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Remarkable Latin American and Bluegrass Alchemy

Che Apalache – Rearrange My Heart (Free Dirt Records, 2019)

Che Apalache is a fascinating band from Buenos Aires (Argentina) that brings together Argentine, Mexican, East Asian, Spanish, Gypsy swing, and American bluegrass influences.

The group is led by American vocalist, fiddler, musical instructor and global traveler Joe Troop, born and raised in North Carolina.

In Argentina, Troop came into contact with three outstanding musicians from Hispanic America, guitarist Franco Martino (Argentina), mandolinist Martin Bobrik (Argentina) and banjoist Pau Barjan (Mexico).

Rearrange My Heart was produced by the great banjo innovator Béla Fleck. “I love to work with music that intrigues, excites and inspires me,” Fleck says, “and that describes Che Apalache to a T! We first met at my Blue Ridge Banjo Camp last year. They had come from Buenos Aires and asked to play for me. I was blown away and they blew away the crowd a few days later. It’s been a blast to get to know them in the creative environment; together we’ve come up with what I believe is a truly striking album. I hope you’ll enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed producing.”

Che Apalache – Rearrange My Heart

The vocals are in English and Spanish, with Troop on lead vocals and his colleagues on Appalachian-style vocal harmonies. Troop’s lyrics reflect his social justice concerns: anti-immigrant rhetoric in the USA coming from the White House, the building of the border wall in the United States’ southern border with Mexico and the drama of the Dreamers (undocumented immigrants taken to the USA when they were young children).

Che Apalache is an exciting rising talent in the world music scene, an example of skillful hybridization and impeccable acoustic music craftsmanship.

Buy Rearrange My Heart

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Captivating Latin Jazz Tribute to John Coltrane

Poncho Sanchez – Trane’s Delight (Concord Picante, 2019)

The great conguero (conga player) Poncho Sanchez, one of the masters of American Latin Jazz, has a new album titled Trane’s Delight, dedicated to iconic jazz musician John Coltrane. Trane’s Delight recreates Coltrane classics under a Latin Jazz perspective.

Poncho Sanchez – Trane’s Delight

I’ve always loved John Coltrane,” Sanchez says, “ever since I was a kid and first learned about jazz. I’ve recorded tributes to a lot of my heroes in life: Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader – so I thought it was definitely time to do a tribute to the great John Coltrane.”

On Trane’s Delight, Poncho treats the listener to wonderful new versions of Coltrane standards that reappear as lively mambos, irresistible cha cha chás and passionate boleros. Naturally, throughout the album Poncho delivers various spectacular and tasty conga solos.

Trane’s Delight includes Poncho’s longtime collaborators, musical director Francisco Torres on trombone;  Ron Blake on trumpet and flugelhorn; Robert Hardt on saxophone; Andy Langham on piano; Rene Camacho and Ross Schodek on bass; and Joey DeLeon and Giancarlo Anderson on percussion.

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Round ‘em Up

Time for another overview of CDs that have fortuitously found their way into my possession, and, even more fortuitously, that I’ve enjoyed enough to spread the word on. If you want or need a common thread by which these releases are connected, file them under the general heading of Music to Make Hard Times a Little Less Hard or Good Times Even Better. And if that ain’t what music’s all about, it’s at least a key factor.

Lakou Mizik – HaitiaNol

Many of those who fled the tumult of the Haitian slave revolt that began in 1791 found refuge in New Orleans. The longstanding musical and cultural connections between the two places is celebrated by Haitian roots band Lakou Mizik on their new release HaitiaNola (Cumbancha, 2019), the inspiration for which came about after they played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2017. A glorious gumbo of guests representing the Crescent City grace the entire album and mutual inspiration abounds.

From the moment the already-irresistible dance groove of the opening “Renmen” gets notched higher by the reedy injections of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the party is in session. Sure, some of that party cools down the pace a bit and makes way for mellower tracks like “La Famni” (featuring Jon Cleary’s moody piano) and “Rasanbleman” (with Leyla McCalla’s cello speaking as eloquently as the spirited voices), but the bulk is celebratory.

