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Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo

By: Monica Pitrelli

Rainforest World Music Festival 2011

Dates: 8 to 10 July
Location: Sarawak Cultural Village, near Kuching, Malaysi
Performers: Startijenn (France), Pacific Curls (New Zealand), Mamak Khadem (Iran), Warsaw Village Band (Poland), Lisa Haley & the Zydecats (US), Agung Beat (Malaysia), Kissmet (UK), plus many more.
Tickets: Three-day passes areRM300 (about S$150; not available at the festival) and daily tickets are RM110. Buy them at www.ticketcharge.com.my


10. The Perfect Venue : The festival is held at Sarawak Cultural Village at the base of Mount Santubong, about 35km north of Kuching. The village features replica dwellings of Sarawak’s different ethnic groups, which are used during the festival for workshops, craft demonstrations and food stalls.

9. Easiest packing in the world : Dress to chill, not to kill. Grab a stack of your oldest T-shirts, a few pairs of your rattiest shorts, a couple of bandanas and some flip-flops, and the packing is complete. The vibe at this festival makes “casual wear” seem downright uppity.

8. Get Inspired : Soak in the myriads of sounds, styles, languages and backgrounds around you. Absorb the meaning of the music. Last year, Farafina, a band from Burkina Faso, played music created in response to the fighting, injustice, racism, famine and war that they experience. They came to the festival with one message – peace. ­

7. Watch worlds collide: Inviting freethinking, free-loving festival types into conservative Sarawak might seem like a recipe for disaster. But, it’s just the opposite. There is little of the fighting, machismo or riff-raff commonly seen on the music festival scene. Alcohol is served, but drinking, for the most part, is kept at a respectable level.

6. Mosh Out: You might not be the slam-dancing type, but if you ever wanted to try it, this festival offers the most benevolent mosh pit on the planet. Rain is common (you’re in the rainforest, right?), and after the clouds open, the grassy field in front of the stage turns into a sludgy mess. About a fourth of the attendees embrace the muddy dance floor, while the rest sit neatly on the sidelines. Take your pick.

5. Rub elbows with the band : When the bands aren’t performing, they are not hidden or shielded by brawny bodyguards – they are walking around the village and watching the festival like everyone else. The musicians are generally very approachable and obliging should you want to strike up a conversation about last night’s set.

4. Best Little B&B in Borneo : To enjoy a little bit of luxury without sacrificing local flavour, stay at the Village House, located down the road from the festival. This guesthouse, run by a friendly husband-and-wife team, is a fusion between a traditional stilted Malay home and a Dayak longhouse. Add hammocks, palms, gardens, ponds, a pool that runs the length of the property, and a gourmet chef who prepares amazing delicious local and Western fare, and this jungle home is transformed into an oasis. As it has only 12 rooms, you’ll want to book as soon as possible.

3. Tour the “Cat City”: If it’s your first visit to Kuching, tack on a few extra days to take in the city’s waterfront, hike through Bako National Park, watch wild orangutans at Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, enter the gallows of Fort Margherita, and eat fresh seafood at Top Spot Food Court. 

2. Get to Work : Daily workshops allow the audience to get up close and personal with the music. After talking about their styles, instruments and home countries, the artists initiate a jam session, melding a number of different musical genres into one sound. The results are fascinating.

1. The music!: If you thought iTunes allowed you to explore eclectic musical sounds, you haven’t heard anything yet. Where else can you jam to Punjabi folk rock, Australian Celtic and Caribbean merengue in a 72-hour window? You may not understand some of the lyrics, but that doesn’t matter. At the festival, music is a universal language that connects one and all.