Jun­gle beats

In Au­gust 2015, Time Out Malaysia crossed the South China Sea to ex­pe­ri­ence the Rain­for­est World Mu­sic Fes­ti­val (RWMF) at the op­po­site end of the coun­try in Kuching. Here’s an in­sider’s view of the award-win­ning three-day fes­ti­val.

Time Out Malaysia Visitors Guide - - CONTENTS - By Sammi Lim. Pho­tog­ra­phy Hizwan Hamid

The great Bor­neo ad­ven­ture is a chance to es­cape chaotic city life and to seek seren­ity in the wilder­ness – just don’t ex­pect it to be all hush and quiet in the jun­gle. From chirps and croaks to mat­ing calls and shrill screeches, the rain­for­est is filled with a ca­coph­ony of sounds. And once a year for three days in a row, mu­si­cians from all over the world con­trib­ute to this orchestra.

Dreamt up by Randy Raine-Reusch, Robert Ba­siuk, Edric Ong and Edgar Ong in 1997, RWMF has ranked among Song­lines mag­a­zine’s Top 25 Best In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­vals for five years straight. Held within the vicin­ity of Sarawak Cul­tural Vil­lage at the foothills of the mag­nif­i­cent Mount San­tubong, the fes­ti­val at­tracts ap­prox­i­mately 24,000 visi­tors an­nu­ally.

In or­der to present the rich mass of tal­ent in their best light, RWMF erected not one, not two, but three stages this year: the The­atre Stage, the Jun­gle Stage and the Tree Stage. Only about 20 mu­si­cians and bands from all four cor­ners of the world are se­lected to rock out in the fes­ti­val each year. The line-up for 2015 in­cluded in­ter­na­tional bands such as Alaverdi, a four-piece folk ensem­ble from Ge­or­gia; Enkh Jar­gal Dan­dar­vaanchig, a Mon­go­lian horse-head fid­dler; Harubee, a group of young Mal­di­vian rock stars; and Shooglenifty, a Scot­tish band known for stir­ring up many a dance floor. Need­less to say, Malaysian mu­sic took cen­tre stage more than once. Kuching-based Kenwy YangQin Ensem­ble strummed haunt­ing tunes on the

yangqin, an in­stru­ment also known as the ham­mered dul­cimer of China, while Cul­ture Shot from Pe­nang played Hokkien tunes that hit close to home.

The free-stand­ing, out­door fes­ti­val gave au­di­ence mem­bers the op­por­tu­nity

Few mu­sic

fes­ti­vals can at­test to be­ing ‘fam­ily friendly’, but RWMF safely holds that ti­tle

to rove about the con­cert grounds at their leisure. In ad­di­tion to live per­for­mances, sur­prises loomed around ev­ery cor­ner. Guests could par­tic­i­pate in im­promptu jam ses­sions, visit arts and crafts ven­dors, or ac­quire lon­glast­ing ‘sou­venirs’ from a tribal tat­too­ing sta­tion. What took us by sur­prise were the num­ber of kids and fam­i­lies among the at­ten­dees. Few mu­sic fes­ti­vals can at­test to be­ing ‘fam­ily friendly’, but RWMF safely holds that ti­tle. In ad­di­tion to offering Fam­ily Pack­ages, the or­gan­is­ers in­tro­duced a Fes­ti­val of Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture in 2014.

The 2015 edi­tion also marked the in­tro­duc­tion of Ra­dio-Fre­quency Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (RFID) wrist­bands to al­low for cash­less pay­ments. We loaded up on food, bev­er­ages and me­men­tos by sim­ply scan­ning our wrist­bands at var­i­ous ven­dors – there was none of that rum­mag­ing around for loose change. Run­ning out of credit sim­ply war­ranted a visit to one of many top-up sta­tions lo­cated at var­i­ous check­points.

Af­ter three days of mer­ry­mak­ing, we re­gret­fully left the Sarawak Cul­tural Vil­lage for Kuching city cen­tre with a car­ful of strangers turned friends. Ev­ery­one mu­tu­ally agreed on one thing: It’s lit­tle won­der that RWMF gar­ners a 60 per­cent rate of re­peated visi­tors each year. A must for mu­sic lovers, RWMF was su­perb ex­po­sure to eth­nic and tribal mu­sic and an ex­cel­lent rea­son to visit and ex­pe­ri­ence Bor­neo.

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