Posts Tagged ‘sarawak’

Rainforest World Music Festival, June 28-30

Posted on July 12th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Words by Simon Broughton

Sarawak provides a celebration of musical diversity

The extraordinary global spread of Sarawak’s Rainforest World Music Festival is evident in the diversity of it’s line-up. The 2013 programme brought together Grammy-winning Cajun band, the Pine Leaf Boys from the US, Dizu Plaatjies & the Ibuyambo Ensemble from South Africa, Aboriginal group Nunukul Yuggera from Australia, Kíla from Ireland and Palsandae from South Korea. It’s one of Songlines’ Top 25 World Music Festivals – both for the breadth of its programming and the beauty of the setting, around a lake in the Sarawak Cultural Village. Despite sponsorship by Heineken (which seems surprising in a Muslim country), the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed and tranquil. There were large crowds, but absolutely no aggravation.  

During the day, there were workshops held in a longhouse and other locations around the site. Usually these involved demonstrations and jam sessions between groups of percussionists, flute players or string players from different parts of the world. While loads of fun, these events were also a useful indication of how difficult it can be to create meaningful collaborations. More interesting were those workshops where groups explain their own traditions – like Rhythm in Bronze, a powerful, largely female Malaysian gamelan group, who provided instrumental demonstrations and hands on experience for a keen audience. 

The way the festival has revived the local music scene is one of the other reasons it is in our Top 25 list. It was a shame though, that local musicians were only given short sets before international artists took over the stage. My favourite workshop was a session by Arthur Borman and his group Madeeh, demonstrating and explaining the music from his Bidayuh longhouse about 65km from the Sarawak capital, Kuching. The Bidayuh, who inhabit the west of the country, are one of Sarawak’s four main indigenous groups of people. Visiting a Bidayuh longhouse is like entering a bamboo world – virtually the whole building is made from various cuts of the material. They also make crafts and, of course, musical instruments out of bamboo. Borman, and the other three family members in Madeeh play party, celebratory and dance music on three bamboo zithers accompanied by a drum. The demonstration took place in a longhouse – although it was a wooden Iban longhouse in the Sarawak Cultural Village rather than a bamboo Bidayuh one. But you certainly feel the musical energy and intimacy in this sort of environment.

The Bidayuh bamboo zither is called a pratuokng – and I promise you that’s not a misprint – apparently pronounced ‘pratwa.’ At first glance the instrument looks basic – a thick bamboo tube with its strings cut from the skin of the bamboo itself and raised up on little bamboo bridges. It’s very similar to the traditional version of the Malagasy valiha, also with bamboo strings. The valiha, a more virtuoso instrument, is plucked, but Borman demonstrates how the intricate patterns played on the pratuokng use three additional techniques. Mainly, the strings are hit with a short stick in the right hand, but Borman also plucks a bass note with his left and strikes a resonant panel on the tube for percussive effect. What’s more, these instruments are light and easy to transport, so let’s hope someone brings them to Europe before too long. In the meantime, Radio 3’s World Routes will feature Borman and other Sarawak musicians in mid-August. 

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April/May 2013 issue of Songlines (#91) is on sale in the UK from today

Posted on March 15th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

The April/ May 2013 issue of Songlines is on sale in the UK from March 15. As always, it comes with our Top of the World compilation CD, featuring ten tracks from the finest new albums from around the planet. The CD also includes five tracks selected by the British composer and viola player Jocelyn Pook, revealing her interest in Balkan brass, Brazilian forro and more. 

The Top of the World CD includes tracks from Malian cover star Rokia Traoré; charming young Mancunian fiddler Emma Sweeney; American old-time duo Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott; oddball balladry from Alasdair Roberts & Friends;  Columbian psychedelia from Los Pirañas and expertly executed Bulgarian folk from Eva Quartet & Hector Zazou.





 This issue’s features include:
• Songlines Music Awards 2013 – The 16 nominees are announced!
• Rokia Traoré – The Malian superstar singer on her life, music and new rock-influenced album.
• Ballaké Sissoko – The kora star shares his story with Rose Skelton.
• Rainforest Festival – The world music festival transforming arts, culture and lives in Sarawak, Borneo
• The Nile Project – Simon Broughton on the musical project bridging communities together over the River Nile.


