Music Festivals in Sarawak

Sarawak Music Festival

There are numerous Music Festivals in Sarawak for music lovers or even anyone who is into various genres of music. The largest state in the east of Malaysia plays host to a number of international and world renown music festivals and shows throughout the year and this article is highlighting these events that attracts thousands of visitors here.

Note that Sarawak is located in the east of Malaysia on the island of Borneo which is shared by Sabah, Brunei and Indonesia Kalimantan. Access to Sarawak is via flights from Kuala Lumpur and many other major cities around the region while from neighboring countries, you can drive into the state. Below is a list of major music festivals in Sarawak in no order and supported by images of the events.  

RWMF 2013
Rainforest World Music Festival 2013
Rainforest World Music Festival 

The mother-of-all music festivals in Sarawak, the Rainforest World Music Festival which has been around for 16 years, and is recognized as one of the 25 music festivals in the world to visit. Having attending this festival only in 2013, I realized the huge potential of this festival which showcases ethnic musicians from around the world in one event.

Spread over a three day event, hoards of people from the world over make their way here to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere in the Sarawak Cultural Village, which has been home to the RWMF for the last 16 years.If you have never attended this unique festival, I very much recommend going for the next one which is the Rainforest World Music Festival 2014. Provided you must love world music and the outdoors.

As many reports have been out there about the festival losing its charm, I stand to differ as I was a first timer there in 2013 and the momentum of the festival opened my eyes. Personally, I had a fabulous time there listening to the many interesting genres of music from around the world. The event is also held yearly in the month of July and at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong. Below are random pictures from the RWMF 2013 while the next Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 takes place in August.

Rafly Wa Saja at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2013
Rafly Wa Saja giving an amazing show to the audience
Lan E Tuyang at the Rainforest World Music Festival
Lan E Tuyang playing at the Rainforest Music Festival
Borneo International Jazz Festival

Running for the 7th year, the Borneo International Jazz Festival or BIJF is a must-visit if you are a jazz lover. This festival was once called the Miri Jazz Festival too. The home ground for this is at the Everly Park Hotel in Miri which has a spectacular event area facing the sea. Also an outdoor event, world class jazz musicians make their way here for a two day outdoor jazz festival cum carnival which is excellent for families, couples and of course, jazz lovers. 

Subjective as it may sound, there are also sub-jazz genres performed during the BIJF as I witnessed this year in 2013. For the general jazz lovers, you will be in for a treat as the line up is well balanced with different groups who perform interesting variations of jazz. Food and beverages are easily available here while it only takes about five minutes drive to the city center from here. The Borneo Jazz Festival is usually held in the month of March every year.

BIJF 2013
Opening act for the Borneo International Jazz Festival 2013
Nylons in Sarawak
The Nylons at the Borneo International Jazz Festival

Borneo World Music Expo

Having the inaugural world music expo in Kuching, this was the mastermind of Sarawak Tourism Board CEO, Datuk Rashid Khan where it was slated a few days just before the World Rainforest Music Festival. At the Borneo World Music Expo, international programmers, performers and specialist conduct workshops about the unique world music industry. Information, tips and sharing is openly conducted for the world music business.

During the three days of the Borneo World Music Expo, there are also performances by specially invited musicians in the evenings. They showcase some of the world's most unique genres of music in a closed hall where nightly, there will be from three to five performances. Tickets are sold at the door or from the tourism boards office in Kuching. If you are a fan of world music and want to understand it a little more, this is one not to be missed event. It is also held in the month of July yearly.

*Update - This event is no longer running.

Rafly Wa Saja
Flutist from Rafly Wa Saja performs at the Borneo World Music Expo 2013
Korean dancers performing in Sarawak
Korean traditional dance performance at the BWME 2013
Tabla Player Borneo World Music Expo 2013
A tabla player meditates at the Borneo World Music Expo 2013

Asia Music Festival

In it's inaugural year, the first Asia Music Festival in Sarawak is set to showcase the talent of many local and international musicians and performers. Held in the city of Miri, the AMF 2013 is a two day event at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club which is about five kilometers from town center.

Musicians taking part in this music festival are Antoney Dassan Yen Party (India), Foxy Girls (Indonesia), Bembol Rockers (Philippines), V.Star Band (Korea), Boy Thai Band (Thailand), Soesah Tidoer (Indonesia) and Fakhrul Razi (Brunei) which promises an exciting show for general music lovers.This event being the first time ever is held in October and at the city of Miri, Sarawak.

*Update - This festival is no longer running.

Asia Music Festival in Miri Sarawak
Soesah Tidoer performing at the Asia Music Festival in Miri
Anthoney Dassan Yen Party at AMF2013
Anthoney Dassan Yen Party at AMF2013
AMF 2013
Asia Music Festival 2013 at Miri Sarawak

Sarawak Highland Folk Music Festival 

Juk Wan Emang, a 71 year old orang ulu plays the nose flute
One of the more obscure music festival the world has seen is the Sarawak Highland Folk Music Festival. Not many have experienced this but when you have the opportunity, you should check out this unique music festival which features very traditional music instruments such as Sape, Satung, Tung But, Sanang, Tawak, Jatung Lutang, Atui and Oreng used by the ethnic people here. A friend of mine, Emila Yusof did a fantastic job covering this event in 2012.

The very unique ethnic groups comprise of Sarawak Kayan Association, Sarawak Bisaya Association, Petipun Penan Sarawak, Sarawak National Kenyah Association, Federation of Miri Chinese Association (Long Lama), Dayak Bidayuh National Association Miri (DBNA), Miri Kadayan Association, Rurum Kelabit, Sarawak Lakiput Association,  Miri Berawan Association and the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Marudi). The Sarawak Highland Folk Music Festival is also a joint collaboration effort between Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and Long Bedian Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK). This unique festival is also held in the month of November.

Highland Folk Music Festival Sarawak
Sape players at the Sarawak Highland Folk Music Festival - Image from emilayusof.com
Miri Country Music Festival 

Who would have thought, a Country and Western Music Festival in Borneo! Yes, this was made possible by Gracie Geckie and her team who launched the inaugural Miri Country Music Festival 2014 with a huge success. Almost 2000 people turned up for this one day event held at the Parkcity Everly Hotel which saw 8 local and international bands taking stage and giving the crowd a show to remember. The 2nd Miri Country Music Festival 2015 takes off in February at the same venue and promises an even more exciting festival.

Tickets are on sale now while for country music lovers, time to dust those boots, iron that checked shirt and get into those tight-fit jeans. The MCMF 2015 promises to get you dancing and having a time of your life here in Miri. If you should know, the northern region of Sarawak is heavily influenced by country and western music and lifestyle and this festival makes it happen here in Miri, Sarawak. AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines flies into Miri daily so getting here is no problem. See you at the next Miri Country Music Festival!

Miri Country Music Festival 2014
Mel and Joe at Miri Country Music Festival
Mel and Joe from Singapore at the MCMF
The above is a breakdown of all the music festivals in Sarawak and speaking to a number of people in the industry, it is told that there will be some other unique music festivals that will be taking place in Sarawak.

When you visit Sarawak, you also have the option to explore this unique state which offers amazing Eco Tourism choices. If you have been to any of these music festivals, please feel free to leave your comment below for this article titled Music Festivals in Sarawak.



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