Rainforest World Music Festival 2023 Overview

Review Rainforest World Music Festival

After attending this year's event, here is my personal Rainforest World Music Festival 2023 overview based on actual on-ground experience here in Santubong, Sarawak.

Every year, the world-famous RWMF, as it is known in short, makes headlines worldwide in one of the most unique music festivals globally.

Rainforest World Music Festival 2023 Overview

This year, the festival was similar to the previous one except that the artistic director was no longer Jun Lin, who painstakingly curated some of the best world musicians to perform here in Borneo.

Rainforest World Music Festival
The crowd at this year's music festival.

As always, the RWMF occurs at the Sarawak Cultural Village, which has been the home ground for the last 25 years since its conception. The SCV is also an eye-opener for first-timers who are attending the festival.

Imagine a world music festival nestled inside a living cultural museum which spans a lusty 17 acres of beautiful landscape sitting at the foothills of Mount Santubong.

This is what makes the RWMF an event to remember for the rest of your lives, as it has impacted me for the last decade of attending.

The Venue

Venue for RWMF
The Sarawak Cultural Village is the venue for the music festival.

Sarawak Cultural Village has been home to this incredible music festival for the last 26 years, and nothing much has changed except for the crowds and much taller trees. 

At the back of the village, there is a massive outdoor open area where the primary and jungle stages are set up for the festival. This area is mostly grass, with two VIP sections on each side.

At any one time, around 3,000 people can pack into this open space, which you will see in some of the photos here.

Usually, visitors will come in the evenings and set up mats to sit down and just relax before the start of the show., which is quite a nice scene.

Main Stage RWMF
The double-stage area of the festival grounds.

The double stage serves as a rotation system where the following performers are set up on each stage, leaving no gap in the changing of artists or musicians. Headline performers usually take the Rainforest Stage.

A barricade about five metres from the stage is set up and manned by security members; only media and photographers with special passes are allowed in.

The Food

RWMF Food
At one of the local food stalls in the venue, some massive grilled squid is being sold.

Food is a must for everyone because the festival runs day and night; there will be a master tent with a massive food section offering over twenty types of local and Western food.

Around the festival grounds, there are also random tents that sell specialised food, like the Sarawakian Ethnic Food section near the Bidayuh House.

The SCV also has its own restaurant near the indoor theatre section when you enter the village, and finally, there's also the Damai Food Court across the cultural village.

The Drinks

RWMF Drinks Pepsi
Pepsi was one of the sponsors this year.

Of course, food and drinks go hand in hand, but RWMF being an international world-class festival, there are particular stations that sell beer and wine only to those 18 and above and non-Muslims.

In other areas of the village, you will find pop-up kiosks selling water and canned drinks, usually by the drink sponsor. But the best part is that they have several water refill stations around the village for those who bring their own containers.

The Bazaar

RWMF Craft Bazaar
Raben Beads is one of the ethnic jewellery makers who sells her wares at the festival.

Every year, the RWMF Craft Bazaar is found underneath the Melanau Tall House and the Traditional Malay House in the village.

At his craft bazaar, you will find the best of Sarawakian and Bornean handcrafted or handmade items for sale. There's quite a bit of ethnic jewellery being sold as well.

Other handicrafts of interest are the originally made items by the Iban, Bidayuh, Kelabit and Kayan/Kenyah people.

If you love all things ethnic, this is the one craft bazaar you should not miss because I will make it a point to visit whenever I'm there.

The People

People at Rainforest World Music Festival
All kinds of people are seen at the RWMF.

From all walks of life, you will see almost every type of person here. Young, middle-aged, and even retirees are music lovers who know no barrier when visiting the RWMF.

The crowd is usually 70% locals from Malaysia and 30% foreigners from all over the world. I cannot even describe them, as there are too many types.

Most local Sarawakians will come on Saturday, and depending on the musician's lineup, they may return on a Sunday. For those coming out of Kuching, they will usually take the 3-day ticket package.

The Workshops

RWMF Gipsy Kings
World-renowned Gipsy Kings giving a music workshop performance.

This segment is always a runaway hit as these workshops are carefully crafted to be conducted throughout the day and at several venues on the festival grounds.

This makes visitors move around the village in search of the 30-minute workshops that were conducted by the performers themselves. This allowed the crowd to mingle and participate in dances or performances.

Some performers played in enclosed areas, while others performed at selected sections of the cultural village. There were even special workshops on ethnic or world music instruments.

The Musicians

RWMF At Adau
At Adau from Sarawak has rocked the RWMF three times back to back.

Every year, a whole new set of talented musicians from around the world are selected through a tedious process by the artistic director. Then, the shortlisted lineup will be presented to the committee before deciding on the final list.

For RWMF2023, it was a little off the regular lineup as there was a change in the artistic director this year. Therefore, the system had taken a slight hiccup regarding music flow and who to perform where.

RWMF Big Mountain Band
Big Mountain performs to give the crowd a show they will remember.

90s famous reggae band Big Mountain was the main act on the final day, while Gypsy Kings were on the first day, which many saw as a risky move by the artistic director. However, the crowd was there to party, so the band gave the crowd what they wanted, which was a win.

But it was no other than local Sarawakian band At Adau that rocked the venue with their electrifying performance for the third consecutive time in the festival's history. Most of the crowd had come to see the local boys perform live, and they delivered!

RWMF Sape Player
One of the sape performers on stage.

Other musicians were brought in from the UK, Maldives, India, Russia, Thailand, France, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Tanzania and Singapore.

The performers were alright, but many felt there could have been a better selection from what was given. Instead of a world music festival, some thought it was like a pub music festival, which was a little more commercialised.

Let's hope that for RWMF2024, the former artistic music director will return and bring her incredibly passionate selection of world-class performances to the festival.

For more information about this year's event, please visit the official RWMF.net website.

Finale RWMF
The event's finale saw all the performers go on stage for the farewell.

Conclusion

There you have it, a quick and concise overview of the Rainforest World Music Festival 2023 done in my own personal way. Again, I've been attending this music festival since 2010 and have always been fascinated in one way or another.

You can also check out my other article, which showcases the photos of RWMF2023, which are fewer words and slightly more visual.

Now, I look forward to the RWMF2024 and wonder what will be lined up for the next festival. I hope to see you there!

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.

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