• Beginner’s Guide to Ana Moura, Portugal’s star of modern fado.
• Festival Profile: Poland’s Ethno Port festival.
• Postcard from New Orleans – Garth Cartwright visits the Mardi Gras.
• Backpage from Bangladesh – from Mercury nominee Sam Lee.
• My World – composer and viola player Jocelyn Pook.
• Grooves – Sudanese-Italian singer Amira Kheir, Transglobal Underground’s multi-instrumentalist Tim Whelan and Welsh accordionist Jamie Smith.
• News, including the UN Women’s official anthem and Staff Benda Bilili’s break-up.
• Reviews of the latest CD, DVD and world cinema releases.

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The new April/May Songlines podcast is now available through iTunes

Posted on March 15th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

The new Songlines podcast brings you highlights from the jam-packed April/May 2013 issue, plus extra features and bonus content. It opens with a great track from one of Mali’s foremost artists, Rokia Traoré, taken from her brilliant forthcoming album Beautiful Africa. Songlines editor-in-chief, Simon Broughton, introduces a track by the queen of fado pop, Ana Moura, star of this issue’s Beginner’s Guide. She’s also playing at this year’s La Linea Festival in April – don’t miss it.

Then there’s more from Rokia Traoré, as writer Robin Denselow interviews her about her new Mali-goes-rock album, produced by John Parish. Other features include the announcement of the final 16 nominees for the Songlines Music Awards 2013 by Nasim Masoud; and Simon Broughton’s report on the amazing music and culture of the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Borneo. Nathaniel Handy brings you the latest in music news from around the world with an excerpt from the UN Women’s song, ‘One Woman’ and more.

There’s also a fantastic track by Bengali-meets-Afrobeat fusioneers Lokkhi Terra, who are performing at Songlines Encounters Festival at London’s Kings Place on June 8.

As if all that weren’t enough, the next Songlines podcast, featuring highlights from the June 2013 issue (#92), will be available from April 26 2013.

Click here to download 

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Rainforest Festival

Posted on July 18th, 2012 in Music Travel, Recent posts by .

Photos of Zee Avi and Rhythm of Borneo by Pien Lee/Sarawak Tourism

Zee Avi“How you doing Rainforest?” I rather like being addressed as a piece of flora and fauna in the magnificent ecosystem around us in Sarawak. Against the backdrop of the forest, I’m watching Zee Avi, the headline artist on the first night of the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Malaysia. One of the songs she sings tells the legend of Santubong, the mountain on the island of Borneo at the foot of which the festival takes place. A few brief notes, then, from the Rainforest Festival held this last weekend (July 13-15).

The days are hot but the evenings are balmy, although occasionally there are showers of rain. This isn’t the rainy season, but it is the rainforest. One of the highlights of the whole weekend was String Sisters, six female fiddles – Catriona MacDonald (Shetland), Liz Knowles (Scotland), Emma Härdelin (Sweden), Annbjørg Lien (Norway), Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Liz Carroll (US) who rightly got an ecstatic reception on Friday night.

Other class acts were Khusugtun (Mongolia), Orexa TX (Basque Country), Mamadou Diabaté (Burkina Faso) and, closing the festival, Kanda Bongo Man (Congo) – the ringmaster of rumba in his black jacket, rimmed hat and a band fizzing with guitar licks. The atmosphere was electric.

I was particularly interested to see some of the local bands. Last year the festival started the Rainforest Festival Talent Search – a competition for local bands. The prize is a slot in the festival. This year’s winners were Nading Rhapsody, a Sarawak-based group playing contemporary arrangements of folk songs in several of the local languages – Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Orang Ulu and Malay. They are very dynamic onstage and attracted a young audience. Last year’s winners, Rhythm of Borneo, I liked even more. They are based on peninsula Malaysia and use several types of Malaysian drums and gamelan-like gong chimes (caklempong) to play the melody. I can see this group going down well at festivals anywhere in the world.

But the big discovery was the young Sarawak-born singer Zee Avi. She’s a big star back home because she’s made it big abroad – rather like the Indonesian singer Anggun, who lives in France. Zee Avi – in her 20s – lives in New York and came to fame thanks to a YouTube hit in 2007. She’s since played countless festivals and gave her first gig back in Sarawak last year. Singing in English and Malay, she is small but full of a quirky energy. For the Rainforest gig, she referenced tribal clothing with a typical Iban collar of beads, and included local instruments and musicians in the set. A real discovery. I hope she can do well without becoming too bland and mainstream.

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