The sort of African-derived rhythms that propel “Loumandja” (assisted by Damas Louis and Logan Schutts on tanbou drums) are never far off, and when they’re laced with the declarations of Cyril Neville (“Sa Na Kenbe”), the deftly sweet horns of the Soul Rebels (“Manman Lavi,” “Bouyou Lakou”) or the unparalleled wallop of Trombone Shorty (“Pistach Griye”), they come alive ever more resoundingly. Keeping Lakou Mizik’s traditional/modern rasin approach intact while adding creole wonders of another kind entirely, this album mixes and matches with brilliance to spare.

Rubén Blades – Paraiso Road Gang

Panamanian singer/composer/actor/activist/politician/Renaissance Man Rubén Blades returns with Paraiso Road Gang (RB Records, 2019).

Ever eclectic and never content to be under the heading of mere “Latin” music, Blades moves easily from rock-like punchiness to balladry, reggae, Celtic strains (the Spanish kind), hip hop and funk. His voice is as strong and plainspoken as ever, he’s backed by a tight band that attunes to every stylistic change, and here he adds another to a long line of impressive albums.

Rafael Berrio – Niño Futuro

Singer/guitarist Rafael Berrio comes across a bit like a Spanish Bob Dylan on Niño Futuro (Rosi Records, 2019). He’s got a talk-sing kind of voice and his acoustic/electric backing of guitar, bass, piano and drums has a pleasantly twangy quality filled with subtle accentuations, easy flowing melodies and a seeming refusal to be showy.

With no lyric translations and my lack of fluency in Spanish, the meaning of the songs is lost on me (although the title track seems to be a cataloguing of what our children stand to inherit, both good and bad). Such a quibble aside, the disc is a quietly refreshing diversion that packs its own kind of power and doesn’t need to try hard to do so.

Andreas Arnold –Odisea

Andreas Arnold is also a guitar slinger, but apart from a couple of tracks, Odisea (Galileo Music, 2019) leaves vocals out of the picture and lets Arnold’s acoustic axe do most of the talking. Flamenco is one language it speaks, while utterances of jazz, blues and rhythms from the Arabic world have a say in the matter also.

Arnold can play some fiery riffs and runs when he chooses to, though his approach is more often one of finesse that comes in selected bursts rather than sustained flash. The supporting instrumentation is primarily bass and percussion, with some additions of piano, trumpet, violin and melodica. No matter the configuration, the interplay between Arnold and his accompaniment never fails to build into a tasty whole that satisfies the ears and heart. Note how well the deft picking of “Bike Messenger” contrasts with the tune’s shuffling inner core or the perfect squaring off of guitar and muezzin-like vocals on “Tangos Arabe.” And be sure to stick around for the concluding “Continuum,” a Jaco Pastorius piece that comes across like the sonic equivalent of a finely cut diamond.

Shahbaz Hussain and Helen Anahita Wilson- Diwan

Tabla player Shahbaz Hussain and pianist Helen Anahita Wilson both shine on Diwan (Golden Girl Records, 2019), a duo disc that ranges from qawwali-ish pulses to exquisitely built and disassembled passages that reveal just how skilled these two are. Some of it carries a stately, chamber music feel. Some of it simply dazzles. If you think a stunning wall of sound can’t be built with only two instruments, think again. Hussain and Wilson build a beauty of one here.

You can chalk it up to “gratitude for the force of serendipity,” to quote the very sparse liner notes, or simply enjoy the master musicianship at work.

Magos Herrero – Dreamers

I initially overlooked Dreamers (Sony 2018), a collaboration of string quartet Brooklyn Rider and Mexican vocalist Magos Herrera. Please pardon my shortsightedness, because the album is a stirring, rhythmically alive but often pensive collection of songs representing a variety of South American styles. Compositions by the likes of Gilberto Gil, Federico Garcia Lorca and Caetano Veloso, dreamers all, are reconstructed by Brooklyn Rider’s savory violins, viola and cello, matched in unencumbered beauty by Herrera’s Spanish, Portuguese and English vocals.

