is 10 in the morning and Tam is as restless as a child wanting to get out and play. Wilson Kuntil, his keeper, patiently coaxes him to settle down. The 20-year-old rhino paces the floor of his paddock and keeps knocking at the metal gate with the stub of his horn.

Though Wilson has been working at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary for less than a year, he’s already become attached to Tam (short for Kertam) and two other rhinos, females named Puntung and Gelogob. These Sumatran rhinos were captured and translocated to the sanctuary in the hopes of breeding them.

Since the 1980s, efforts to conserve the Sumatran rhinoceros have been an uphill task in this region. Scientists estimate there are only 200 of these rhinos left in the wild with a meagre population of less than 40 in central and east Sabah.

In 2009, the Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora) began work on curbing the rapid extinction of these animals with the set up of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary within the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, near Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah. The sanctuary now houses these three Sumatran rhinos that were rescued over the past three years, with the latest, Puntung, in December last year.

It is with the help of private funders like Yayasan Sime Darby, which has provided RM5mil over the last three years, that conservation work at the sanctuary has been able to move forward. Bora’s executive director, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, says funding was recently extended for another three years with the foundation pledging RM6.4mil more.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics and Vids) at: Saving the Sumatran rhinos from extinction
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Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival going places with MASwings


KUCHING: The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) logo is now going places with MASwings aircrafts.

In a joint promotion by Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), MASwings and Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB), the move is seen as a shared interest to promote Sarawak and boost the tourism industry.

“We want to encourage more visitors to Sarawak, especially during iconic events such as the RWMF,” said STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan during the unveiling of the RWMF logo on one of the two aircrafts yesterday.

He also said ticket sales for this year’s 15th edition of the RWMF on July 13 – 15 at the Sarawak Cultural Village had doubled compared to last year.

Taking safety and security aspects seriously, Rashid assured that crowd control would be given top priority to ensure that the number of revellers allowed into Sarawak Cultural Village does not exceed its maximum capacity.

Besides the World Craft Bazaar, he said other fringe events for the RWMF would include a talent search for participants from the South East Asian region.

“The winner of the contest will bag RM3,000 and have a chance to perform during the evening concert,” he added.

Rashid also said STB was planning to hold a Rainforest World Music Expo next year as a platform to showcase and sell their music to festival organisers.

On their extended collaboration with MASwings, Rashid said a lucky draw would be held for their Pontianak-Kuching-Bandar Sri Begawan sector.

“There will be 100 lucky draw prizes made available for customers who fly on MASwings flight during the period of June 18 to July 7,” he said.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunset Music Fest @ Tip of Borneo, Kudat, 29-30 June 2012

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Sarawak homestay as post-conference option soon


KUCHING: Kampung Benuk Homestay will be included as an option for post conferences in future in order to woo foreign delegates to experience the unique Bidayuh culture.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said he was confident that the village, with its rich culture and natural surroundings, would be welcomed by both delegates and tourists.

Speaking at the closing of Gawai Homestay Kampung Benuk 2012 at the village in Padawan here on Saturday, he said Kuching has been chosen as the venue for many international conferences.

Hence, industry players, such as homestay operators, should grab the golden opportunity to attract visitors from abroad.

“Kampung Benuk, which is near to Kuching, is a good place for international delegates to experience something unique after attending the conferences.

“We will try to promote Kampung Benuk Homestay as a place for post-conference programmes along with other nearby attractions like Annah Rais,” said Abang Johari, who is also Housing Minister.

Among those present were Abang Johari’s wife Datin Amar Jumaani Tuanku Bujang, Tarat assemblyman Roland Sagah Wee Inn and Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism Datu Ik Pahon Joyik.

Despite its immense potential, Abang Johari cautioned that this initiative would not be sustainable unless the local community chipped in their bit.

He reasoned that as homestay was a community-based programme, it was vital for the local community to enhance it by, among others, zealously preserving their culture and natural surroundings.

