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13 Julai 2011

Aku dan Rainforest World Music Festival

Rasanya aku tak rugi sebab tak hadir ke event ini.
Sebab ianya dah jadi seperti konsert rock!
Bukannya persembahan kumpulan2 etnik seluruh dunia seperti dulu2.
Ada dua perkara yang aku perhatikan.
Satu, ramai warga asing dan semenanjung berkunjung ke Sarawak minggu lepas.
Dua, aku kena surcharged 20 ringgit masa bayar bil hotel.
Semuanya kerana event ini...

I CAME to know of the Rainforest World Music Festival in 1998 when it was announced in the media. At that time, the organisers stated that it was to be a festival featuring only ethnic music and instruments. How appropriate, I thought, that our rainforest was chosen to showcase it.

I was at last able to attend the festival 13 years later with my family and a guest from Australia and excitedly planned for it as early as March, thinking that with 13 festivals of experience, it would be better than ever. What a letdown!

Indeed, world music was played in the literal sense of the word as bands from different countries were invited. The actual music played was a “fusion of folk songs and modern music”, to quote an invited performer, and was mostly accompanied by rock band equipment.

The performers were mostly attired in singlets, T-shirts (like rockers!), not in traditional attire to reflect their ethnicity, tradition and music history. The volume was cranked up, especially during the 7pm to midnight concerts.

The afternoon music was just as loud. We could hear it on a jungle walk close to Santubong Mountain. We hardly saw any fauna, which made me wonder if the noise pollution had driven the animals, insects, etc, into the deeper reaches of the jungle.

I think the nights must be difficult for these creatures and they would have probably wondered what had hit them, if they could. Ironically, the banners strung about the venue suggested a “green” festival objective.

Although the festival started on Friday, the attendance swelled on Saturday night.

I believe this was mainly made up of youths from Sarawak, especially the Kuching area.

I also believe, over the years, in the interest of the bottom line, the content of the festival has been revised to attract this segment of the population while the advertising claims have remained unchanged, and become misleading.

A returning tourist lamented that the content had so changed that she would not recommend it to her friends!

She added that such concerts take place weekly in her country on a bigger scale and with more established musicians, that she need not travel to Malaysia to hear music which is neither “real rock or real ethnic”.

She felt short-changed. So did my guest.

I would not wish to deprive the youths of Sarawak and foreign youths of an evening of fun, but I think the interest of the rainforest and its inhabitants would be better served if the venue were relocated to a stadium or such like. And our credibilty in the eyes of visitors would remain intact.

I suggest that the organisers of the festival do some soul-searching to convince themselves that they had not exploited the attraction of the rainforests, the natives of Sarawak and the Sarawak Cultural Village for the expediency of profits.

I understand the RWMF in its original format may have a relatively small captive market but the spin-offs in terms of tourist spending cannot be discounted.

Again, we cannot underestimate the value of a strong advertising campaign.

We have many unique attractions. We can choose either to enhance them or devalue them. The choice is ours, really.


Petaling Jaya.

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