The title track, based on a poem by Octavio Paz, typifies the overall approach with strings and voice gliding through lovely twists and turns on route straight to the soul. Percussion and palmas are added throughout, bringing a spirited zest to the already glorious combination. If, like me, you missed this one, make amends and latch onto it soon.

Moken – Missing Chapters

Born in Cameroon and based in Atlanta, singer/instrumentalist/composer Moken offers a rather atypical African sound on Missing Chapters (Moodswing Records, 2019), his debut album. His voice, an elastic, quirky combination of scat singer, crooner, bluesman and octave-jumping musical theater performer, is the immediate grabber. Trust me- you’ve never heard anything quite like it. The tracks, mainly of a sprightly acoustic sort, range from affirming declarations (“Your Sun is Rising,” “Walking Man”) to grinning slices of life (“Tequila Song”).

This is one of those records that will have you notching up the volume and pricking up your ears to catch the nuances of Moken’s never-predictable singing and how well it goes with the varying, unfailingly tight arrangements of guitar, upright bass, trumpet, drums, n’goni, reeds, violin and percussion. While recognizable as African music with Western elements, Missing Chapters lives up to its title by bringing in Moken’s many unique and adventurous angles.

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International Songwriting Competition Deadline on September 18, 2019

Musicians interested in submitting songs to the International Songwriting Competition (ISC) have until September 18, 2019. The ISC is one of the most appealing songwriting competitions and includes a world music category. It has great prizes and judges, and the global reputation and benefits that winning ISC produces. ISC gives away more than $150,000 (US dollars) in cash and prizes, shared by 71 winners in 23 music genres.

ISC’s main objective is to provide an outlet and platform for artists and songwriters to achieve their goals and further their careers. ISC is open to amateur and professional songwriters and offers them the unique opportunity to have their music heard by the decision-makers in the music industry, including iconic celebrity artists and high-profile industry executives.

For more information and to enter your original songs, go to International Songwriting Competition.

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Second World Music Networking Conference Held in Russia

Tavrida Art festival – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova

The biggest Russian festival Tavrida Art hosted Russian Ethno-Music Conference MusiConnect Russia — the second five-day showcase conference of its kind held in Russia.

Tavrida Art festival – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova

The gathering was aimed at the development of the Russian ethno-music (world music) industry and organized by Daryana Antipova and Alyona Minulina.

Danya Voronkov – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova

The conference took place during August 21 — 26, 2019 and it brought together 12 directors of ethnic (world music) festivals in Russia and one special guest from Hungary.

Vera Kondratieva – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova

The participants included: Mikhail Chashchin of Festival Heaven and Earth (Tyumen); journalist Emil Biljarski of the Hungarian Ritmus és hang (Budapest); Natalia Ulanova of the international festival Voice of Nomads» (Ulan-Ude); Marina Gulyaeva of Kupalskaya skazka festival (Moscow); Daryana Antipova, co-director of the Russian World Music Awards (Moscow); Stanislav Drozdov, former director of the international festival Folk Summer Fest (Sevastopol); Ilya Shkurinsky of festival White Noise (Petrozavodsk); Irina Shuvalova of the the creative bureau Selsovet (Moscow), Yuri Pavlov of WAFest festival (Nizhny Novgorod), Irina Palekhova of Alatyr festival (Yekaterinburg), Alexei Polyakov of Call of Parma festival (Perm), and Olga Sitnikova of Protoka (Samara).

Festival directors – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova

Tavrida Narodnaya is a compilation CD of the best musicians presented at the showcase festival. Festival directors listened to more than 25 participants who applied to perform and were chosen among 50 applicants. All musicians are under 35 years old. If you want to get more information about these projects please contact the compiler and showcase organizer Daryana Antipova (scythianhorn@gmail.com)

Zoya Strekalovskaya

Four groups were chosen to participate at the festivals:

Staritsa from Belgorod is going to play at Kupalskaya skazka» festival in 2010; Volya from Voronezh to participate at WAFest festival in 2020; Zoya Strekalovskaya from Yakutsk will go to Nebo i Zemlya festival in 2020; and Daniil (Danya) Voronkov from Moscow is going to perform at Voice of Nomads festival in 2020.

