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Advertise on the Tentacle

August 5, 2009

Rainforest World Music Festival

Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Sarawak, Malaysia – Shhhhhh! It’s a secret! Don’t tell anybody! I want to hoard this event for just my friends! I don’t want anymore people to come. As far as I am concerned, there were just enough people here a weekend or two ago.


Yes, here in this town at the edge of the jungle, music, songs, dances, feasts, and crafts became the happening in Southeast Asia. The event did not feature rock bands played by garage teenagers. Boomers reliving their psycho-youth moments, with groupies they remember but never had, remained at home.


Something very different and unique blossomed and then fruited. Music that takes your mind and threads it around trees, up into the canopy and bursts out into the sunshine like flights of colorful tropical birds. Click singing that imitated the sound of the ubiquitous small lizards that scurry everywhere. Music on drums, bamboo xylophones and stringed instruments that forced one to wander through the bush and into the clearings and back into the bush again.


And fusion. In one case McNamara’s Band was tossed into the fray of a band playing traditional instruments. A Latin beat played up and down mingling and suggesting with a flamenco hint kicking the bamboo reed music.


A band called “Bamboo Orchestra” performed Sayang Kinabalu, a nationalistic love song about Sabah and Mount Kinabalu, which makes one want to stand and salute. Although sung in Kadazan, the stirrings of pride and love of the forest wrap the soul in an emotional tear. The audience went wild.


Inti-Illimani, from Chile, executed melodies of the rainforest from that South American country. Amazing how similar yet different the music was from opposite ends of the globe but located in the same ecosystem.


And the food! Lines and lines of it and anything you may want. Chinese, Malay, Iban, Kadazan and western. Woks, frying rice and noodles, grills with hamburgers, deep fryers gurgling chicken, spring rolls and fish. Local deserts shimmering their green or purple jells with white coconut atop. And tropical fruits.


The affair was truly global. I sat across from a set of drop dead gorgeous twins from Denmark. Brits, Irish, French, mainland Chinese, Malays, Germans, Japanese, Thais, Indonesians, the Danish twins and tribals mingled easily to form crowds, not crowded, pleasantly crowded. I met two students from Ohio University, where I did my graduate work and one had grandparents on the road I grew up on. No, I am not going to say it. Okay, yes I will, “small world.”


Everything was well organized. Buses traveled the 45-minute trip from Kuching, the nearest city, where the airport is located. Nice, comfortable air conditioned coaches for about $2.80.


Then there were the workshops, traditional dancing, then a fusion of the dancers, then a fusion of Malay drummers with Chinese string ensemble. And then, and then… too much to continue on about!


Be Borneo Bound next summer. It’s much cheaper than you think! Heck, you can stay with me.


Wait! What am I saying! Don’t come! I want it all to myself!


Life is good.


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