The music workshops are an essential element at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak (Malaysia). Each day there are several sets of workshops at three separate venues simultaneously at the Sarawak Cultural Village. That is nine per day; a total of 27 exciting workshops in 3 days.
The workshops have various themes. For example, at the 2009 festival, the workshops featured included the following: Fiddle Dee Dee (Bowed Instruments), Oudly Familiar (Variations of the ancient oud / lute), Bahasa Musik, Dance, Dance, Dance!, Fusionistas – Hot mix of cultures, Droning on (Bagpipes and more), Gypsy Jam, Drooling Banjos (Banjos and beyond), Groovin’ (Drummers and Drums), Free the Reed (Mouth organs to Accordions), Hit Makers (Instruments that are struck), Eclectricity (Great music on interesting instruments), Little Wonders (Amazing Small Strings), One-Sided Percussion (Pyrotechnics on frame drums and tambourines), Double Duty (Multi-instrumentalists), Soul of the Maori (Moana & the Tribe), Hot Pickers, Trans-Afrique (One end of Africa to the other), Ancient Modern (Traditions moving into the future), Voice of My People (Voices from around the world), Guitar Oh!, Bamboozled (Amazing Instruments made from Bamboo), All Keyed Up (Keyboards and more), High Strung (Strings with energy), I’ve Got Rhythm (World rhythm masters), Women’s Voices, and Blowin in the Wind (Wind instruments).
The most comfortable of the three venues is the Theatre, which is a small air conditioned auditorium. The other two venues are the Iban Longhouse and the Dewan Lagenda, which are replicas of indigenous village homes.
Concert-goers, fellow musicians and the media have the opportunity to get in depth information about musical instruments, traditional and modern genres, and the musicians themselves. The musicians who provide the workshops are primarily the festival’s performers, although occasionally there will be additional local musicians who join in.
The thematic workshops bring together musicians from different groups, most of whom have never played together. For example, Little Wonders (Amazing Small Strings) featured a diverse group that included Mei Han (Red Chamber), Juan Flores (Inti-Illimani), Cesar Jara (Inti-Illimani), Jeff Burke (Jeff & Vida), Mihaly Sipos (Muzsikas), Eriata Peri (Moana & the Tribe), and Marcin Skrzypek (St. Nicolas Orchestra).
The highlights of the workshops are the collaborations and improvisations that take place at the end of the workshops, where all the musicians come up with new musical combinations.
I really enjoyed the presentation of Maori culture by Moana and the Tribe, which included Maori rituals, songs, Haka dance and an introduction to native musical instruments. Other highlights include the showcase of bamboo instruments (Bamboozled) from Malaysia and Indonesia, the gathering of percussion masters (I’ve Got Rhythm) and the Little Wonders workshop, featuring small string string instruments.