Festival directors meeting – Photo by by Anna Sadovnikova
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Kalba, Alluring Ghanaian Xylophone and Global Music

Isaac Birituro and The Rail Abandon – Kalba (Wah Wah 45s, 2019)

Kalba brings together Ghanaian gyil (xylophone) maestro Isaac Birituro and British producer, sound engineer and singer-songwriter The Rail Abandon (Sonny Johns). The remarkable collaboration highlights the mesmerizing, resonating sound of the gyil and the warm, soft vocals of Sonny Johns.

The album is a beautifully-constructed set of songs that masterfully interweave Ghanaian music, jazz, world music, and English folk. The finely-crafted arrangements include African and Afro-Cuban drums, captivating flutes, a jazz horn section, tasteful synthesizer; and virtuosic chamber strings.

Isaac Birituro and The Rail Abandon – Kalba

The lineup includes Isaac Birituro on gyil and vocals; Sonny Johns on vocals, guitar, bass and drum machine; David Sorrah on congas; Godfred Sernyor on congas; Sebastian Rochford on drum set; Casablanca on gome and maracas; Kasim Kada on palago; Vincent Lapitey on gongas; Aminu Amadou on talking drums; Liran Donin on electric bass; Elliot Galvin on synthesizers; Raph Clarkson on trombone; Laura Jurd on trumpet; Mark Lockheart on tenor sax; Josienne Clarke on tenor saxophone; Leafcutter John on overtone flute; Dela Botri on flutes; Garance Lewis on accordion; Zosia Jagodcinska on cello; Sophie Cameron on violin; Alison D’Souza on viola; Queen Aisha, lead vocals on “So Ma”; Helen Dompkier, lead vocals on “La Cocina”; and the Kaiba Birifore Choir.

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The Andrea Parodi Awards World Music Contest 2019 Announces Finalists

The Andrea Parodi Awards (Premio Andrea Parodi) has announced the 10 international finalists that are set to perform October 10-12, 2019. The event will be held for the first time in the prestigious Auditorium of the “Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina” Conservatory of Cagliari.

The finalists will perform in front of a Technical Jury (experts, composers, musicians, poets, writers and songwriters) and a Critical Jury (journalists). Both juries, as in previous years, will be composed of authoritative exponents of the sector and will grant two different awards.

The artists selected to perform at the world music contest include:

A.T.A. – Acoustic Tarab Alchemy (Tunisia and Lazio) with the song “Fattouma”, in Arabic;

Saly Diarra (Senegal) with “Musow” in the Bambara language:

Arsene Duevi (Togo) with “Agamà”, in Ewè language;

Fanfare Station (Tunisia, Italy and USA) with “Rahil”, Tunisian language;

Krzikopa (Poland) with “Hasiorki”, in the Silesian language;

Maribop (Spain) with “Un munnu dintra un munnu” in Sicilian and Basque languages;

Federico Marras Perantoni (Sardinia) with “Canzona di mari n.2 – Fóggu e fiàra”, in Sardinian language;

Elliott Morris (United Kingdom) with “The End of The World Blues”, in English;

Setak (Abruzzo) with “Marije”, in the Abruzzo language;

Suonno D’Ajere (Campania) with “Suspiro”, in the Neapolitan language.

More information at: www.premioandreaparodi.it

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Interview with Sver’s Olav Luksengård Mjelva

Scandinavian band Sver will be touring North America this month. The ensemble includes musicians from Norway and Sweden. Sver will be presenting its new album Reverie, a set of musical pieces that combine acoustic Nordic folk, bluegrass influences and powerful beats through the use of a drum set.

Sver’s discography includes Sver ‎(Kvarts, 2007), Fruen (ta:lik, 2010), Snakka San & Sver ‎(Playground Music Scandinavia, 2014), Fryd ‎(Folkhall Records, 2015) and Reverie ‎(Folkhall Records, 2018).

