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Borneo World Music Expo

The inaugural Borneo World Music Expo (BWME) was officiated at the Pullman Kuching convention center with a press release by Sarawak Tourism Board's CEO Dato' Rashid Khan, Assistant Tourism Minister of Sarawak Datuk Gramong Juna and Director of the BWME, Gerald Seligman. A total of 50 reporters from around the world and locally were present during the welcome reception here. Questions were asked in regards to this first ever event in the world where me, having been to a number of music festivals around Malaysia, I wanted to know if the STB would have any plans to bring the Sarawak Highland Folk Music Festival closer the both the current events. From my knowledge, these three events would be a perfect gel as the BWME and the SHFMF would be a great build up to the Rainforest World Music Festival, giving tourist and music lovers a longer stay here in the city.

BWME Director, Gerald Seligman, Sarawak Tourism Board's CEO Dato' Rashid Khan and Assistant Minister of Tourism, Sarawak Datuk Gramong Juna

Dato' Rashid replied "Yes, the Sarawak Tourism Board is working with the communities of the Borneo Highlands and have even invited these people to come an attend the BWME 2013". He also said "As the Highland community are independently run, it was only right that the tourism board or any other body include the Highlands people by inviting them to participate and in future, the STB hopes that there will be more participation by them"

Sarawak has also been in the limelight for music festivals the world over as the Rainforest World Music Festival is now in its 16th year running. The other successful event which is the Borneo Jazz Festival is also now in its seventh year and has seen many world renown musicians performing over the years. This years BJF saw classic musicians The Nylons appearing for the first time here in Miri. With the success of the two music festivals came along the Borneo World Music Expo.

Delegates at the opening of the Borneo World Music Expo 2013 in Kuching

This one of a kind expo consists of a trade fair, conferences from various musicians, exhibitions, musical showcases and even sessions. The three day event was conceptualized to bring musicians, promoters and even professionals in the trade to one venue where music of the various genres and also cultures can be promoted around the world.

 Matthew Ngau and Lan E Tuyang from Sarawak

 Matthew's son Jackson performs the Orang Ulu Warrior Dance

After the welcome dinner reception, everyone was ushered to the other hall for the music showcase where the opening acts featured a Sarawak Cultural Night with world renown sape player Matthew Ngau and his band, Lan E Tuyang performed the opening act. For his last piece, Matthew invited his son, Jackson Ngau to come upstage and perform a warrior dance from the Orang Ulu Kenyah tribe. Next on stage was a rare performance from the Highland Bamboo Band who come from Bario and Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak. The band uses only flutes to perform where there are various sizes of flutes, from small one till bass flutes. Women play the smaller flutes while the men play the mid and bass flutes. No easy task, this was in face a skill to have everyone in sync to create the music.

Highland Bamboo Band plays the flute ensemble

The third local performers were the Bisayah Gong Orchestra who hail from Limbang which is a district near the Brunei border. Having eight musicians, everyone has a type of gong and one main drum. The drum known as the Dumbak is the main instrument while the rest are gongs in various shapes and sizes. Apparently, this is the only full ensemble for the Bisayah community as over the years, a number of musical instruments like these were sold or traded and to re-make these instruments is no longer the same as the antique ones. Their band leader, Peter Sawal had shared with the audience about this matter where the Bisayah people are currently on a campaign to try and recover the original musical instruments to bring back the culture and heritage from the musical part of the community.

Bisayah musician playing the Dumbak (Wooden Drum)
Bisayah musicians on the gongs

Bisayah Gong Orchestra performs at the BWME 0213

Bisayah Gong Orchestra from Limbang, Sarawak

Finally, the second showcase or last set was performed by a contemporary folk ensemble from India called Oikyotaan. Comprising of five members, they performed a very interesting set of Folk-Classical Indian music with a mixture of contemporary and pulsating rhythms which saw many of the crowd moving along with their unique music. As day one ended towards midnight, a number of other invited bands will perform for day two and three for the Borneo World Music Expo. Musicians from Korea, Indonesia, India and also from Malaysia will be showcasing the many unique styles and genres of world music here.
 A member of Oikyotaan performs solo

 Oikyotaan from India take the stage for the last showcase

Oikyotaan on a duet

Oikyotaan's main guitarist does a solo

There are also quite a number of interesting workshops lined up for the following two days. Sessions include case studies, regional marketing opportunities, professionalism for musicians, international touring and more. For those interested to attend this, you can contact the Sarawak Tourism Board or visit the official BWME Website. As for me, I will be looking forward to these workshops to learn a little more about this industry and also the showcase performances for the following days of the Borneo World Music Expo.

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