The Rainforest World Music Festival 2012 opened July 13th in the afternoon with the popular workshops. July 13th’s set included Exotic & Evocative with zithers from the Far East; Shanta (Indian classical music), The Zee Avi Story; Long Strokes with a focus on stringed instruments; Six of the Best (guitars); Thunder in the Jungle (drums and other percussion); Ajak Menari, a dance workshop to learn Iban and Malay dances; Heart Beats of southeast Asia, a comparison of Malay with other rhythms from Asia; and Flirt the Brazilian Way, an interactive carimba dance workshop.
The concerts started at 7:30 pm with a Sarawak flavor. Local musicians performed a Sape & Warrior Dance. Next came a young band called Nading Rhapsody, winners of this year’s talent contest. The musicians from Kuching, the state’s capital, fuse traditional Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and Malay rhythms with modern elements.
Palestinian ensemble Le Trio Joubran delighted the audience with their virtuosic contemporary Arabic music and other influences such as flamenco, played with three ouds and percussion.
The highlight of the night was the fabulous concert by the fiddle all-star group the String Sisters. The band features top female folk violinist from various nations: Norwegian folk music innovator Annbjorg Lien, fiddler and vocalist Mairead Ni Mhanonaig of legendary Irish band Altan, American fiddler Liz Carroll of Cherish the Ladies fame, Scottish musician Catriona MacDonald of Blazin’ Fiddles and Vamm, Swedish fiddler and vocalist Emma Harderlin of Garmarna and Triakel, and American fiddler Liz Knowles who plays for Riverdance.
The String Sisters were accompanied by a skilled Scottish-Norwegian band that included James MacKintosh, David Milligan, Conrad Ivitsky and Tore Bruvoll.
The Sisters played a mix of lively and captivating contemporary folk music and melancholic songs based on Irish, Norwegian, Scottish and Swedish traditions.
The promising local band Rhythm of Borneo, winner of last year’s talent search, returned to the festival with its gong-fueled fusion of music from Borneo combined with rock and jazz fusion stylings.
Another highlight was French band La Zikabilo, led by Cuban singer and multi-instrumentalist Bárbaro Teuntor Garcia, a former member of Sierra Maestra and Buena Vista Social Club. The band plays a powerful mix of Cuban and Gypsy brass band music.
The final act was U.S.-based Sarawak singer-songwriter Zee Avi. The local celebrity presented a set of folk-pop songs accompanied by various native drums and a pretty interesting electric sape performed by one of the American members of her band.