17th annual Rainforest World Music Festival is bigger than ever

The Rainforest World Music Festival  has begun and this 17th event (#Sarawak, #Borneo) is the biggest so far.
* 22 bands
* 190 performers
* 27 workshops

The tree stage has been enlarged; a 3rd stage has been created as the ‘the theatre stage’ and this indoor, seated, more chamber music style, will have 2 bands performing each afternoon.

Another first is the RWMF Community Drum Circle which will be for an hour each late afternoon: I’ll check it out tomorrow!

Tonight the groups I’m particularly interested in are:

Kalakan – Basque country
Karinthalakoottam – India
Son Yambu – Cuba/UK

Will get back to you about the groups on my return to New Zealand!

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Interviews with some performers about to start

Last showcase at the Borneo World Music Expo

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.

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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

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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.

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Music showcase at Borneo World Music Expo

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.

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Preparing for the expo stage

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

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Kuching, also known as cat city. It seems live and bronze cats hang out together

Cute mother and baby in Malaysian Borneo

I took this photo of a very cute mum and her baby at a wildlife centre close to Kuching, Sarawak. Malaysian Borneo.

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Fish, fruit, veg, meat plus … food glorious food in Malaysia

Most of these photos were taken at the Kuching Sunday Market, Sarawak. Take your taste buds on a tour – sit down, relax and see how many you can name.

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Want to volunteer at the Rainforest World Music Festival?

I’ve just been sent the media release music lovers will love – be a volunteer at the wonderful Rainforest World Music Festival.  I attended it in 2013 and it’s great! (see my blogs and photos in this blog)

 The 17th annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), to be held in Kuching city, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo as well as the 9th annual Borneo Jazz and 2nd annual Asia Music Festival, both to be held in Miri city, Sarawak is currently accepting applications for volunteers. ( see website www.rwfm.net )

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Festivals project coordinators, Fiza (left), and Mona showing the volunteer form

 

The 2014 RWMF will be held on June 20th – 22nd, while the Borneo Jazz 2014 and Asia Music Festival 2014 will be held on May 9th – 10th  and October 3rd – 4th respectively.

The Festivals are made possible year after year because of the hard work of over 200 volunteers yearly. Next year, all the three Festivals are looking for individuals or groups to help in the logistics, technical and operational aspects of the event management, event marketing and its operational plan. This volunteer program is designed to provide an overall understanding of the operational aspects of the festivals in order to ensure the success of the musical events organized by Sarawak Tourism Board.

Those interested to volunteer for these musical events in Malaysia may register respectively on RWMF website at www.rwmf.net, Borneo Jazz website www.jazzborneo and Asia Music Festival Website www.asiamusicfestival.net. This is only the application process where those interested in taking part are registered, while the successful applicants will later be notified via email or telephone.

The festival event management areas will require volunteer skills as liaison officer for performing artists, as well as schleppers for handling of the musical instruments among others. These volunteers are required to work during the workshop as well as concert and practice sessions. Volunteers for the event marketing management will participate in sales promotion, product development of festival tour packages, management information, media and public relations program as well as Media Centre operation. Event operation management areas will oversee the site readiness, vendor management, admission and gate operation, event secretariat, equipment and materials preparation and transportation.

The volunteer program has seen many repeated volunteers and it provides not only a learning platform but also a time to get together. Although ideal employee attributes will vary from role to role, all volunteers must be able to conduct themselves in line with the Festival’s core values, which is integrity and teamwork.

With more than 500 officials, media and performers making up the team at the Festivals, the volunteers are sure to meet new friends, sharing experience, learn the new skills, and most importantly gaining new experience in event management.

The festival organizer will provide T-shirts to be worn while on duty. The volunteers will be assigned to perform duties on shift, which covers day or night festival program. The volunteers maybe needed to run the selected management areas a few days before the festival starts in order to ensure festival readiness.

Closing date for Borneo Jazz and RWMF submission form is on 4th April 2014, while Asia Music Festival submission form will close on 4th September 2014.

