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25 January, 2015

Borneo Jazz Festival 2015

Borneo International Jazz Festival 2015

Borneo Jazz Festival 2015 will be held from 8-9 May at the ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak and this is also the 10th year the festival is being held here and is one of the pioneer Jazz Festivals in Southeast Asia. Having brought in numerous world renown jazz artist and performers, the Borneo International Jazz Festival is always out to surprise audiences with local and international artist. Jazz lovers should not miss this opportunity as for the 10th anniversary of the BIJF, there should be something special lined up for visitors. 

The Borneo International Jazz Festival 2015 in Sarawak also promises visitors two days of exciting jazz played by various performers where four acts are done on each night. After party jam sessions are also performed at the hotel's lounge bar where performers get together and just play it out. For the younger generation, the organizers have included a DJ session after each night of the festival where locals and foreigners can party away till the wee hours of the morning. 

Diana Liu Borneo Jazz
Malaysian singer Diana Liu opened the Borneo Jazz 2014
Other things to look out for during the BIJF 2015 is the unique Sarawakian craft bazaar which always impresses the visitors with the beautiful collections of traditional art and craft. A food and drinks bazaar is also set up at the venue for the hungry visitors where selections range from local to international cuisines. Beer and soft drinks are sold at reasonable prices too. 

The Borneo International Jazz Festival 2015 attracts mostly jazz lovers from around the region and a number of expatriates from across the border, namely from Brunei, Sabah, Singapore and Indonesia. 

Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 Poster
Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 Poster
Opening of the Borneo Jazz Music Festival

The festival always opens with a local school marching brass band which plays some jazz numbers at about 6.00pm before the main acts take stage. This also takes place in the evening before the sun sets by the sea in the back. Last years Borneo Jazz 2014 saw the Chung Hua Marching Brass Band open the festival followed by local Malaysian artist Diana Liu and her band which was well received.

Sunset Photo Miri
Beautiful sunset on Brighton Beach at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri
Chung Hua Miri Brass Band Borneo Jazz Festival
Chung Hua Miri Brass Band opens the festival 
Photo of Borneo Jazz Festival
The Borneo Jazz Festival Grounds seen from the beach here
Vocal Sampling Performing at Borneo Jazz Festival
Vocal Sampling from Cuba
Interesting Performances

One of the much talked about acts for the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 was actually Anthony Strong from the United Kingdom. Apparently word went around that this was the next up and coming jazz retro-contemporary superstars from the UK alongside Michael Buble.



Anthony Strong Borneo Jazz Photo
Anthony Strong
Anthony is also hailed as UK's new jazz superstar with multiple hits around Europe and has played alongside with top international names. With all that credential, I could only wait for his show here in Miri and, I was impressed. Anthony was a true performer and entertainer, not to mention talented too. Overall, he got the ladies all worked up with his boyish looks while the men were swaying to his music.

After the festival, I met up with Anthony at the Miri airport on route to Kuala Lumpur. He was such a nice and humble person, easy to talk to and super casual. I asked him about his experience at the Borneo Jazz Festival and his respond was that he absolutely loved performing here due to the people and was even surprised that he had fans all the way here in the rainforests!

Anthony Strong Sarawak Photo
Anthony Strong from the UK performs at the Borneo Jazz Festival
Brassballett Germany BIJF 2014
Brassballett from Germany
Borneo Jazz Festival Brassballett
Brassballett does a 'Smooth Criminal' 
JunkOFunc....what is that? 

One of my favourite acts for Borneo Jazz 2014 was actually a Malaysian band called JunkOFunc which consisted of 12 members from Kuala Lumpur. Having not heard of them before as they are not mainstream, I was actually very impressed with their performance here. Not only did they look good, they played and sang very well for an international festival. They were lively and very entertaining and the crowd just loved that in a festival.

JunkOFunc gets my vote for being the most impressive act for the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014. I hope that for 2015, we will see more entertaining acts like this.

JunkOFunc performs on stage at the Borneo Jazz 
Russel Curtis, lead singer of JunkOFunc
Russel Curtis, lead singer of JunkOFunc impresses the crowd at Borneo Jazz 
Iriao at Borneo Jazz Festival
Iriao from Georgia take stage with their Georgian Folk and Jazz music
Iriao at the Borneo Jazz Music Festival
Levan Abshilava from Iriao plays a traditional Georgian drum 
Best Visual and Creativity at Borneo Jazz 

YK Samarinda, an ethnic jazz band from East Kalimantan easily stole the show in my opinion. Sporting the traditional Dayak of Borneo costume complete with head gear, I was taken aback with how they fused traditional with jazz.

