Unleash Yourself at the Penang World Music Festival

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The much-acclaimed Penang World Music Festival will offer a feast of international music for those with an open mind. David Bowden invites you to join in the fun at the Penang Botanic Garden in March.

Malaysia certainly has its finger on the pulse of global tourism, if the growing number of annual, international music festivals is anything to go by.The Rainforest World Music Festival, staged in the middle of each year, has successfully placed Sarawak on the world music stage, while the Borneo Jazz Festival (May 10-11) has grown into a much-appreciated event in Miri, Sarawak. The Penang Jazz Festival (December) and Langkawi Live (November) are making music fans sit up and take notice, too.

It seems the tourism authorities in the country are onto something, and with more aggressive and collective marketing, more international travellers will be exposed to Malaysia’s multi-faceted culture thanks to music events such as these.


Worldly Wise

What could be collectively branded as “Malaysia Live” kicks off on 30 March with the acclaimed Penang World Music Festival arriving in George Town for two exciting days.

In a world increasingly dominated by contemporary Western music, the sounds of indigenous and less commercial music is, sadly, being slowly silenced. Festivals like the one in Penang set out to entertain the crowd, but also to challenge them and to broaden their repertoire of musical genres. One thing is for sure, it’s difficult to put a definitive label on world music, and those who attend this professionally managed event in Penang can be assured of a varied musical bill each evening.

An open mind helps when attending these events, as not all people will appreciate all the music all the time. Having attended quite a few such festivals, I have to admire the respective festivals’ artistic direction and the willingness to take the occasional risk with the musicians who are invited. Go with the expectation of seeing some very professional musicians from around the world playing an eclectic range of styles and you won’t be disappointed.

World music has its roots in the past but it can be an integral part of the future for some groups who use their music to communicate their culture to the world.The Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak has successfully launched the international careers of several sape players (a traditional lute-like instrument) and brought the indigenous music of Sarawak to a wider and global audience.While the Penang festival doesn’t necessarily have these as concert goals, its line-up does include several local groups with an aim to give them exposure to the large numbers of international guests who attend the festival.


Music Without Borders

When scanning the 2013 festival’s line-up of global musicians, it’s easy to appreciate that there are no geographical boundaries to world music: it is truly a musical genre without borders.This year, concertgoers will be able to listen to Mu (Portugal), Kimi Djabaté (Guinea-Bissau), Nasout (Iran), Alp Bora Quartet (Turkey), Saharadja (Indonesia), Inka Marka (South America), Kalayo (Philippines), and Akasha (Malaysia), and there will be more announced in the weeks before the festival kicks off.

In addition to the evening performances for attendees, the musicians from various bands will participate in afternoon workshop sessions from 2pm onwards.These workshops provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the music, learning about the interesting qualities of the various instruments played and the ways in which these are used by the musicians to create their unique forms of music.



Groove in the Garden

The festival will be staged in the Quarry Recreational Park within the beautiful setting of the Penang Botanic Gardens.The sloping, natural amphitheatre is perfect for taking in the music, and concert goers should aim to arrive early to get a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage. Large screens will be set up for those located in the areas more distant from the stage.

A festival fairground will also be in progress during the weekend where attendees can pick up band CDs, souvenirs, crafts, food, and beverages.There will also be a row of food stalls at the front entrance to the park to allow foreigners the joy of sampling Penang’s renowned hawker food.



Making Contact

Tickets for the festival are priced at RM80 (RM40 for children from 5-12 years) for one night or RM140 (children RM70) for two-day passes. For more information about the festival or to buy tickets online, visit www.penangworldmusic.gov.my, email info@visitpenang.gov.my, or call 016.411 0000.


Source: Penang International February 2013 -March 2013

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