Fiddler Olav Luksengård Mjelva talked to World Music Central about Sver and the upcoming tour.

Sver – Photo by Tom Gustavsen

Sver includes Norwegian and Swedish musicians, how did you all meet?

Leif Ingvar (accordion) and myself grew up in a small mining town in Norway. We started playing together when we were around 15. We had some ideas about getting a guitarist to join us, and that happened around 2005. Then it’s a lot of coincidences, but in short, we met Jens and Anders through the Ole Bull Academy, the music college in Norway, and then Adam, the guitarist, joined us later.

The members of the band live in different cities and countries. How do you coordinate tours, rehearsals and recordings?

We usually decide some dates for rehearsing, say 2-5 days. When it comes to touring, it really doesn’t make a big difference living in different cities. We meet up where we are going to play, anyway.

How has your style evolved throughout the years?

I would say we have gotten a bigger and more “epic” sound throughout the years. In the beginning we were focusing very much on arranging traditional tunes in a folk-rocky way. These past few years we have written more tunes ourselves, which suits the setting better. We also are thinking more about making music for big venues and festivals now.

Sver live – Photo by Anbjørg Myhra Bergwitz

Your sound combines traditional acoustic instruments with powerful, rock style drums. Do you reach any other audiences beyond the folk music circuit?

I feel that we reach out to all kinds of people. I would describe our music as acoustic folk-rock. There is a lot of energy in the way we play, but many “traditional” folk musicians also seem to find our music entertaining. So I guess — and hope — there is something to like for everyone!

In your recordings you incorporate Scandinavian folk music plus other influences like Celtic music and American bluegrass. Where do you get your inspiration from?

That’s a good question. We all have played so much Scandinavian music, so even if we would try to play an American bluegrass tune, it would probably sound Scandinavian.

Tell us a little about your latest album Reverie.

This is my favorite of our albums. The arrangements have a big range, from the large, epic tunes to the pounding, bluegrass-y tunes. We also got to work with some great people at Hedgehog Music in Sweden, and I´m very happy with the soundscape of the album.

Sver – Reverie

You will be touring North America in September. What’s the lineup and what material will you be playing?

The lineup is myself on fiddle and hardanger fiddle, Anders Hall on fiddle and viola, Adam Johansson on guitar and Jens Linell on drums. We will mostly play music from our two latest albums, Fryd and Reverie. Hope to see you there!

Sver 2019 Tour Dates:

Sept 5 – Portland, OR – Nordia House
Sept 6-8 – Sisters, OR – Sisters Folk Festival
Sept 9 – Olympia, WA – Traditions Café
Sept 10 – Bellingham, WA – Wild Buffalo
Sept 11 – Seattle, WA – Triple Door
Sept 13-15 – Montreal, Quebec, Canada – La Grande Rencontre (with Moira Smiley 9/15)
Sept 17-18 – Cambridge, MA – Club Passim (SVER and Friends 9/17; with Moira Smiley 9/18)
Sept 19 – Glens Falls, NY – The Folklife Center, Crandall Public Library (with Moira Smiley)
Sept 20 – New Haven, VT – Epic Little Folk Festival, Tourterelle (with Moira Smiley)
Sept 21 – Shelbourne, VT – Shelbourne Farms Harvest Festival (11:00am)
Sept 21 – Hamden, CT – Best Video Film and Cultural Center (8:30pm)
Sept 22 – Bryn Athyn, PA – (House Concert)

headline photo: Sver live by Anbjørg Myhra Bergwitz

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Brazil’s Dona Onete Tops the September 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart

The album Rebujo by Amazon-based Brazilian artist Dona Onete has reached the number 1 position in September 2019 at the Transglobal World Music Chart. More about Dona Onete.

