Culture & Religion

Music Without Borders – Photos of the Rainforest World Music Festival

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Frequent festival-goer, David Bowden, recaps his experiences from the eclectic Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

It’s a hot and humid Sarawak evening and I’m surrounded by thousands of concertgoers who look as hot as the night. They’re moving to the beat of music that constantly shifts gears over the course of the evening. It began with a group of Mongolian throat singers who’s melodious but guttural tones resembled the birds and the desert wind of their country and ended with a madcap trio of Scotsmen, one of whom was suspended from the shoulders of his colleague upside down while playing an accordion.

Welcome to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival, staged in the expansive grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village located within coastal rainforests that meet Damai Beach.This wasn’t my first Rainforest Music Festival, with each one being memorable for its musical diversity performed in an inviting setting.


In a world that’s increasingly dominated by contemporary Western music, the sounds of indigenous and alternate music are seemingly being silenced. Global brands ensure that the music of Lorde, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and One Direction is what the global young listen to on their iPods.

The Rainforest Festival set out not only to entertain enthusiastic crowds, but to challenge and broaden their knowledge of music and the repertoire of global musical genres that are available. However, not all artistes who appear are appreciated by all the people all the time. I have to admire the festival’s artistic direction and the fact that it’s prepared to take risks with the performers.


Forest rythms

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, you would have to agree that the Rainforest World Music Festival is doing something right. From the 14th to the 16th July this year, the rainforests will resound to the infectious beat of some of the finest world music groups.

Ticket numbers are capped to ensure a quality event with an emphasis on crowd comfort. People sprawl over the site with many content to laze around the lake while watching the performances on big screens.

The festival also supports the continuation of Sarawak’s ethnic music as each festival has traditionally started with local groups and usually there’s a sape (lute-like instrument) somewhere on the programme.



Workshop jamming

The roof of the Iban longhouse in the village is often raised as concertgoers twist and twirl to the lively music.

Each afternoon, musicians jam freely amongst themselves and with those in the audience. Musicians exchange licks while the audience joins in the dancing, jigging, singing, and reeling. Workshops are especially popular with children who get a chance to learn more about some lesser known instruments being played as well as to participate in some new activities.

With an exciting festival line up of global musicians, it’s easy to appreciate that there are no geographical boundaries to world music – indeed, it is music without borders.

See there this weekend!


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