YK Samarinda from East Kalimantan opens with a Sape instrument
Honestly, when YK Samarinda walked on stage, I was clueless on what was going to happen - was it a traditional performance as he was holding a Sape, traditional Dayak guitar or was it just for show. However, when he opened the show on day 2 with his Sape, you could see the look on the audiences where eyebrows raised. Guests were as lost as I am, until he broke into a modern jazz rhythm and then changing guitars.

YK Samarinda Photo
Jazz and Ethnic - A very unique combination 
YK Samarinda gets my vote for being the most creative and impressive performance at the Borneo Jazz 2014. This kind of surprise is great, especially when you have a festival running for 10 years, it is always good to have something fresh and unexpected. Anyway, I have always loved the music from the Sape as it is a very interesting music instrument.

YK Samarinda Borneo Jazz
YK Samarinda on stage at the Borneo Jazz 2014
Mario Canonge from Martinique
Mario Canonge from Martinique
    Diana Lui Saxophonist Kayan Women Photo
L - Diana Lui's saxophonist, R - Kayan women at the welcoming dinner

The Bazaar at Borneo Jazz Festival 


Bazaar at Borneo Jazz
Interesting souvenirs sold at the bazaar here
The craft and food bazaar at the Borneo Jazz festival grounds are always interesting. Souvenirs are high on the list for shoppers as you can find some authentic Sarawakian handmade products alongside with ladies jewelry. Other things found here include customized t-shirts, caps, hats, paintings and a variety of other souvenirs. Prices are pretty decent too, based on my shopping experience in town. 

The food bazaar is also something I look forward too as you can find some local favourites here. In general, you do not need to have your dinner and then come here, you might as well have it here. Tables and chairs are set up around the festival ground too.

Sarawakian Craft Bazaar
Traditional Sarawakian Craft on sale 
For the drinkers, fear not as there is always a main sponsor like Strong Bow Beer who will have their booths here. Bottled beer is priced around RM10-RM15 per bottle sold at the booths or from the beautiful promoters they usually have walking around the festival grounds. 

Beer Promoters Malaysia
Beer promoters at Borneo Jazz Music Festival, Sarawak
Borneo Jazz Sunset Festival
A beautiful Miri sunset seen from the beach at the festival grounds
Borneo Jazz Jamming Sessions

Without fail, artists would get together at the hotel lobby lounge for a jamming session for the fans and also themselves each night after all the performances. Here, drinks are served while jazz fans can have a more up, close and personal session with some of the artists. It's great to see the many jazz artist from different countries get together and team up to play together. 

Borneo Jazz Jamming Session
Borneo Jazz Jamming Session after the festival
The After Party at Borneo Jazz

After Party Borneo Jazz Festival
Guests at the after party of the Borneo Jazz Festival
While younger adults make up a good percentage of the audience, an after party was held on each night after the Borneo Jazz Festival. For 2014, top radio DJ from Traxx FM Malaysia - DJ Round Head was spinning to the crowd here.

DJ Round Head of Traxx FM Malaysia
DJ Round Head of Traxx FM Malaysia
finale of the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014
During the finale of the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014
Borneo Jazz 2014 Artist
All artist take stage for the final performance at BIJF 2014
Plant a Tree 

Borneo Jazz Festival Tree planting
Tree planting with the artist and school children
From the media side, usually we get in a day before the festival takes place and on the main day itself, a tree planting ceremony takes place in the morning where the performing artist are invited to each plant a tree for conservation purposes. After that, a media press conference is held with the artist and organizers where we get to ask questions about the artist and also about the festival. 

On the eve of the festival, the artist and media will be invited to a welcoming dinner at one of the local hotels around Miri. Here, the CEO of Sarawak Tourism and possibly the mayor of Miri will welcome the artist and media with speeches and presentation of souvenirs to the artists.

Borneo Jazz Meritz Hotel in Miri
Welcoming dinner held at the Meritz Hotel in Miri
For Borneo Jazz 2014, the welcoming dinner was held at the beautiful Meritz Hotel in Miri town. This hotel was selected due to the beautiful views of Miri city from the rooftop cafe while I managed to catch a lovely sunset here too. For anyone heading to Miri, I would easily recommend staying here as the location is a mere 10 minutes to the Borneo Jazz venue.

Media from around the world are invited to cover this event and mainly music media from magazines like Song Lines and other publications are seen here. Questions sometimes exceed the press conference as the international media always has interesting questions, unlike the local media.

