WITH its rich and diverse culture, Borneo has a lot to offer, especially in music. In Sabah alone, there are more than 30 recognised ethnic groups and each group has its own unique sound and music instruments.
Plus, local traditional musicians had also made the country proud in international competitions like the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) – which is often dubbed as the 'Olympics of Performing Arts' and held annually in Hollywood, California.
And that notion had driven the Sabah National Department of Culture and Arts (JKKNS) to pursue an initiative of forming a Borneo Traditional Orchestra (OTB), which also includes prominent musicians, among them being Razali Abd Rahman and Jerry Kamit.
"In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Traditional Orchestra has already been formed. And this has inspired the initiation of OTB.
"We wanted to do a branding for Bornean music so that we could stamp out the perception of certain quarters that Bornean traditional music couldn't go far," Rhythms of Kinabalu (ROK) Performance Director Sharip Zainal Sh Shek told Daily Express after a concert, recently.
Sharip disclosed, they are planning to combine 55 traditional musicians from Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan through OTB.
"But for ROK, we only managed to gather 31 musicians from Sabah and Sarawak. For the next project, we will try to combine musicians from all four components of Borneo.
"The orchestra is balanced where we have a group of senior musicians while the rest are youngsters. Whoever that is involved in ROK will be a part of OTB.
"OTB is still in the midst of planning. If possible, we would like to launch it later this year or by first half of next year… it involves a lot of parties to be materialised."
Sharip said, he has high hopes that Bornean music can be further highlighted internationally.
"We have our own unique 'flavour', the feel to the music itself. We could showcase our culture, ethnic groups and history. We could educate outsiders to know our music and our culture," he said.
Kulintangan maestro, Razali said, at the moment, they are still experimenting with the idea of forming OTB. "Should the response is good and if all goes well, we will continue our effort and I'm confident that we can bring the traditional sounds of Borneo to a higher stage.
"As the saying goes, music is an international language as in music there's rhythm and melody which can be easily understood by everyone. As for the lyrics, we can introduce the local ethnic languages to foreigners. "And we should broaden our scope… to encompass the whole of Borneo and not only focus on traditional music in Sabah," Razali said.
Jerry added, Bornean music has high potential as based on his observation, even outsiders had shown their interest.
"People from the peninsula and other countries come here to find and do exploration for materials. So, we as the 'owners' of this treasure should've exploit it more.
"We already have many platforms to do so, in Sarawak, we have the annual Rainforest World Music Festival… that's where we can showcase our talent and works," Jerry said.
Jerry even ditched his guitar for Sape after he started learning the art of playing the traditional instrument nearly 20 years ago as "the opportunity for me to go global is bigger."
"If I stick to guitar, there are many guitarists out there… I used to play the guitar in a band. But after I'd played Sape, I put my focus more on Bornean traditional music instruments.
Continue reading at: Traditional Borneo orchestra in works.