Dona Onete – Rebujo

The September 2019 Chart

  1. Dona Onete – Rebujo – AmpliDiversão / Mais Um
  2. Cimarrón – Orinoco – Cimarrón Music
  3. Mara Aranda – Sefarad en el Corazón de Turquía – Mara Aranda
  4. Boban Marković Orkestar – Mrak – Fonó
  5. Angelique Kidjo – Celia – Verve / Universal Music France
  6. Mísia – Pura Vida (Banda Sonora) – Galileo Music Communication
  7. Oumar Konate – I Love You Inna – Clermont Music
  8. Africa Express – Egoli – Africa Express
  9. Lajkó Félix & Vołosi – Lajkó Félix & Vołosi – Fonó
  10. Refugees for Refugees – Amina – Muziekpublique
  11. Minyo Crusaders – Echoes of Japan – Mais Um
  12. AKA Trio – Joy – Bendigedig
  13. Tuuletar – Rajatila / Borderline – Bafe’s Factory
  14. Janusz Prusinowski Kompania – Po Śladach / In the Footsteps – Słuchaj Uchem / Buda Musique
  15. Santana – Africa Speaks – Concord
  16. Parno Graszt – Már Nem Szédülök / Rolling Back – Fonó
  17. Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi – There Is No Other – Nonesuch
  18. Yolla Khalife – On the Road – Nagam
  19. Oum – Daba – Lof Music / MDC
  20. Kronos Quartet, Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat – Placeless – Kirkelig Kulturverksted

More about the chart: www.transglobalwmc.com

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Dazzling Global Diversity at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019

The Rainforest World Music Festival took place July 12-14, 2019 in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo. The location of the events was the familiar Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak State.

Sarawak Cultural Village – Photo by Angel Romero

The festival usually holds a tree-planting ceremony every year. In 2019 it was mangrove trees at Pantai Puteri, Santubong Village. This is a way to celebrate the spirit of the festival, which is held in Borneo, home to essential rainforests and diverse wildlife, including the orangutan, hornbill, proboscis monkeys, sun bears, gibbons and many other species.

Tree planting just before the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

There are various elements that stand out and make this festival unique. First, many of the festivalgoers are young. There is a mix of locals, Malaysians from others states and foreign tourists. Vietnamese musician Ngo Hong Quang pointed out to me that, in comparison, when he performs in the United States, the world music concertgoers are older. This brings up the issue of music education beyond pop culture, affordability and access to American venues.

Audience at mini-session during Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero
Friday evening audience at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Another distinctive component of the festival that catches your attention is the inclusion of Asian acts. In European and North American festivals, there is an abundance of African and North America/Europe-based acts. Asian artists are rare except for Tuvan or Mongolian throat singers, Indian classical artists and Japanese taiko drumming groups. At the Rainforest World Music Festival, you can enjoy artists from all corners of Asia. This year the programming included musicians from Bhutan, Mongolia, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Druk Folk Musician (Bhutan) at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Perhaps one of the most important effects of the Rainforest World Music Festival is that it serves as a platform that nurtures local talent. Although the festival has been highlighting veteran and pioneering local Sarawakian acts from the various communities in the past years, we are starting to see the fruits of this labor. There are promising young groups like the increasingly popular At Adau that is rooted in tradition and modernity as well.

Regarding this performance at this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival, At Adau‘s Meldrick Bob said: “We were truly honored to be part of Rainforest World Music Festival again for the third time and we did everything we could to deliver the best in our performance.

Every year, Rainforest World Music Festival consistently maintains its reputable standard of being one of the best world music festivals. For this year, there were more varieties in the festival programs which appealed to a wide range of age groups and interests. A highlight on the addition of the indigenous stage which showcased purely traditional music from different countries. Also, it’s good to mention how Rainforest World Music Festival is going green by providing water refill stations to reduce the use of plastic water bottles. So kudos for that!

At Adau at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Indeed, the Rainforest World Music Festival implemented various greening initiatives, including the elimination of plastic water bottles and the installation of water stations to refill bottles.

Meldrick Bob shared At Adau’s plans for the near future: “In the near future, we’ll try to bring Borneo to the world by introducing our music on the European stage, hoping that the world will see Sarawak’s beauty through our music. As much as we can, we are also selling our music to the festival directors, agents or any interested parties to be more familiar with At Adau and hopefully expand from there.

