Sarawak: A world of music and crafts

by -
1506
Reading Time: 3 minutes
jugglerSm
The Rainforest World Music Festival is attended by performers from across the world. Photo: Heidi Munan

For more than a decade, the Rainforest World Music Festival has assembled musicians for three days in Sarawak. The event has grown from a few hundred guests seated on red plastic chairs a few years ago to about 20,000, but the atmosphere remains the same – world music in the rainforest.

By Heidi Munan

The festival site? Imagine the 48,000 square miles of Sarawak concentrated into just 17 acres. Visitors stroll among heritage buildings, a stately Malay house, a rustic Chinese farmhouse, rough-timbered Dayak longhouses, a flimsy Penan hut. This is where the festival takes place, in and around the homes of Borneo’s rainforest dwellers.

Musicians from every continent and most countries have enlivened the scene, singing and drumming, clacking and strumming, dancing and prancing – one of the high points of the 2012 lineup was a group of feisty women from Vanuatu, who waded into the shallow lake at the festival site and treated the audience to a recital of water-slapping.

The day starts leisurely, with group workshops in the longhouses, walking bands strolling around the village, a juggler here, and a tattoo artist there. After dusk, all stream onto the main stage; the night’s concert builds up to a crescendo of music from the stage and enthusiastic clapping, cheering and dancing from the rainforest crowd.

Rainforest? Rain? Who cares – they dance in the rain and they dance in the mud and they come back the next year for more.

Music stimulates the appetite. And food stalls here cater to all tastes: eastern, western, in-between, fancy, while-you-stroll snacks or sit-down bites. Nobody goes hungry.

Music also stimulates something else – an interest in traditional rainforest handicrafts.

Souvenir and T-shirt sellers attach themselves to any large music event, but in the rainforest we can do better than that. Inside the music festival, there’s the Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar. Rainforest World, as well as World Crafts – a willow basket-maker form Denmark, grotesque doll-makers from Japan, two Korean sisters producing “bean people” (tiny little ‘people’ made of dried beans) and “lucky ducky” wind chimes, bamboo-instrument makers from Java, a felt-hatter form Kyrgyzstan, a potter complete with potters’ wheel from Kalimantan, and batik makers who permit the festival visitors to try their hand at waxing designs.

That’s when the penny dropped. Browsing and buying lovely handcrafted things is only part of the festival fun. Getting sucked in, hands-on, that’s the real thing.

The Crafts Bazaar now devotes ample space for workshops. Most of the teachers are locals, and what they teach are rainforest crafts: mat making, basketry, bead working, and woodcarving. Make things, do things – take a short sape-playing lesson, tootle a tune on a bamboo flute, or twirl a spinning top so it goes on buzzing for minutes. (The expert can make a hardwood top spin for hours, believe it or not.)

World music fans find that crafts here are exactly what they are looking for in the quiet afternoon before the concert heats up. Watch craftspeople at work, try something out yourself, and stock up on unique souvenirs to take home.

This year’s music festival and crafts bazaar is over, the crowds have gone home. But come July 2014 we’ll be there again, for three days of music, fun and crafts.

 

For more information:

Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong, 45 minutes’ drive from Kuching

Date: Usually the second weekend in July 2013

Tickets: Sold at the gate, and via an online portal. Check for details at  www.rwmf.net

Access: Several major airlines fly to Kuching from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Rainforest World Music Festival is attended by performers from across the world. Photo: Heidi Munan

For more than a decade, the Rainforest World Music Festival has assembled musicians for three days in Sarawak. The event has grown from a few hundred guests seated on red plastic chairs a few years ago to about 20,000, but the atmosphere remains the same – world music in the rainforest.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

jugglerSm
The Rainforest World Music Festival is attended by performers from across the world. Photo: Heidi Munan

For more than a decade, the Rainforest World Music Festival has assembled musicians for three days in Sarawak. The event has grown from a few hundred guests seated on red plastic chairs a few years ago to about 20,000, but the atmosphere remains the same – world music in the rainforest.

By Heidi Munan

The festival site? Imagine the 48,000 square miles of Sarawak concentrated into just 17 acres. Visitors stroll among heritage buildings, a stately Malay house, a rustic Chinese farmhouse, rough-timbered Dayak longhouses, a flimsy Penan hut. This is where the festival takes place, in and around the homes of Borneo’s rainforest dwellers.

Musicians from every continent and most countries have enlivened the scene, singing and drumming, clacking and strumming, dancing and prancing – one of the high points of the 2012 lineup was a group of feisty women from Vanuatu, who waded into the shallow lake at the festival site and treated the audience to a recital of water-slapping.

The day starts leisurely, with group workshops in the longhouses, walking bands strolling around the village, a juggler here, and a tattoo artist there. After dusk, all stream onto the main stage; the night’s concert builds up to a crescendo of music from the stage and enthusiastic clapping, cheering and dancing from the rainforest crowd.

Rainforest? Rain? Who cares – they dance in the rain and they dance in the mud and they come back the next year for more.

Music stimulates the appetite. And food stalls here cater to all tastes: eastern, western, in-between, fancy, while-you-stroll snacks or sit-down bites. Nobody goes hungry.

Music also stimulates something else – an interest in traditional rainforest handicrafts.

Souvenir and T-shirt sellers attach themselves to any large music event, but in the rainforest we can do better than that. Inside the music festival, there’s the Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar. Rainforest World, as well as World Crafts – a willow basket-maker form Denmark, grotesque doll-makers from Japan, two Korean sisters producing “bean people” (tiny little ‘people’ made of dried beans) and “lucky ducky” wind chimes, bamboo-instrument makers from Java, a felt-hatter form Kyrgyzstan, a potter complete with potters’ wheel from Kalimantan, and batik makers who permit the festival visitors to try their hand at waxing designs.

That’s when the penny dropped. Browsing and buying lovely handcrafted things is only part of the festival fun. Getting sucked in, hands-on, that’s the real thing.

The Crafts Bazaar now devotes ample space for workshops. Most of the teachers are locals, and what they teach are rainforest crafts: mat making, basketry, bead working, and woodcarving. Make things, do things – take a short sape-playing lesson, tootle a tune on a bamboo flute, or twirl a spinning top so it goes on buzzing for minutes. (The expert can make a hardwood top spin for hours, believe it or not.)

World music fans find that crafts here are exactly what they are looking for in the quiet afternoon before the concert heats up. Watch craftspeople at work, try something out yourself, and stock up on unique souvenirs to take home.

This year’s music festival and crafts bazaar is over, the crowds have gone home. But come July 2014 we’ll be there again, for three days of music, fun and crafts.

 

For more information:

Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong, 45 minutes’ drive from Kuching

Date: Usually the second weekend in July 2013

Tickets: Sold at the gate, and via an online portal. Check for details at  www.rwmf.net

Access: Several major airlines fly to Kuching from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid