May 5, 2014 By Muhsin

A Spectrum of Exotic Bands


A stage for diverse music traditions in the world and different cultures, Rainforest Music Festival for the year 2013 will be held on June 28-30 in Kuching, Malaysia. The major theme underlying in this gathering of sound is this: each band and each performer is a unit of voice/voices. When units come together in a space, it becomes the microcosm of the world we live in: an assemblage of varying tastes and perceptions.

The festival was founded by Canadian world music instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch in association with Edgar Ong, a film producer, Edric Ong and Robert Basuik, both being art enthusiasts and cultural leaders. It was later adopted by Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance-an international arts festival). Started in 1997, the festival goes into the 16th edition this year. Yeoh Jun Lin has been creatively associated with the festival most of its edition. She was the festival’s artistic director in 2001-2007. She came back to the festival in 2012. She speaks about the structure and philosophy of the festival in the following words:
‘I would want to keep the festival very focused on its theme on “world” music. It has to appeal to the purists who prefer the traditional roots music, as well as to the ones that like a more contemporary fusion,’ she says. Of its diversity, she says that the festival aims to ‘get as contrasting cultures as possible, to try and cover as many continents as possible, the bands must have enough individual “exotic” instruments so I can structure the workshops, the budget, the airfares, the size of the band, the appeal to a wide spectrum in the audience.’ She adds about the chief factor of the festival in the following words: ‘But in every band, the ethnic identity is powerful and dominant.’

The festival is halved into stage performances and workshops. The organizers want to make the workshops a mix of interactive as well as informative as well as entertaining. “Workshops are informal, more intimate as one sees the individual musicians as opposed to the “unit” when they go on stage as a band,” Yeoh Jun Lin says.

On stage we experience Celtic music, African, music from the Indian Ocean, Brazil, Mongolia, Basque music from Spain, gypsy dance music from France, oud masters from Palestine, a colorful Asian melting pot band, East European ethno-rock, and of course lots of colorful Malaysian and Sarawak bands.
On selecting the bands, Yeoh Jun Lin says: . I draw out a first list which is usually about 80 – 100 bands. Then I whittle it down to about 40. Then I write to the bands to find out current costs and availability. Then the list comes down to about 30. And then it’s trying to think out the best balance of acts for the year.’

As part of the festival, there is cuisine expo featuring Indian and Malaysian delicacies.

Performers of 2013
• Kila: Irish Pop Music group founded in 1987 in an Irish language secondary school
• Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo: A neo-traditional South African folk band founded by Dizu Plaatjies, son of a traditional healer
• Habadekuk: A Leading Denmark folk band
• Spiritual Seasons: a Medieval, Irish and Scandinavian folk band from Kharkov, Ukraine.
• Shangyin: a Chinese Chamber Music Ensemble
• Madeeh: A Malaysian band with the specialty of the instrument Pratuokng
• Pine Leaf Boys: A Louisiana-based band nominated four times for Grammy Award
• Chet Nuneta: Composed of four female singers and a percussionist, the group interprets traditional songs from many countries.
• Mohsen Sharifian & The Lian Band: Hailing from the southern Iranian province of Bushehr, Muhsin Sharifian has spent the last two decades immersing himself in the musical traditions of the region, writing several books and collecting songs and dance-tunes and composing new works inspired by them

Posted in: music