Borneo Jazz Festival media press conference
Borneo Jazz media press conference at the hotel
Two media sessions are held over the two days in the mornings where we have the chance to ask questions to the various artist performing. My main question to the performers, especially many of them who are first timers in Sarawak - How do you like Sarawak so far, and always, I get a very positive reply of how beautiful Miri and Sarawak is and how the artist plan to come back on their own to further explore Sarawak, Borneo and Malaysia.

organizing team for Borneo Jazz
Part of the Borneo Jazz organizing team with some Kayan ladies in traditional outfits in Miri
The tickets for the BIJF 2015 should b on sale anytime from February. It is highly recommended that you purchase them on the early bird prices as you can save quite a lot if you are going in a group or with a family. Also for your accommodations, you should book them early and a few recommended places to stay at are;

Hotels in Miri

ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri - The main event venue
Miri Marriott Resort and Spa - Just next door, 5 minutes walk
Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club - 10 minutes drive
Meritz Hotel - 15 mins drive from town center
Imperial Hotel Miri - 15 mins drive from town center

Borneo Jazz Festival Tickets are reasonably priced where two day passes are;

ADULTS
RM55 (US$15) for early bird purchases
RM95 (US$26) for pre sale before event
RM130 (US$36) for at the door prices

KIDS
RM25 (US$7) for early bird purchases
RM45 (US$12) for pre sale before event
RM50 (US$14) for at the door prices

Borneo Jazz 2015 Venue
ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri 
Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai
98000, Miri Sarawak 
Malaysia 
Telephone: +6085 440 288

Borneo International Jazz Festival 2015 banner

For more information, you can visit the official Borneo International Jazz Festival website. A list of performers for Borneo Jazz 2015 should be out by February or early March this year too.

Tourism In and Around Miri

As Miri is one of the main gateways for tourism in this part of Sarawak, you should take the opportunity to explore around this area, namely the Mulu Caves which is one of the most popular attractions at the Mulu National Park, the Niah Caves at the Niah National Park and also the Lambir Hills National Park. All these parks require traveling and is awesome for nature and outdoor lovers.

Diving in Miri - For scuba divers, Miri is home to some of the most beautiful untouched and un-commercialized coral reefs here. Located in the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park, only one main dive operator takes divers here which is Coco Dive located in Miri city. Professionally operated, there are local and Caucasian dive instructors and masters that will lead your dive trip. For me, I managed to do some diving in Miri during one of my trips here and overall, it is awesome due to not seeing other divers around.

Miri Kolo Mee
Kolo Mee, Red and White Types
Food in Miri is also something to explore, only if you are a foodie as this place showcases some pretty amazing experiences in local and ethnic foods. For me, I personally enjoy walking around Miri old town to try the local hawker scene in search of the Kolo Mee (Kolo Noodles) and also the Orang Ulu Traditional Food which is one of the most unique ethnic foods I have tried to date. This also is an acquired taste as it is very very different.

Exploring Miri is a great way to see the town, especially on foot. The best places to visit in town are the Miri Handicraft Market where you can find all kinds of Sarawakian traditional and ethnic handicraft, Miri Wet Market where it is divided into two interesting sections and I would recommend you try the Ethnic Market or 'Pasar Khas' to see the unique items being sold. Among my favourite is the choices of different types of bananas sold here as the colors are pretty wild. Other places of interest around Miri include the Miri Chinese Temple on the old town area and also The Grand Old Lady of Miri, the first oil well in Borneo.




Miri Wet Market
Amazing banans colors at the Miri Wet Market
Airlines that fly to Miri

Airlines that fly into Miri include AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and MASWings from Kuching. There are 7 flights a day into Miri from 7am till 9pm. Connecting airports will be Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah or Singapore if you are flying from overseas. Otherwise, you can also transit at Kuching Airport or Kota Kinabalu Airport. Note Miri is a one hour flight from Kuching, 50 minute flight from Kota Kinabalu and a 2 hour 15 minute flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Driving into Miri is usually done by the locals or expatriates that live in Brunei. Usually it takes an estimate time of 30-60 minutes from Brunei and 2-3 hours from Sabah and a whopping 8-10 hours drive from Kuching. Note the border crossing can get super congested on weekends and public holidays so it is recommended you arrive very early or a day before the event.

You can take a look at more photos from the Borneo Jazz Festival 2013 which was equally interesting with a great line up of musicians which included The Nylons and Hazmat Modine. For the jazz lover and enthusiast, I have come up with a list of Jazz Festivals in Malaysia that you can follow as they are spread around the country in states of Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

For music lovers who are visiting Sarawak anytime, you can refer to this list of Music Festivals in Sarawak which is spread out throughout the year. Noting that the Rainforest world Music Festival 2015 or RWMF 2015 will be the top of the list here. 

As I frequent the jazz festivals in the region, I am always on the lookout for something new and interesting offered by the organizers and they always seem to amaze me with the line up of performers. See you at the Borneo Jazz Festival 2015.

Penang Island Jazz Festival 2014

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