As one of the top music festivals in the world, Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival certainly needs no introduction among music lovers, who travel from around the world to immerse themselves in three full days of music, dance and culture, forging friendships with like-minded people.
RWMF was established in 1998 with an audience of about 300. Fast forward twenty years later, this iconic music festival on the world calendar plays host to at least 20,000 visitors annually, of all ages, races, colour and creed.
This year, I was invited by the Sarawak Tourism Board to cover RWMF. Boy, am I honoured to be part of the festival which had more than a hundred activities lined up, held at the foot of Mount Santubong, the mythical Puteri Santubong mountain that stands at an imposing height of 810 metres.
What makes RWMF dissimilar is its promotion of environmental awareness, recycling and waste management initiatives. For this 22nd edition of RWMF, in its commitment to a sustainable festival, several partnerships were formed to make different components of the festival “green”, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Some of the initiatives implemented this year included:
A ban on styrofoam use for a sustainable food market
Food waste composting
Festival ground cleanup
Upcycling banners as fashionable tote bags
Discouraging smoking on the festival grounds
Encouraging the reuse of water bottles by providing water refill stations
Encouraging the recycling of waste by strategically placing eye-catching recycling bins
Immerse in unique cultures
Throughout the three-day RWMF were, among others, mini sessions of interactive workshops and music demonstrations, sape and percussion tutorials, wellness programmes of belly dancing plus zumba, food festival and the Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar, hosted alongside RWMF.
If you have been to the Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV), you would know how huge the area is. Size is one thing but SCV is really an apt venue to accommodate such an event, with its traditional houses hosting these side programmes: Iban Longhouse, Bidayuh Terraces, Chinese House, Indigenous Stage, etc. were a hive of activity over three days, allowing the diverse global visitors a chance to get close and have hands-on experience to learn about another culture or tradition, including the various ethnic tribes of Sarawak.
Discover new music
It has been quite a while since I expanded my music collection due to a hectic work schedule. What I mainly listen to is Bon Jovi on loop, to keep myself alert when I work at the computer or during long commutes. Attending RWMF 2019 rekindled my love for indigenous music, as RWMF is the perfect platform to introduce different genres of music to the masses, especially folk or ethnic music.
Video: RWMF 2019: Olga Cerpa Y Mestisay, Canary Islands
This year, emerging local bands that were invited to perform at the Big Tent included Alunan Kerongcong, Sayu Ateng, Barrock Ethnicity Band, Pinanak Sentah, Sanggalang, The Oriental Traditional Orchestra Kuching, Warisan Sape and Raban Kenyalang.
Video: RWMF 2019: Rajery, Madagascar
There were five stages at RWMF: Big Tent, Indigenous Stage, Theatre Stage, Tree Stage and Jungle Stage. The bigger events in the afternoon were held at the first three stages, while the night performances were hosted at Tree Stage, and the main Jungle Stage.
The headliners played on Jungle Stage at night but that didn’t mean that performances on the other stages were less entertaining.
In fact, having attended RWMF 2019 and made my rounds of the venue at different times over three days, checking out the various stages, I could attest to the fact that the performers were all able to capture the audiences’ attention with their unique presentation of song, music and dance.
Video: RWMF 2019: San Salvador, France
Besides the up and coming acts, some of the more established artistes were invited to present their music as well, such as Mathias Duplessy and Macka B.
Frenchman Mathias Duplessy on the guitar was especially captivating in his collaboration with Chinaman Guo Gan on the erhu, Mongolian horsehead fiddle virtuoso and throat singer Naraa Puredorj and Aliocha Regnard, also a French, on the nyckelharpa, with a blend of emotive music of an East meets West fusion set.
Video: RWMF 2019: Duplessy & The Violins Of The World
With an interesting project named the Violins of the World, music has certainly brought these four instruments, four cultures, and four temperaments together as one.
Another group that caught my ear was DARMAS, which is a contraction for “Dari Malaysia” or “From Malaysia” in English. The young men from Kuala Lumpur recently won five gold and 3 silver medals at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) 2019 in Los Angeles. Congratulations, guys, and I am already looking forward to their first album, Teja, scheduled to be released later this year.
Video: RWMF 2019: La Chiva Gantiva, Colombia
Video: RWMF 2019: TRAD.ATTACK! Estonia
I have to say that studio recordings as shared on Spotify are mellow compared to the live performances of these artistes. Thus, I am positively certain that it is because concert atmosphere and crowd response induce great influence on the energy and mood of the stage presentations.
Video: RWMF 2019: At Adau, Sarawak
This is the magic of live concerts and why we must attend the Rainforest World Music Festival; purely for its raw sound.
Party all night long
If all the music on the Jungle Stage and Tree Stage was insufficient, there was the DJ After Party, held at The Big Tent. That was where the party started when the music stopped at the two outdoor stages.
Video: RWMF 2019: Mauravann, Mauritius
Video: RWMF 2019: Mauravann, Mauritius
This year, concert goers could choose either the Reggae set, Bhangra set or Russian Romps set. Some were game for all three. I have to admit that despite my intent to party through the night at least once, I was unable to stay up for it. Instead of acknowledging that I am too old to party, I would say that I am still underaged, just to make myself feel better. Hahaha! There is always next year, right?
Video: RWMF 2019: WAI, New Zealand
Rainforest World Music Festival 2020 promises to be even bigger and better, and it is happening on 10th until 12th July, 2020. I will be there. Who is joining me? Let’s make plans together. For the latest updates on Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), log on to its official Facebook page.
Video: RWMF 2019: Tabanka (Cape Verde)
Event: Rainforest World Music Festival 2019
Venue: Sarawak Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak
Date: 12th – 14th July, 2019
Time: full day
Video: RWMF 2019: Finale
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