“The government has allocated RM5.6 million to develop Sarawak’s homestay. But you still have to promote it in creative ways. After all, tourism is about creativity, imagination and branding.”

He suggested that the Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) work closely with the Kampung Benuk Homestay community to develop products to attract more tourists.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak homestay as post-conference option soon
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sabah Handicrafts Centre - One-stop centre for handicraft making and marketing


KENINGAU: Rosiah Kuruak arrived here on Friday evening to fulfil her two missions – to check out the newly launched Sabah Handicrafts Centre and also to see the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak up-close.

“I came all the way from Kampung Gaya Ratau in Tamparuli to see this building. It is huge and I believe it would benefit the people well,” said the 45-year-old mother of two children.

Rosiah said she would not mind sending her children to undergo the handicraft making courses as she believed it had great potential and would help to increase their income.

As for mission number two, Rosiah said: “I am all excited to see our nation’s premier leader since I have only seen him on television and never met him personally. So being here is such a great opportunity,” she said.

Najib, who was accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, is on a two-day visit here. Also present were Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and other cabinet ministers.

Meanwhile, best friends Mohd Amin Muhidin and Yuslan Jafri, both 37, were proud when Najib and Rosmah admired their batik works.

“It took us four sleepless nights to finish the batik. We decided to draw the nation’s premier leader and our first lady and added the Sabah concept into the creation,” said Mohd Amin.

Asked on the most challenging part of the project, both pointed at the faces of the two national figures.

“We wanted to make sure that it is perfect,” he said.

Another trainee at the centre, Claire Maidin, said she never regretted signing up for the Hydrostone Course.

“It is a three months course and I have only been here for about two weeks. This is an interesting opportunity for me to learn some skills,” said the 19-year-old lass from Kampung Toboh Baru, here.

As for the senior ones Mursdah Muang, 53, Solumi Mijaa, 39, and Maruajib Ahmad, 54, it is a great opportunity to have a place to showcase their works.

“Besides, I get to improve my existing skills,” said Nursdah from Kuala Penyu, who has been making mats for the past two years.

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Tourism sector contributes a third of Sarawak's GDP


KUCHING: The tourism sector contributes a third of the gross domestic product (GDP) achieved in 2011 in the service sector.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the service sector had contributed 35.5 per cent to the GDP last year. As such, the sector has contributed a third to the GDP apart from manufacturing, mining and others.

Therefore, he was confident the tourism sector will contribute significantly towards the GDP in the coming years. Several items must be focused on by the industry players to strengthen the industry’s performance.

“The government will work hard to increase the allocation to Sarawak Tourism Board to ensure the target set is achieved. At the same time, a special committee has been set up to provide infrastructure needs to the sector players in various aspects,” said Abang Johari at the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB) dinner at the Art Museum on Friday.

This will be the focus of all industry players for the next three to five years, he said.

The dinner was held to celebrate the bureau’s winning of BrandLaureate Country Branding Award 2011-2012.

He hoped all industry players involved in the tourism sector would co-operate with one another to strengthen the existing businesses.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Tourism sector contributes a third of Sarawak's GDP
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Six bio-tourism products identified at Sarawak's historical site


KUCHING: Six bio-tourism products have been identified at the mystical Bung Brunggu historical site near Kampung Simpok and Kampung Sarig and have the potential to attract tourists interested in history and nature.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit who launched the Bung Brunggu Heritage Trail yesterday said the defence system by the Bisapug clan long ago to fight their enemy was one of the products which had historical significance.

As the hill was a 40 degrees slope, logs were tied together to be rolled over the enemies, he explained.

Another product is the ‘Tapang’ tree where the bees would build their hives, and the villagers would harvest the honey using a bamboo ladder.

“The third product is the natural spring water which would not dry up during a drought, and according to a legend, a young beautiful woman had died there.

“The site also has a beautiful mini waterfall. The other tourism product identified is an old grave and families of the dead had planted mangosteen trees nearby as they believed the spirit of the dead could be protected by the strength of the trees,” he said.