Other information about the Festival such as the program, packages and many more will be updated on each websites from time-to-time.

 

Free museums in Kuching, Sarawak – well worth visiting

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, maintains several museums – all free to visit.

The Sarawak Museum, the oldest of its kind in Borneo, exhibits collections on the natural history of Sarawak: the beautiful building was opened in 1891 by the White Rajah, Charles Brooke. (Note: A film is soon to be made of his life which I’m sure will be fascinating)

Four museums in this area
Four museums in this area

Over the road by an elegant footbridge is the Dewan Tun Abdul Razak otherwise known as ‘the new museum’ and it’s an exhibition venue and has the offices of the Sarawak Museum Department.

Located behind ‘new’ museum is the Sarawak Islamic Museum which I had found hard to find – but well worth going to a few days later.

Other museums in Kuching include the Chinese History Museum, on the waterfront, and which is well worth visiting, the Kuching Cat Museum,( see my blog about it)  and the Sarawak Textile Museum – opposite the Post Office and China Street. I found it a peaceful and informative place so well recommend it.

Chinese History Museum
Chinese History Museum

Another museum I just loved was the Art Gallery (beside the Sarawak Museum). Its beautifully and sympathetically restored – a great background to the local art work: I wish I had returned for a second visit.

See the Sarawak Tourism Board for more.

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Borneo orchids: Orchid Park, Kuching, Sarwak

Sarawak’s State Flower, the Normah Orchid (Phalaenopsis Bellina) is among the wide collection of Borneo Orchids found in these gardens which has a collection of 75,000 plants.

I arrived by bus while on a city tour but you can easily get there by using one of the small wooden taxi boats on the Kuching Waterfront (opposite the Astana and Fort Margherita).

When I was there a group of school pupils were also there so they were happy to have some international visitors to interview and photograph.  As I understand it, all Malay students must attend a club on Saturday with Scouts and the Red Crescent being the most popular.

Since I was there in late June (2013) the garden has had a name change – it’s now the Orchid Park – with new plans for extension including  building a mist-house or cool-house for  orchids from mild climates.

With the impressive State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex in the background the setting is lovely and is the venue for the annual Kuching Orchid Show.

For more about this lovely city see other blogs I have written or visit their tourism website.

Enjoy these photos from my brief visit.

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Ugly animals, endangered monkeys, and a national park in Sarawak, Malaysia

“That is the ugliest animal I have ever seen’ says Nikki,my traveling mate for a few days.

With its streamlined body, long head and nose, skinny deer-like legs (3 toes front, 2 at rear) and a bristly beard along both sides of their snout, I think the Bornean bearded pig is amazing! Very laid back, ignoring the photographers and travellers in the Bako National Park it seems most efficient at digging for roots and worms in the bush and lawns, however they also hangout on the beach, browsing for food at low tide.

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The pigs, and the naughty macaque, are the first animals we see as we arrive at the Sarawak Forest Dept. HQ to book into our basic accommodation.

We’ve just travelled 20-k from Kuching to Bako Village and then, under a sign warning of crocodiles, took a boat for the final 30 minutes.IMG_3666

During the boat ride we’re told ‘low tide wet landing, high tide dry landing’ and as we arrive at high tide use the jetty, not the beach, to land at this ‘smallest, oldest, and  most visited’ of the states national parks. It spreads 27 sq k between the Sarawak and Bako rivers on the Muara Tebas peninsula with a coastline lined by steep cliffs, small bays and beaches.

Apparently Sarawak has the most number of national parks, totally protected, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves of all Malaysian States  and makes up about 8% of the land. (see more on the Forestry Sarawak website)

Recommended to me by Ian Ord on either my Twitter or Facebook pages it seems the rich variety of wildlife are best seen close to the HQ which is why so many travellers come just for the day. I recommend you stay for at least one night – although my next trip will be for at least two nights: it was wonderfully  peaceful when the ‘day-trippers’ left and we did a night hike with a forestry guide.