Our next plan is to bring back those old, or we can say nearly extinct, traditional instruments such as the nose flute and kedirek, and many more to our new songs and now slowly putting some new material for the next album. We really hope that the new generation will be influenced by playing those traditional instruments to continue the legacy of our ancestors.”

At Adau using nose flute at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

The Rainforest World Music Festival has spread its roots outside Sarawak Cultural Village with an Emerging Bands stage at the Kuching Waterfront and performances at Damai Central shopping center, which is right across from Sarawak Cultural village.

The current format of the The Rainforest World Music Festival includes afternoon mini sessions at Dewan Lagenda, Iban Longhouse and Bidayuh Terraces; small capacity afternoon concerts at the Theatre Stage, the Big Tent and the Indigenous Stage; and large dimension outdoor concerts in the evening at the two larger stages: Jungle and Tree.

Fiddle mini session at The Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

The thematic mini sessions bring together musicians who share a similar musical instrument or dance tradition. For example, wind instruments, dance workshops, plucked strings, percussion instruments, zithers, etc. During the mini sessions, the musicians demonstrate how to play their instruments and at the end, all the musicians join in to perform a jam session.

Flute mini session at The Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

The Theatre Stage concerts allows the audience to enjoy artists in an intimate format. For details about this year’s Theatre concerts, read the following reviews: The Remarkable Nyckelharpa of Toledo, The Captivating Sounds of Mauritius, Mongolian and Persian Hybridization at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019, The Rarely Heard Himalayan Folk Music of Bhutan, Wai Safeguards Maori traditions at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019, Fiddles of the World Come Together, and Cutting Edge Vietnamese Virtuosity and Fiery Gnawa Trance at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019.

Omid Bahadori (Seda) at the Theatre stage – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

The local and regional emerging bands that appeared at the Big Teng were: Alunan Keroncong (Sarawak), Sayu Ateng (Sarawak), Barrock Ethnicity Band (Sarawak), Pinanak Sentah (Sarawak), Sanggalang (Sarawak), Bamboo Woods (Sabah), The Oriental Traditional Orchestra Kuching (Sarawak), Warisan Sape (Sarawak) and Raban Kenyalang (Sarawak).

The artists that performed at the Jungle Stage / Tree Stage during the evening included:

Friday: Iban Miring Ceremony (Sarawak), Spirit of the Hornbill ((Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo), Olga Cerpa y Mestisay (Canary Islands, Spain), Ballet Folclorico de Chile Bafochi (Rapa Nui-Easter Island/Chile), Rajery (Madagascar), Otava Yo (Russia), Suk Binie’ (Sarawak), and Kila (Ireland).

Olga Cerpa and Mestisay at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Saturday: Kemada (Sarawak), San Salvador (France), Ballet Folclorico de Chile Bafochi (Rapa Nui / Chile), Darmas (Malaysia), Macka B (UK/Jamaica), Trad.Attack! (Estonia) and La Chiva Gantiva (Colombia).

Kemada (Sarawak) at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Sunday: Kila & OKI (Ireland/Japan), Duplessy & The Violins Of The World ft. Guo Gan (China, France, Mongolia, Sweden), At Adau (Sarawak), Mehdi Nassouli (Morocco) and Tabanka (Cape Verde).

Tabanka at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

You need to plan your own festival experience because you won’t be able to see all events. The overall highlights for me were the organic Celtic trance music of Irish band Kila, as Kila and also in a collaboration with Japanese artist Oki; the captivating Vietnamese fusion of Ha Noi Duo; Olga Cerpa y Mestisay, rooted in Canary Islands traditions with influences from Latin America and mainland Spain; the masterful Malagasy valiha of Rajery; the zany contemporary Russian folk of Otava Yo; and rising Sarawakian roots band At Adau.

Kila concert at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak tourism Board
Kila and Oki at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak tourism Board
Otava Yo at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak tourism Board
Rajery at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak tourism Board

Other high points: the exquisite transglobal fiddles of Duplessy & The Violins Of The World; the spellbinding Gnawa music of Mehdi Nassouli; the delightful Spanish and Sephardic-rooted music of Ana Alcaide and her ensemble; the Mongolian-Iranian virtuosity and mesmerizing throat singing of Sedaa; and the charming sounds of Mauravann from Mauritius.

