Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rainforest World Music Festival - Sarawak, Malaysia, Borneo

The only remaining headhunters wear suits and work in corporate offices but Sarawak "Where adventure lives" does have wonderful beaches, remote tribal villagers living in longhouses, rare primates and of course the phenomenal Rainforest World Music Festival now in its 17th year.

Being a second timer I had a better understanding of what to expect at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong, but first I was scheduled to attend the second Borneo World Music Expo in Kuching.

Kuching - Cat City

Kuching is popularly referred to as "cat city" because the Malay word kuching means cat and sure enough there are lots of cats, be they pets, stray animals or statues of various sizes scattered around town.

The Waterfront, a 1km or so pedestrianised area along the Sarawak River is the place to stroll, meet people or simply hang out. there are pleasant views over the river to DUN( State Assembly Building), the Istana and of the traditional trambang boats ferrying people around.

I ate dinner at the lovely James Brooke Cafe where a cat statue has pride of place in the garden and period furniture, books and ornaments augment the dining area.

At the Hilton Hotel I registered for the Borneo World Music Expo which under guidance of consultant music industry guru Gerald Seligman, brought in international concert and festival programmers to network, participate in workshops and potentially book the local and Asian artists.

Opening the expo Dato  Rashid Khan CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board eloquently explained that "holding the event in conjunction with the Rainforest World Music Festival would help Sarawak climb the value chain from leisure based events to business tourism events"

The intimate nature of the expo ensured great access to the musicians who showcased their works onstage and chatted about their dreams. Interesting snippets of information revealed that two performers of the Mah Meri group from Carey Island in West Malaysia had never left their island before; Korphai from Thailand met on Facebook and rehearse online, seldom live and Geng Wak Long from Kelantan found it difficult to perform in their home state because religious intolerance restrict their female member from being on stage.

Highlights included an energetic performance by the Barmer Boys from India, beautiful harp playing and songs by Aye Su Kyaw from Myanmar and Tuku Kame, the house band at the Cultural Village performed their dynamic blend of traditional and contemporary music with great style.

Expo wrapped up with a 20 minute speedboat ride to Kuching Wetland National Park where we kept a wary eye out for crocodiles as we waded in knee deep water to plant mangrove trees to re-green the former bed of the Sarawak River which had been diverted to stop "winter"flash floods in Kuching. We played a small but meaningful part towards minimising our carbon footprint.