Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
On our last night of the Borneo World Music Expo, the Sarawak Tourism Board introduces us to groups from Indonesia, Singapore, and the Malaysian state, Kelantan.
Geng Wak Long comes from one of my favorite states of Peninsula Malaysia, Kelantan. A traditonal area known for its arts and crafts like shadow puppets and kite-making, it’s also a musical region so I’m not surprised that all the drums this group plays were made by the grandfather in this family group. They have won many awards. See here, and find them on Facebook
Ding Yi Music Company comes from Singapore and these young people form a prestigious Chinese chamber music ensemble. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese music through to avant-garde contemporary works.
Manjalin Raso, Java, Indonesia, is dedicated to conserving their culture and traditional music. They are also innovative and experimental: last night even had a dideridu in their lineup of many instruments. I will add a short video of their performance once I have formatted it!
Thanks for the Sarawak Tourism Board, Malaysian Airlines, and the Hilton for assisting with my travel and travel costs.
Last night the display of music continued at the evening ‘Showcase’. The Sarawak Tourism Board is introducing us to not only local Sarawak and Malay music and instruments but also groups form the wider Asian region. Tonight the musicians were from Thailand, Myanmar, and a local Sarawak group.
Korphai, Thailand, has been performing since 1980 is also new as it seems this ‘bunch of bamboo’ is constantly changing. Anant Narkkong ,who establised the group to create place where younger musiscians could explore new musical ideas. He met this current group on Facebook! All are teachers and the four of them come from four diffenrt regions of Thailand. Collaborating, and practicing line, they actually only had one face to face seesion before coming to Kuching. I wonder which programmer will sign them up for festivals in their country … but being signed up I’m sure they will!
Another ensemble that will be signed up I’m sure features Aue Su Kyaw (Myanmar) who, in her own country is a star. It seems it’s traditional for harpists to play the instrument only, but Aue Su breaks that mold and sings as she plays. An attractive instrument it is described in a legend like this: “it is an instrument that is cuddled against the chest, but is not a child; has a crooked tail but is not a monkey; has a beard but is not a man; is able too procuce sweet sounds, but is not a maiden … ” .
And finally in this second expo’s 2nd showcase here in the Hilton, was a local group Tuku Kame a contemporary music band that originated at the Cultural Village, home to the Rainforest World Music Festival which follows this expo. It seems this group has performed in many countries and has released two albums. see more here
The Sarawak Tourism Board is this week Introducing musical talent to about 20 world music festival programmers, and media such as me. What a privilege to get up close to such talent and hopefully help music lovers find new talent they would not usually hear or see.
From Germany to New Zealand, Belgium to India, and the UK to Korea, they, and other programmers are attending the Borneo World Music Expo (#BWME2014) at the Hilton in Kuching, Sarawak. (Malaysian Borneo)
Last night it was two Malay groups (Mah Meri, & Madeeh) who took the stage and then an Indian group, The Barmer Boys whose talent – with instruments not seen before by most of the audience – was impressive, and I’ll be happy to see the these three Rajastarian men take the stage at the Rainforest World Music Festival in few days.
Madeeh Emsemble are from a Bidayuh longhouse (Annah Ra’ih) about 60ks from Kuching – one that retains its traditional roots music. The other group, Mah Meri, is from West, or Peninsula, Malaysia and this performance was the first given outside their village. None of them had left their village before, so for them to be ‘picked up’ by one of the foreign programmers would be a huge change for them … flying to Sarawak was a big enough event!
Within twelve hours of arriving in Malaysia (Kuching, Sarawak) along with 200 others, I was planting a tree as part of the ‘greening the festival’ programme while also helping reduce our carbon footprint.
Here for the Rainforest World Music Festival for the first time, it seems this tree-planting ceremony is in its 3rd year and “helps make Kuching a livable city” said the CEO of Sarawak Tourism Datuk Rashid Khan.
Although not essential, it seems traders at the festival are “encouraged to use green products and practices so the event is not only successful, but also to leave a lasting eco-effect,” he continued.
No doubt, like most international festivals this will soon become a need to get a licence to be part of the #RWMF which is set in the Sarawak Cultural Village.
The 150 trees we (school children, musicians, journalists, concert promoters, travel writers, along with local officials and politicians) planted – in the Government offices lake compound area, Banguan Baitulmakmur – are the Golden Shower (Acacia Fistula). Evidently, over the past few years, some 2 million trees have been planted across Sarawak in events such as this: ‘We try to plant three trees for every one cut down’ someone said, ‘although it’s not always in the same area.”
Malaysia often receives bad press for the destruction of native forests and planting oil palm plantations, so it cannot be easy to convince the often cynical foreigners they want to “take care of our environment.”
“Come back and hug your tree” we are encouraged by Assistant Minister of Tourism, Datuk Gramong Juna, who said they are “trying to do good deeds to our mother earth, to take care of our environment. It’s heartening to note that the Sarawak Tourism Board has taken the government’s campaign seriously. ”
The minister continues, “We are proud to have the world’s oldest rain-forest that we have custody over. We are serious at promoting Sarawak as an eco-destination – this beautiful land where adventure lives.”
Arriving in Kuching a couple of days before the Rainforest World Music Festival I was, for one day, able to join a group of international concert promoters and journalists who were in the city for their first world music business conference and expo. It seems this was successful for many of the artists featured with their diaries filling up with dates to perform in other places.
The consensus from knowledgeable music people there (and I’m not one of them!) seemed to be that the local, traditional, music scene was creatively rich but needed support to present themselves professionally and that this expo, and the contacts made, will advance that. Good luck to them all!
Note, talking culture; the letter K at the end of a
Malaysian word, such as Sarawak, is always silent!