Mehdi Nassouli at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

Without a doubt, the Rainforest World Music Festival is one of the best festivals in which I have participated,” said Ana Alcaide. “Its philosophy, organization, environment, makes artists enjoy our experience of sharing music and feel loved and valued. Coinciding with so many bands from around the planet makes this event unique, where exchange and learning naturally occur. The festival is a unique example of diversity and cultural tolerance, with an enormous amount of artistic and cultural proposals, all of them of the highest quality, and that encompass cultures from all over the world. Bravo for the Rainforest Music Festival!”

Ana Alcaide at mini-session – Photo by Angel Romero

Netherlands-based Vietnamese musician Ngo Hong Quang of Ha Noi Duo also enjoyed the festival: “I have been chatting around to talk about this Festival with my friends in Holland and in Vietnam too. It was a very interesting, international, eco-friendly, high quality and crowded festival. These complements I like to send to Jun Lin and her staff. Actually I have never participated in any World Music Festival as big as this, wonderful vibes, great audiences, and very beautiful landscapes. Congratulations!”

Ngo Hong Quang (left) and Nguyen Le (right) of Ha Noi Duo – Photo by Angel Romero

Ngo added “I think me and Nguyen Le we had so good time there and myself, I really enjoyed some of the shows and musicianship. I think not only the musicians created the success but also enthusiastic listeners who know how to appreciate the inter-cultural shows that made the festival more attractive and meaningful.

I met some of the Vietnamese audiences and they teared in front of me because of the music I played and the way I blended the traditional vibes with modern jazzy music. It was great experience for me.

If there are more chances, I would go back to perform the Vietnamese traditional music show again next year or the year after that. Would be interesting!”

Mathias Duplessy – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

French guitarist Mathias Duplessy commented: “The festival was great for us, just missed a place where to jam and meet the others musicians at the hotel.

Sape maestro Matthew Ngau at the Rainforest World Crafts Bazaar 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

The Rainforest World Music Festival also includes a sizable World Crafts Bazaar with local and regional crafts made by artisans. You can find all kinds of really cool goodies, including many unique items. I stumbled upon one of the key musicians in Sarawakian traditional music, Matthew Ngau. He was demonstrating the traditional lute of Sarawak, the sape.

In terms of food, options have gotten even better. The Sarawak Asia Kitchen and local fingers offers Sarawakian regional options, Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Japanese delicacies. There’s also Asian fusion options.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) strengthened its greening initiatives this year. The biggest effect among these initiatives was from discouraging the use of plastic bottled water. Approximately, 20,000 plastic bottles were saved. Festivalgoers brought their own empty bottles which they could fill from water dispensing stations supplied by Cuckoo.

If you are in the Sarawak area and want to experience other festivals, the Rainforest Fringe Festival is a prequel to the Rainforest World Music Festival and Borneo Jazz Festival, featuring music, art, crafts, film, photography, food, and the culture of Sarawak. The Borneo Jazz Festival takes place one week after the Rainforest World Music Festival in Miri, in northeastern Sarawak, near Brunei.

For non-music related activities while in Sarawak, visit the city of Kuching. Attractions include the Waterfront, the Main Bazaar, Chinatown, India Street, various temples, Fort Margherita, the old Court House, the Post Office and the Sarawak Museum.

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Daytrips include visits to Bako National Park and visiting the orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve.

Orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve – Photo by Angel Romero

To get to Kuching you can fly direct from Singapore, Brunei, and some parts of Indonesia or connecting through Kuala Lumpur.

for a different perspective about the festival read Unique Global Gathering at Rainforest World Music Festival 2019 by our contributor Chris Lambie.

More information is available at the following websites and links:

Rainforest World Music Festival
Borneo Jazz Festival
Rainforest Fringe Festival
Sarawak Tourism
Interview with Sarawakian Band At Adau
Bako National Park
Semenggoh Nature Reserve

headline photo: At Adau

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