I’m off to the Rainforest World Music Festival

In June,  I’m off to the  Rainforest World Music Festival (follow @kiwitravwriter on Twitter using #RWMF)  which has again been voted, as one of the 25 best International Festivals by renowned world music magazine, Songlines. This is it 4th consecutive year to be awarded the accolade.

Rainforest World Music Festival stands among other renowned festivals like WOMAD in  Australia and New Zealand, and the Ulsan World Music Festival, South Korea. According to the editorial team of Songlines the “Selection of the festival is based on the broad representation of the quality and scope of music festivals around the world”

Now in its 16th year the the festival is  held annually in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia) and  has put Sarawak on the world map with its “dazzling performances from across the globe” which  attracts more than 20,000 international and local festival-goers to Borneo for three days of daytime music workshops and action-packed nightly shows. This year it will be held June 28-30 – and I’ll be there too!

Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) CEO Dato Rashid Khan said,” The event has no doubt been a contributor of tourist arrivals to the state and as the organizer of the festival, we are proud to note that our efforts have been recognized for the 4th consecutive year. We are putting together another great act this year and are finalizing the bands”.

I’ll be staying at the Damai Beach Resort while at the music festival and then after that I’m off exploring  Sarawak, then the rest of Borneo. ( Sabah, Kalimantan, Brunei.) Should be lots of stories for me to find in 6 weeks .. follow this blog or like me Facebook to see links to my stories.

Tickets to the festival can  be bought online. For more information see  www.rwmf.net.

Night market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
I’m looking forward to more Malaysian food

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year: travelling in Penang, Malaysia, (a couple of years ago)  temporary stages were all around the city during the days leading to the Chinese New Year. Large semi-solid structures are at temples or outside affluent establishments or homes where people have financially supported the theatre or opera that is about to be staged.

Happy Thai new year
Happy Thai new year

For a few days before New Year opera plays nightly. Outside a supermarket two colourful dragons cavort, their fluttering eyelashes making the dance look flirtatious. As in many warm climates, evenings are when places come alive in a different way to the daytime busy-ness. Locals wander the streets talking to neighbours, eating meals in noisy gaggles and now in the Chinese New Year, watch local theatre.

As with all travellers, I too watch the theatre of life that unfolds itself daily, hourly, minute by minute and as part of that kaleidoscope, watch the shows. To a Western ear the sounds are often discordant, loud, and too highly pitched.  Each evening I wander the streets of Georgetown, watch the opera and gradually my ears become accustomed to the tone.

Men, often dressed as women, are in colourful clothes and the story usually seems to be about long-lost loves or love betrayed;  well that’s how I, with no knowledge of any Chinese language, interpret them.

Four or five men, sitting behind screens, make up the orchestra, and during long speeches or songs from the stage, I could hear their conversations and watch as huge plumes of cigarette smoke drift from around the screens and out to the audience.

The audience emerges from the shadows of alleyways, shops and homes as the band tune their instruments. I am given a sheet of newspaper to sit on, others sat on their rickshaw, bike, or chair carried from home, while yet others sat on newspaper too. Most smoke. Adding to the pall of smoke is the token money burnt in temple grounds as people make offerings to their ancestors.

If you can, spend  some time on the road early in the western-calendar year. Leave New Zealand  ( or whatever country you live in) after your New Years eve party and picnic the next day, then start counting. Counting the celebrations you can indulge in. Chinese New Year is usually first, both it and Islam’s end of Ramadan, the next new year, aren’t fixed dates but are lunar events so check for the dates. Then finally, in mid April – the Buddhist New Year.

Four fabulous New Years in a short space of time, all celebrated in very different ways and all wonderful times to be travelling and learning more about how other cultures enjoy the change of year.

To the Chinese community – Have a happy New Year!

NOTE: See photos of the Chinese New Zealand in Christchurch elsewhere on this site