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“Evolution” is the theme for the 27th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival

Welcome to the Land of the Hornbills!

In the heart of Borneo, where the lush rainforests meet the sky, a magical celebration awaits. The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), organized by the Sarawak Tourism Board, is an annual three-day event that captivates music enthusiasts, adventurers and curious minds.

Envision a harmonious blend of rustling leaves, melodious birdsong and the primal beat of drums resonating through the lush canopy. This is not merely a typical festival; it serves as a gateway to a realm where tunes entwine with ancient trees and rhythm harmonizes with the breeze.

The RWMF Chronicles: A Brief Prelude

Our story begins in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia—a place where time slows down and the forest whispers secrets to those who listen. The event, often abbreviated as RWMF (because even acronyms groove here), celebrates the diversity of world music. Beyond being just a festival, it’s a fusion—a bridge between cultures, traditions and the beating heart of Mother Earth.

The Rainforest World Music Festival takes place at the Sarawak Cultural Village, nestled in the rainforests of Borneo. The festival was established in 1998 to address concerns about the rapid decline of local ethnic music and its creators. The objective of this event is to conserve and advance Sarawak’s distinct and multifarious cultures, while also creating an opportunity for local artists to exhibit their skills alongside international performers. It offers a new outlook on conventional Sarawakian music, ensuring that its heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.

Unleashing Daytime Delights

The Rainforest World Music Festival features interactive workshops in addition to performances, allowing music to truly come alive.. Imagine getting the chance to jam with talented musicians, discover the secrets of different musical traditions and even try your hand at playing exotic instruments.

These workshops are like musical passports, taking you on a journey to explore diverse rhythms, melodies and techniques from around the globe. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just someone curious about music, these sessions are your golden ticket to immersing yourself in the vibrant cultural tapestry of Sarawak.

Throughout the festival grounds, prepare to be enchanted by fascinating displays celebrating the cultural diversity of different communities. From the beauty of traditional costumes and artefacts to the spellbinding allure of storytelling and exhilarating dance performances, these exhibits offer a glimpse into the customs and practices of the various ethnic groups.

Discover Sarawak’s local artisans as you explore the marketplace—a world of exquisite, handcrafted treasures. From intricate textiles and mesmerizing jewellery to stunning wood carvings, each piece is a testament to the region’s rich artistic heritage. Embrace the opportunity to support these talented artists and take home a piece of Sarawak’s culture.

Culinary Adventure: A Feast for the Senses

Between daytime workshops and the marketplace, don’t forget the food. Oh, the food! Taste the essence of Borneo: spicy laksa, fragrant rendang and durian ice cream.

Indulge in a culinary adventure by sampling various local delicacies at the food stalls. From the alluring aroma of exotic curries to the delightful sweetness of tropical fruits, these offerings provide a fascinating insight into Sarawak’s diverse gastronomic landscape. Sarawak is home to more than 34 ethnic tribes, each with its own culture, music and food. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy flavours that represent the multicultural influences of this region.

Main-Stage Evening Concerts

As the twilight paints the sky, the main stage comes alive. With the first notes reverberating, imagine yourself sitting on a moss-covered log surrounded by fireflies. The air hums with anticipation. And then, it begins—the rainforest orchestra. The audience sways, eyes closed, hearts open. We’re not just listening; we’re merging with the music.

Let us embark on a journey to meet some of the dazzling and talented performers of RWMF 2024!

  1. Kitaro: A Grammy award winner for Best New Age Album (1999), Kitaro, a Japanese artist, composer and record producer will grace the stage with celestial sounds. His electronic-instrumental music transcends borders. He also received a Golden Globe award for the original score of Heaven & Earth (1993).
  2. Dato Zainal Abidin: A legendary figure in Malaysian music, Zainal’s spiritual songs evoke feelings of love, humanity and the environment. He is a singer and songwriter known for his work in pop, world music, fusion and Afro-Asia genres. He has won numerous prestigious awards and received the Gold Award at the Tokyo Music Festival in 1992 for his outstanding achievements in music.
  1. Alena Murang: Hailing from the mystical heart of Sarawak, Alena Murang sings in the endangered Kenyah and Kelabit languages. With her sape—a traditional Bornean lute—she conjures enchanting soundscapes, bridging traditional Dayak tones and modern rhythms. She has performed at many renowned world music festivals and won numerous awards locally and abroad in the United Kingdom, America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.
  1. Belle Sisoski: Sarawak’s very own enchantress, Belle Sisoski, is a multi-instrumentalist with the ability to blend various musical elements. Her music combines ethnic, pop and classical sounds. She won second place with her song “Stop Your Games” in the 2022/2023 Commonwealth Song Contest. She is passionate about indigenous and environmental conservation.
  2. Alright Mela Meets Santoo: A new musical collaboration in which Pakistani flair meets French finesse. This platform allows artists from Lahore and Angers to blend their talent with a French touch. Their fusion of traditional and contemporary beats creates a musical kaleidoscope.
  3. Bourbon Lassi: This five-piece world music ensemble has roots that dig deep into the Malaysian music circle and features some of the brightest names in the industry. Jamie Wilson leads this eclectic crew. Bourbon Lassi blends cultures like a tropical cocktail from Australia’s sun-kissed beaches to Malaysia’s rain-soaked jungles.
  4. Nini: Imagine the San Xian (a three-stringed lute) shredding alongside electric guitars. A groundbreaking Taiwanese musician, her music is a bold fusion—metal energy dances with ancient Chinese melodies. She won the 2020 Gamers Got Talent competition by playing a mashup of three songs on three different instruments in less than three minutes, leaving judges and viewers awestruck.

Other amazing international acts not to be missed include Havana Social Club (Cuba/ Singapore/Venezuela), Imarhan (Alegria/France), Krakatau Ethno (Indonesia), Rizal Hadi & Folk (Indonesia), Rhythm Rebels Featuring Selonding Bali Aga (Indonesia) and Tribal Tide (Singapore).

In the musical landscape of East Malaysia, keep an eye on The Borneo Collective, Nisa Addini, and Tuni Sundatang. From our West Malaysian participants, the scene will come alive with the sounds of Adrian G, Salammusik, The Colour of Sound’s Malaysia and Zarul@Our BodySound.

The Borneo Collective is all set to present its first-ever musical project titled “Soul of Sarawak” at RWMF2024. Sarawak’s masters of traditional instruments will join hands with world-class musicians from all over Malaysia. With a line-up featuring Malaysia’s Living National Heritage Matthew Ngau, Jerry Kamit of Tuku Kame, Joe Gendang and Ezra Tekola of At Adau, among others, this ensemble promises to be an elaborate production as it blends together ancient and modern instruments.

Dear traveller, pack your curiosity, dancing shoes and a sense of wonder. The Rainforest World Music Festival invites you. Let’s dance with the hornbills, sing with the cicadas and lose ourselves in the rhythm of the music. See you from June 28th to June 30th 2024, when the forest becomes a stage and music becomes magic.

For more details and ticket information, visit the official RWMF website