Grand Finale at 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival

Mamak Khadem - Photo by LucyAnne, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Sunday, July 10th was the last day of the 2011 Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak (Malaysia). The Sunset Concert at the Dewan Lagenda featured the Scat Jazz Choir of New Zealand. The students of Hillcrest High School in Hamilton (New Zealand) raised funds for their trip to Malaysia.

The opening act on Stage 2 was Iranian vocalist Mamak Khadem. She brought a band of outstanding musicians that included Jamshied Sharifi (United States) on keyboards, Hamid Saeidi on santur and vocals, Habib MeftaBousheri (Iran) on cajon and percussion; Ole Mathisen on saxophone.

Mamak Khadem’s stellar performance was one of the highlights of the festival. She opened with a mesmerizing mantra and presented material from her new album A Window to Color and previous recordings like Jostojoo (Forever Seeking). A spectacular blend of Persian vocal modes and rhythms with jazz and global beats. “I was a math teacher but chose music as a way to stay connected to my culture,” said Mamak Khadem during her press conference.

Things got really loud with Breton band Startijenn. The traditional Breton instruments bombard and bagpipe are pretty loud without microphones so with amplification, it was surely powerful. Startijen bring new blood to the contemporary Breton folk music renaissance and showcased a collection of modernized Breton folk dances.

Oud groundbreakers Duoud came next on stage 2. The oud duo takes the Arabic lute to uncharted territories. The musicians play a variety of ouds, including the traditional acoustic model and an electric oud that allows them to output pretty much any sound. The group accompanies itself with electronic beats controlled by a laptop. “Our music is fusion of old Arabic and contemporary electronica/club sound

Mehdi Haddab and Smadj excited the enthusiastic audience with its electro-Arabic sound and Jimi Hendrix poses, although the musicians wasted some time fidgeting with the laptop, breaking the musical transitions. They should consider using a programmer that would allow them to focus exclusively on their ouds.

Kenge Kenge - - Photo by LucyAnne, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Kenya’s Kenge Kenge Orutu System, from the JoLuo community in western Kenya, followed on Stage 1. I had never seen them live and they are quite spectacular. Their Benga pop and rhythm section is dazzling. Their drum kit is formed by traditional drums and sounds just as good if not better than the American-style drum kit. The band also uses a variety of rare instruments such as the Orutu fiddles, nyatiti lyre, Asili flute, the Oporo horn, Bul drums, the Nyangile sound box, and Ongeng’o metal rings.

Senegalese musician and storyteller Malick Pathé Sow played next. This was not his original slot, but the musical instruments did not arrive on time. Thankfully, the instruments arrived and Malick Pathé Sow and his band were able to play at the festival with his original instruments. “Many of our instruments imitate nature, eg. mooing of a cow, bird sounds. Also a cappella,” said Malick Pathé Sow during his press conference.

Ron Singh of Kissmet - Photo by LucyAnne, courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Malick Pathé Sow plays hoddu (a type of lute similar to the ngoni). He is is a Laawbe singer, similar to the West African griots. He offered a magical laid back performance that included various West Africa stringed instruments, including the kora. His songs speak of preservation of language, the importance of culture, and conservation of the environment.

The last performer on stage was British bhangra rock band Kissmet, a British band formed by two U.K. born and bred Sikh brothers, Ron and Buz Singh. The band played an infectious mix of bhangra beats, dhol drums and Punjabi melodies with powerful rock, with lyrics in English, Punjabi and Hindi. Ron engaged the crowd easily and got them singing and dancing. The band leaders grew up listening to bhangra, rock music and various global sounds. “Subconsciously, our multicultural neighborhood exposed us to lot of musical sounds; Dad ran a Hindi cinema, Mom liked Elvis!,” said Ron Singh during the press conference.

As every year, the festival had its grand finale with all artists on stage, performing a final jam.

Read the whole Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 series:

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