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On the evening walk we saw a Culago (flying squirrel) which was great, and despite not having closed shoes, and watching the ground, I was not attacked by the terrible fire ants. We also saw swifts and their prized nests – with young in the nests they hardly fitted in.

All around park are the long-tailed macaques, compulsive thieves so be careful for both you and them – it may seem funny that they steal cans of drinks but its not good for them. It also means they become aggressive and will grab your bag if they think you could have goodies in it. Monkeys, despite looking cute, can be very violent so please don’t feed them.

The naughty macaque!
The naughty macaque!

Another park favourite for me were the silver leaf monkeys (silvery lutung) is sometimes called the David Beckham monkey because of  its hairstyle. The silvery lutung is a medium sized monkey with a long tail, the grey-tips on its dark brown or black fur, giving it a uniform silvery appearance: the young are cute red-heads!  A crest of fur runs along the top of the head, and the hair on the cheeks is long while their hands and feet are hairless, with dark coloured skin, and have opposable thumbs and toes – this means  they can hold things using thumbs and fingers.

the cute babies are red for a few months
the cute lutung babies are red for a few months
cute hairstyle on the silver-leaf monkey
the ‘Beckham’ hairstyle on the silver-leaf monkey say many locals
great swimming spot
great swimming spot

We  walked a few of the many trails and at 34 degrees with 93% humidity it was wonderful to arrive at a beautiful, nearly deserted, beach where Nikki and I plunged into the cooler water. Magic.

Proboscis monkeys of course are the stars here. With their long, straight, pale tail flowing behind them they leap almost clumsily from tree to tree. They eat young shoots of indigestible foliage which is then broken down in their two stomachs. Male vanity and the need to dominate means their nose can grow to such a pendulous length they have to hold it up, or push aside to eat! It also seems the head of the harem is always on duty with his penis erect for much of the time leading to many postcards of him ‘showing his red chilli.’

Other males, lower in rank, hang out in male groups until their noses grow bigger and they have the chance to challenge the leader and so become head of the harem.

Proboscis monkey
Proboscis monkey – this one is waiting for his nose to grow!

They have few predators in their natural environment – they are preyed on by crocodiles but people are its biggest threat. With the loss of lost vast areas of natural habitats to due to deforestation they appear to have been pushed into smaller, and more isolated, pockets of bush. It is listed by the IUCN as endangered in its natural environment and could face extinction: evidently very few are in captivity as they do not respond well to those conditions.

 

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Cat city … Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Once part of the Sultanate of Brunei some 200 years ago, Kuching then became the capital of the White Rajahs of Sarawak and now this capital city, Kuching, is often called “Cat City” and has many cat statues as public art.

The 'big cat' is dressed according to the season or festival, these are its Gawai clothes - the Iban harvest festival
The ‘big cat’ is dressed according to the season or festival, these are its Gawai clothes – the Iban harvest festival

The meaning of ‘Kuching’ seems to be lost in history. Some say it’s from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat, (Note in Malay the letter c is pronounced as ch as in church) and many locals call it “Cat City”.

The guide on my city tour bus says it could come from the Chinese word for port (cochin) or, “most likely, from the Malay name mata kucing (cat’s-eye) for the longan fruit. He continues “There was a small tributary of the Sarawak river called Sungei Kuching so some others say it was from this stream that Kuching got its name.” So take your pick.

Cat city seems to be the most common usage and the city has not only many cat souvenirs for sale, and  statues of cats,  but also a cat museum. This  is on top of a 60 metre high hill which gives great views over the city. (The museum is on the ground floor of the  Kuching North City Hall.)

The Cat Museum  has four main galleries  and evidently has more than 4,000 cat artifacts including paintings  and the media group I was with were mixed in their reactions to the collection – from bemused, to thrilled, to amused. Its well worth a visit, and like all the museums in Sarawak, it’s free to visit although a small fee is charged for cameras.

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For more about Kuching, see the many other blogs I’ve written, or the Sarawak Tourism Boards’ official website

 

 

“Look Heather, the cat is naked” says one of the drivers who knows I’ve walked often to this statue for photos!