Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jazzing it up in Borneo

THE usually serene ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak was a hive of activity and merrymaking as award-winning musicians from around the globe enlivened the atmosphere during the 9th Borneo Jazz Festival recently.

And there was no better way to kick-start the two-night festival than with Diana Liu. The vocalist from Sarawak, who has made it big in China, set a high benchmark for other performers that evening.

A pianist and composer as well, Liu entertained the crowd with her songs Someone Like You, Fly and I Can.

Up next was pianist Mario Canonge from Martinique in the French West Indies, who was backed by a double bass player and a drummer. He definitely lived up to his Flying Fingers nickname as he worked his magic on the ivories with a winning meld of classical melodies and Latin vibes. He had the crowd swaying to his mesmerising rhythms.

During Malaysian outfit JunkOFunc’s performance, its two vocalists Elvira Arul and Russell Curtis captured the crowd with their powerfully soulful and funky vocals, which would have made Aretha Franklin proud.

The endearing factor was intensified by their flamboyant showmanship and teasing swagger, which inevitably got the appreciative crowd shouting for encores. The last performance for the first night came from Cuba in the form of an a cappella group, simply known as Vocal Sampling. No musical instruments were needed as their voices alone were sufficient, easily imitating the sounds of a lead guitar, percussion and everything else, as exemplified by their version of Hotel California in a catchy Caribbean style.

On the second night, the first performance came from YK Samarinda, from Kalimantan, which totally infused the rock and ethno jazz genres.

Clad in traditional garb, complete with hornbill-feather headgear reflecting Borneo’s identity, the group’s lead guitarist alternated between his sape (a boat-shaped lute) and a typical axe to deliver energetic riffs.

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