The Rainforest World Music Festival is an annual, three-day event in Sarawak, Borneo, showcasing bands and performers literally from every corner of the world. From local native chants and African dance to American folk music and percussion troupes — the always-evolving lineup each year at the festival blends culture with an opportunity to dance and sweat with more than 20,000 people from all over the world!
Began in 1997, the Rainforest World Music Festival was voted by Songlines to be one of the top 25 music festivals in the world. Unlike other festivals where musicians are swept away to hide backstage after their performances, you’re likely to see the stars walking around, participating in intimate jam sessions during daily workshops, and simply enjoying the show along with their fans.
The price of entry — already a bargain — includes a full day of demonstrations, workshops, and fun before the shows begin around sunset. Two stages keep the evening action going without the usual intermission as bands change over.
- First, see other great things to do in Malaysian Borneo.
The Rainforest World Music Festival is hardly only about watching big bands perform on stage. Unlike typical music festivals, visitors can attend free workshops set in longhouses to enjoy educational jam sessions with the performers. When the artists take to the stages in the evening, you’ll feel like you know them, their instruments, and their musical traditions a little better.
- Check the official Rainforest World Music Festival site for a lineup of performers and a schedule of daily workshops.
Both entertaining and educational, the workshops range from percussion to Sarawak culture and local dance; many include crowd participation and you may even be invited to play an instrument!
Workshops run throughout the afternoon in three different venues between 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.
The Sarawak Cultural Village
The Sarawak Cultural Village is the perfect venue for an outdoor festival. The verdant setting between the South China Sea and nearby Mount Santubong really contribute to the atmosphere — it’s well worth taking the time to arrive early and explore the Sarawak Cultural Village. A circular boardwalk winds between wooden houses built in the style of local indigenous groups; statues and artifacts are on display.
See the official Sarawak Cultural Village website.
Important Tips for Enjoying the Festival
- No outside food or drinks are allowed into the festival; bags are checked.
- A wide variety of food, snacks, and drinks are sold inside of the festival. The only alcohol available is beer and wine.
- The only ATM is located in Damai Central just outside of the festival entrance. The ATM typically runs out of cash so bring enough money from Kuching.
- A 7-11 minimart, pharmacy, and small shop are available in Damai Central just outside of the festival main gate.
- Pets are not allowed inside of the festival.
- The venue itself is well worth exploring before the music begins. Arrive early to check out cultural displays, demonstrations, and the many workshops that are included in the entrance price.
- Bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a waterproof bag for your camera — the rainforest often lives up to its name with unexpected downpours!
- Seating tends to fill up quickly during the evening performances. You can bring your own mat for sitting on the grass.
- If the heat inside of the longhouses gets to be too much, try to catch a workshop in the comfortable, air-conditioned theater venue.
- Real, permanent toilets are available in several buildings; you aren’t doomed to the hot, portable toilets!
Rainforest World Music Festival Hours
The Sarawak Cultural Village opens to the public at 10 a.m. for people who want to explore the manicured grounds, do some shopping, and enjoy food before the festival begins. Workshops begin around 2 p.m. and are spread across at least three different venues within the village. Everyone takes a break around 5 p.m. to prepare for the band performances which begin around 7:30 p.m.
The festival day finishes around midnight; the last shuttle bus for Kuching departs at 1 a.m.