Media Passes to Rainforest World Music Festival 2011
Thanks to a generous arrangement between Sarawak Tourism Board and Sarawak Bloggers, Annie and I are attending the Rainforest World Music Festival here in Kuching as invited media! The Festival officially opens on the 8th and runs all weekend. But today we went to the One Hotel Santubong to attend the pre-Festival press conference and to pick up our passes.
One Hotel Santubong lobby
We were supposed to register before the press conference got started. Due to some snafus, we were told to pick up our passes after the conference. So we spent the waiting time strolling around the hotel. It was nice to walk around the hotel and see different people from all over the world gathered for the love of music. We ended up chatting with Norman, one of the other Sarawak Bloggers attending the Festival. Before long, we were ushered into the ballroom where the press conference was being held.
RWMF Press Conference
After opening remarks, the head of Sarawak Tourism Board Datuk Rashid Khan (pictured center) took the microphone to talk about the Festival. Now in its 14th year, the RWMF has been called one of the Top 25 music festivals in the world by Songlines Magazine. STB’s aim is to take RWMF into the Top 10. They hope that the Festival will draw travelers to come and discover all the other delights that Sarawak has to offer: natural beauty, charming people, and a bit of adventure.
The Festival has indeed changed and grown throughout the years. This year, the Festival “went green” by planting 1,000 trees at a nearby park. As far as new touches go, the Festival this year held a Borneo-only talent contest, where the winning band gets to perform at a special Sunset Concert right before the main evening concert starts. The Festival also had its Opening Ceremony not at the Santubong hotel but at the Kuching Waterfront, in town, where more of the public could catch a sample of the Festival’s performers at a free concert.
The Director’s Turn
Following Datuk Khan’s speech, the RWMF co-founder and Artistic Director Randy Raine-Reusch (pictured left)took the mike. He went over the list of 22 bands that were invited to perform this year. He was so enthusiastic and excited about each band, reeling off the reasons each band was chosen to come to this event. You could really hear the passion he has for world music and musicians as he talked.
He spoke of one of the troupes from Africa, who told him that their hotel room was larger than their entire house back home. “They may be from a small village, but their music is anything but small.” This group has traveled all over the world, and they are overjoyed to be here in Sarawak. Randy is equally happy that they have come.
Randy is all about preserving and promoting the use of traditional musical instruments, either to perform traditional songs or to create modern fusion tunes. An audience member debated with him over whether modern “urban” music, the “folk music of the future” would be welcome at the Festival. Randy agreed that urban and hip-hop music could be considered folk, but the artists would only get an invitation to the Festival if they incorporated traditional instruments into the mix.
It’s not about the concerts
One thing Randy pointed out was, most people come to the Festival only for the evening concerts. In doing so, they miss out on the heart of the Festival: the daily workshops. The workshops are where the magic happens.
In these workshops, Randy breaks apart all the bands into their component parts, and brings the artists together based on their individual instruments: guitars, fiddles, percussion, other stringed instruments, dancers, voices. In these workshops, the artists will jam together and create an amazing synergy.
The only time you will hear such a cross-cultural, border-breaking musical creation will be at the Festival workshops. No CDs will be made of the workshop sessions, so all the Festival-goer has left is the wonderful memory of these unique blends. If you miss out on the workshops, you miss out on something very special.
While we were strolling around the hotel before the press conference, we came upon the workshop schedule and made a rough plan on which workshops to attend. After hearing Randy speak about the workshops, life is a lot more difficult because now we want to go to all the workshops, even the ones we had previously decided against such as the folk dancing or the bag piping sessions.
Following the press conference, all of us crowded into the Media Centre to get checked in and pick up our media passes and swag bags. There are over 300 media folk here to cover the event, from all over Malaysia as well as international outlets. We met someone from Scotland who was here for the 6th time, reporting for National Geographic Music. Some local media folk from KL were also here, experiencing Sarawak for the very first time.
And then there’s us, the little, old House of Annie blog. ^_^
We came to the press conference, not quite sure what to expect. After we got out, we are as excited and enthusiastic as Randy to get started. We can’t wait to see what’s in store.
We will be here every day, from the midday press conferences where we get to meet and speak with the bands, to the afternoon workshop sessions, to the evening concerts. We’ll be taking photos and videos, of course, and will blog about each day’s activities. So stay tuned!
If you want to catch more, up-to-the minute updates of what we’re seeing, follow our @houseofannie Twitter feed. I will also be uploading exclusive pics and videos on our House of Annie Facebook Page so be sure to “Like” us there as well!