The Workshops Are the Heart of the Rainforest World Music Festival

Alina Jarvela (Frigg) - photo by Angel Romero
Musical workshops take place every day throughout the Rainforest World Music Festival. Members of the audience get to sit right next to the performers and watch as they present their musical instruments and demonstrate the sounds and various musical traditions. Normally, musicians are put together under a certain theme. For example, wind instruments are one motive. Other times, it’s by gender or nationality, such as the workshop featuring female fiddlers, and so on. After the individual presentations, musicians start playing totally unrehearsed jams. As you cam imagine, the results vary considerably. Some jams are outstanding and others are a little bizarre.

To festival director, Randy Raine-Reusch, “the workshops are the heart of the festival.” To Randy, the biggest mistake one can make is to miss the workshops, which are free. They are usually very well attended so it’s advisable to get there early.

The workshops this year at the Rainforest World Music Festival take place at three venues: the Theater, the Iban Longhouse and the Dewan Lagenda.

Ilga Reizniece (Ilgi) - photo by Angel Romero
The workshops that took place on Friday, July 8th, included Bow wow, amazing bowed instruments; Sisters in Song, We are Strong, with voices of women of the world; Are My Roots Showing?; Zitherin, the world of zithers; Femme Fiddles, with the tongue twister subtitle of fantastic female fiddlers fiddling; Mountains Music, music from on high; Let Me Rast a Minute, with Eastern modal music; The Muse I Choose; and Drum Dance, with drummers and dancers.

The workshops are divided into sets of three that take place simultaneously so it’s very hard to experience them all. I saw the Femme Fiddles demonstration. This workshop included five outstanding musicians, including Alina Jarvela (Finland) of Frigg, Eva Walecka (Poland) of the Warsaw Village Band, Ilga Reizniece (Latvia) of Ilgi; Lisa Haley (United States of America) of Lisa Haley and the Zydecats, and Sarah Beattie (Scotland) of Pacific Curls.

The five musicians showed how women are playing an essential role in the world of fiddling. It is important to note that the Warsaw Village Band plays two types of the fiddles, the regular violin and and ancient upright fiddle called suka that had been lost until archaeologists found it a few years ago and it was recreated. Sylwia Swiatkowska plays the suka, which has its origins in the sixteenth century. Its strings are played with the fingernails.

Buzz Singh (Kissmet) - photo by Angel Romero
Things got much louder at the Drum Dance workshop later that day. Musicians who play string or wind instruments will tell you that drummers are loud and have a tendency to take over jam sessions. The Drum Dance workshop was definitely loud and packed. This workshop featured Alexandre Chumburidze (Georgia) of The Shin, Mamuka Gaganidze (Georgia) of The Shin, Habib MeftaBousheri (Iran) of Mamak Khadem‘s band, Sherryl Sewepagahan (Cree Nation of Canada) of Iskwew, Debbie Cynthis Houle (Cree Nation of Canada), Frankie Laudi (Saba state of Malaysia) of Agungbeat, Tsang Suk Kuan of Agungbeat, Maria Martinez (Cuba/USA) of Lisa Haley and the Zydecats; Mango Odhiambo (Kenya) of Kenge Kenge, and Buzz Singh (U.K.) of Kissmet. All percussionists brought their drums, except Maria Martinez, who plays a drum kit and that made it difficult into the stage.

In addition to drumming there was a lot of dancing. The Iskwew drummers showed the audience the round dances of Canada’s First Nations. Mango Odhiambo got the audience excited, demonstrating female and male dances. Agungbeat showed a gentle slow moving female dance of Saba, and The Shin’s Aleksandre Chumburidze gave a taste of the spectacular Georgian dancing that is part of their show.

Read the whole Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 series:

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