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Thursday 9 August 2012

Memoir of Rainforest World Music Festival 2012

A Jungle Village Festival!

... this was how SONGLiNES Magazine UK summed it up in four words about the Rainforest World Music Festival. 2012 was its 15th edition and the third year running that this homegrown music festival was awarded the magazine's '25 of the Best International Festivals'. Bangkok Post reckoned...' it remained a performer's festival, with the enthusiasm emanating from the stage itself rather than the promoter's bag of tricks'.

Here are our memories of 2012...

The jungle stage surrounded by trees in the foothill of Mt Santubong Damai Sarawak
From a distance... the legendary Mt.Santubong omnipresence begets the phrase... 'the venue nestles at the foothills of Mt. Santubong'. And there is this legend that a princess was immortalised in that mountain.

The pristine jungle backdrop of the Rainforest World Music Festival stage
Once close to the foothill, take in the sights. Some require a good figment of imagination.

The jungle and tree stage resplendent in the glow of jungle green against the jungle backdrop of Mt.Santubong
Bathed in all their splendour ... the jungle stage (L) and the tree stage. The tree stage was so-named because it was built around two trees that balanced both sides of the stage. The huge banner was there for the first time, thus setting the tone for an exciting 15th edition...

There were 16 groups from 20 countries and the winner of the Rainforest Waterfront Talent Search

There's Zee Avi - a Sarawakian who having made a name for herself internationally, finally got her dream to perform in a home-grown festival. And 'sapelele' made its world debut, a miniature lute instrument in the style of a ukelele, the signature strum of Zee. She will use 'sapelele' far and wide. The acceptance by the fiery String Sisters, each successful fiddler in their own rights, to play as a group in Rainforest World Music Festival, was likened to winning a lottery.Then there's WOMEX '10 Award for Artists in Danyel Waro, charming the festival with his melancholic Maloya singing. And what about the Kanda Bongo Man who single-handley gave the world the infectious Kwasa dance? Sensual and hip! Cankisou wild rhythms and a multi-instrumentalist cast sent the Saturday night crowd to its frenzy. Who canNOT remember (provided you were there, of course) the haunting sound of the Mongolian throat singers - Khusugtun? Surreal indeed! The jungle probably needed some time to recover after their performance. Did you feel the passion of Le Trio Joubran on their ouds? Or the talking sitar of Samuel Dass ably backed up on tabla by Prakash? The frentic and powerful perfomance of Mamadou Diabate on their balafons raised temperature a notch higher in a surprisingly but welcoming cool and almost dry festival evenings. HATA's gigantic drum belied its soft and evocative enchanting eastern blend.  Oreka Tx weaved multi-media into a performance with an instrument - Txalaparta- that is almost as unique as what the instrument was made for - a medium of encounter. La Zikabilo rendered a varied mix of jazzy music genres that wriggled hips and swayed torsos and so did Raiz De Cafezal's carimbó rhythm led by their maracas-wielding front man. For the first time, the programme was interspersed with colours and chants of Sarawak; bringing an element of spiritual exoticism to an already exotic festival.  Ramping up the Malaysia flavour for 2012, the Diplomats Of Drum, Nading Rhapsody (winner of Rainforest Waterfront Talent Search 2012), the Music of Sarawak and Rythm of Borneo displayed the multi-faceted musical influence s of the country's poly-layered ethnic communities.

Kanda Bongo dancer and Mamadou Diabate's bassist
Gyrate and Flash

Landscape view of Khusugtun performing before a captivated audience
From the open plains of Mongolia to the lush confine of Borneo's jungle... the crowd's apparent favourite, if not memorable - Khusugtun

Blowing cute little sax and beating drum
Cute and sublime

Kanda Bongo Man and band members getting the crowd up on their feet.
The daytime workshops, considered by many to be the soul of the festival. Here, the dancers swaggered and gyrated to reinforce the fact that flexibility was not an inherent trait. Ok, granted, the dancers had plenty of practice. Anyway, fun and education was aplenty... and in other sessions as well.

The village mart and taking photo with performers
Tattoo - temporary ones were wildly popular. So were the performers' CDs and made even more special when you look back at such relevancy of your purchase and possibly, it being one of your lifetime experiences.

Picture montage of the Sarawak Cultural Village - venue of the Rainforest World Music Festival since 1997
Sarawak Cultural Village - a living museum when it is not playing host to the festival. There were commentaries on the festival needing a bigger venue. Short of incurring the wrath of the princess who lives up that mountain, who for three days in a year when she can kick up her heels to forget about her woes and yours as well, part of the magic of Rainforest World Music Festival is the magic of the place itself. In development terms, new tourism infrastructures and natural attractions within the Damai Peninsular can do with some spotlights on them when the clefs and trebles have faded away. The sea, islands, resorts, wildlife, wetlands, homestays, the dive sites and the list goes on... 

Colour night scene of the village mart
Behind the scene of this festival, an army of volunteers are needed to ensure things happen with hiccups  very much part and parcel of a dynamic workforce that changes from year to year.
Sarawak Tourism Board's staff and volunteers posing for the camera
The staff of Sarawak Tourism Board and its subsidiary (STB Leisure & Properties S/B). The volunteers and interns...
Volunteers from ITE College Central, Bishan campus, Singapore (T) and Taylors University Lakeside campus, Kuala Lumpur (B)
... came from Australia, Brunei Darul Salam, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Singapore, West Malaysia and a healthy dose of Sarawakians. Indeed they were as varied as the performers themselves! 15 years on, a quiet evolution no more. FEEL that big Ooo...haa... hugs from us :-)
Ticker tapes raining down on a cheering audience during the finale of Rainforest World Music Festival 2012
Can't leave you guys out, can we? Thanks for the huge support and for many, it has been a year in year out affair. Some may be weary, its ok... its good to recharge and come back stronger, right?

And the sponsors deserve the fair share of the ticker tapes too! Heineken, Malaysia Airlines System and Audio Technica. Thank you! :-)

Sarawak's iconic lute - The Sape and the Orang Ulu warrior
This has been... Our Entertainment... The Rainforest World Music Festival 2012... this is Sarawak... where adventure lives
Sunset view overlooking the pool towards the island of Satang; part of Talang Satang National
As the 2012 edition sets into a distance memory... 
A flower left behind by a performer ... till we meet again in June 28-30 2013
... and whether the proverbial princess finds her suitor, we have to wait until June 2013, from 28th to the 30th, the next Rainforest World Music Festival to find out.

Written by: Michael Lu   - Sarawak Tourism Board

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