The Bung Brunggu was also an ancestral home of the Bisapug clan of the Bidayuh community, and it contained the history of their origin.

“There are artefacts telling the history and origin of the Bisapug clan. This is very interesting as it can also attract tourists,” he added.

According to him, the difference between bio-tourism and eco-tourism was that eco-tourism must be undisturbed and a ‘virgin’ area, while bio-tourism was an area that had already been developed but no longer disturbed such as proper foot trails for tourists’ convenience.

Dawos said several amenities should be added to improve Bung Brunggu heritage trail including building a better footpath, to build a mini museum made of bamboos to store artefacts and to build ecolodge for tourists.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Bisapug Association (SBA) president Paul Kawin Pipo said the site was their ancestral settlement 300 years ago before the James Brooke era.

The clan started moving out after their village of 200 doors was burnt down by pirates before the James Brooke era.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rousing performances at KK Jazz Festival


KOTA KINABALU: The sixth Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival kicked off with a series of rousing performances by both local and foreign acts, including the famed local RIMBA band, as well as Raisa Adriana, the new star in the music industry in Indonesia.

Raisa first appeared in Mac Muzik Indonesia in 2011 with the single, ‘Serba Salah’ and received positive response from fans.

Her second single, entitled ‘Apalah’ released in July 2011 received the same effect with music enthusiasts.

In addition, accompanied by Albert Sirimal, Jamie Wilson and Badar, The Amir Yusoff Acoustic Project showcased music from Amir’s illustrious 25 years in the music industry.

The AIM award-winning singer-songwriter, who made his name in the mid-1990s, has re-invented his career as a roots-based acoustic artiste.

Also performing at the KK Jazz Festival at the Sutera Habour Marine, Gold and Country Club’s covered tennis court here last night was award winning Juwita Suwito who began her solo career in 2004 with the release of her award winning album ‘Brand New World’.

Her debut performances at the Yamaha Endorsee Showcase at Putra World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur and the Main Stage of the Penang Island Jazz Festival have drawn instant recognition.

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Sabah’s ‘Rimba’ to promote Borneo music to world


KOTA KINABALU: Local band ‘Rimba’ which was formed in 2002 is all out for promoting their version of fusion ethnic jazz to the world.

Combining traditional and modern musical instruments, ‘Rimba’ believe that they would be able to capture the hearts of jazz enthusiasts.

“Our music is easy listening, and by blending the traditional musical instruments with modern ones, we believe the fusion ethnic jazz music would be able to penetrate into the international market,” said band leader Felix Samunting.

He described the decade-old band as “versatile”, adding that everyday is a learning process for them.

“We like doing experimental ethnic jazz music, such as re-arranging songs to add twists of traditional and modern touches into the song.

“Blending the traditional and modern also attracts the people’s attention,. For instance, people are more interested to know about the bamboo flute rather than a normal flute, or may be the kulingtangan, to mention some … we want to show the people that we can play all kinds of music, and to be able to include traditional touches into our music is a bonus,” he said.

Speaking after performing in the 6th KK Jazz Festival 2012, Samunting added that ‘Rimba’ is also planning to produce their first singles soon.

“We are proud to be part of the event such as the KK Jazz Festival as it provides us with the exposure and confidence to move a step higher in the music industry,” he said.

Samunting, who has been in the industry for over a decade said, that with Rimba having participated in three KK Jazz festivals, he expressed belief that they are ready for other internationally-known events like the World Music Festival in Penang and the Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak.

“Over the years, I believe that the younger generation are beginning to embrace jazz music as they are more exposed to this genre of music, unlike the more senior ones. So it is our hope that blending the old and new musical instruments would capture the interests of everyone, regardless of their age and background,” he said.

And while Rimba is all pumped up to promote Borneo music to the world, Samunting admitted that it was not exactly a bed of roses for them, due to financial constraints.

“Although we may have creative and talented people in the band, it is hard to move forward without financial support, and I believe I share this problem with other artistes in the local music industry,” he said.

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