The music scene in Borneo and Indonesia is varied, thriving and caters to a growing interest in the cultural as well as modern music genres in the region. Musical festivals are often a mix of local and international acts brought together to allow local talent to learn from well-established artists, who in turn bring a bagful of new sounds, new vibes and new ways to groove to the international language of music. Here are a few festivals that you should not miss.
The Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival is one of the largest jazz festivals in the world and brings together the incredible musical talents of Indonesia as well as international artists who have made their mark in the world of jazz. Among the names in this year’s line-up include John Legend, Manhattan Transfer and Toni Braxton. The Indonesian hot list includes Tohpati, Bubi Chen, Oele Pattiselanno and young musicians, bringing with them a younger audience. Held annually for 3 days in early March since 2005, the festival has been packing in the crowds from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and other Southeast Asian countries.
The Sabah International Folklore Festival was created in 2001 to coincide with the state’s biggest cultural event, the Harvest Festival, where music and dance is an integral part of the celebration. Folk dancers from 11 countries as diverse as Poland, Taiwan and Argentina come together to bond with their musical kinsfolk in Malaysia. This year’s 2—day event will be held in July with 15 international folk dance troupes expected to perform at various locations, with the finale to be staged at the Sabah Cultural Centre in Penampang. Although somewhat modest in presentation, the vibrant and genuine enthusiasm of the participants makes for an intoxicating blend of music, dance, costume and languages. It is now a separate event from the annual Harvest Festival held in May – which by the way is another excellent event highlighting local music, local beauty pageants and world class rice wine.
Sarawak has two annual music festivals covering two very different music genres. The Miri International Jazz Festival will be held in Miri in May.Organized by the Sarawak Tourism Board, the festival enters its 5th year highlighting performances from jazz bands from various countries and their unique form of jazz which includes from blues, fusion, world, smooth and Latino beats. Headliners during the 2-day event includes James Cotton Blues Band (USA), Amina Figarova Sextet (Holland), Ricardo Herz (Brazil), Mellow Motif (Thailand), Michael Shrieve’s Spellbinder (USA), SimakDialog (Indonesia), Norbert Susemihl’s New Orleans All Stars (Denmark/Germany/USA) and Jeremy Tordjman (Switzerland). Event organizers are looking to attract over 8,000 jazz lovers to the festival this year.
Another music festival that’s going to be hotter, louder and steamier is the Rainforest World Music Festival to be staged at picturesque Sarawak Cultural Village next to the mystical mountain Santubong. Bands from USA, Portugal, Tanzania, New Zealand, Poland, France and Korea are lined up to perform as will local Malaysian bands. World music enthusiasts among the locals, expatriates and a growing number of tourists are expected to turn up in droves – about 32,000 if organizers hit their target. Daily interactive workshops, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini-concerts are followed by evening performances on the main stage, certain to satisfy music fans of all inclinations. Fringe events such as the Rainforest World Craft Bazaar will also have workshops, exhibitions and craft sales.
Pamela Fletcher works as an online travel planner based in Sabah and contributes regularly to regional travel and lifestyle magazines.