KUCHING: Thousands of music lovers swayed to rhythms and melodies from around the world at the annual Rainforest World Music Festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village over the weekend.
In the spirit of the festival, they revelled in the rain as the heavens opened on Saturday and Sunday nights while the show went on.
Now in its 20th year, the festival featured more than 20 musical groups from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Pacific, with acts as diverse as South African jazz band Abavuki, Welsh folk musicians Calan and Tahiti’s dance troupe O Tahiti E.
Sarawakian performers included At Adau, an experimental world music band blending the traditional sounds of the sape and perutong with a contemporary beat; Lan E Tuyang featuring three sape masters from the Kayan and Kenyah communities; and Ilu Leto, an all-female multicultural band of sape musicians.
Malaysia was also represented by 1511 O Maliau Maliau, a dance troupe from Melaka passionate about preserving Portuguese dances and the “branyo”, a marriage between Portuguese and Malaysian art and music.
There were crowd-pleasing performances from Colombia’s Cimarron who played festive dance music known as “joropo” with Andalusian, indigenous Indian and African roots, and the energetic six-piece British-based band Achanak with their fusion of traditional Indian vocals and percussion and western dance rhythms.
This year, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary by introducing innovative elements such as a wellness programme, food fair and craft bazaar at the festival site.
A Rainforest Fringe Festival was also launched in Kuching city as a prelude to the festival.
“The organising committee has successfully reengineered the Rainforest World Music Festival, running various events leading to and throughout the festival.
“We need to take an innovative approach to further develop such a major international event and put it on the world map,” Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said during a walkabout at the festival.
Meanwhile, the Sarawak Tourism Board reported an 8% increase in ticket sales for the festival this year.
Its chairman Datuk Wahab Abdul Aziz said the number of pre-sold tickets went up by 1,440 from the 18,000 sold last year, which he described as an encouraging trend.
He said the festival aimed to promote Sarawak as a top destination for performing arts and culture.
“It’s a world-class event that can generate profits for local businesses, communities, sponsors and individuals,” he said, adding that the organisers looked forward to next year’s festival scheduled for July 13 to 15.