I have been attending the Rainforest World Music Festival for 4 years in a row and I can say that every year I manage to connect to someone who draws my interest at the event. Last year, for instance, I interviewed Mongolian throat singer Epi and members of other impressive bands. This year I have been considering about the veterans, those pioneers that have been at this festival since the start, without missing one year. They surely will have their own unbiased opinion of this great annual event. With this in mind, I have hunted people down, looking for someone special who has witnessed it all, year after year. What would be their perception of Rainforest World Music Festival 19 years on?
It was on the way back to the hotel from one of Rainforest World Music Festival workshops at the Dewan Lagenda at the Sarawak Cultural Village that, at the hotel reception, I got to introduce myself to Linda. Linda Drew is a middle aged woman from Australia, so amicable and young-looking that I was not surprised about her big smile. I liked her from the first moment, and I was so happy when she accepted without any hesitation to be interviewed.
Linda has been attending Rainforest World Music Festival since year 1, back in 1999. Back then she was a manager for a South American band that was performing at the festival. “On the first year, the festival was just like a baby. It was so new, so fresh, it had just started”.
It was her love for music to make her and the band be back at the festival twice, in 2002 and 2007, but it did not end there. In fact, after she learned about the volunteers program, she saw an opportunity there; she applied and has been a volunteer ever since, year after year. “I like Rainforest World Music Festival so much. I believe it is the best music festival I have ever attended. Since it started, this festival has been improving a lot in terms of facilities, management and performers. The atmosphere here is so amazing, people are friendly, and being a volunteer gives me the chance to meet lots of people as well as to interact with the artists.
At the question about what part of the Rainforest World Music Festival she liked most, her face got so excited and she told me that for her, “one of the best acts at the festival are the workshops. It is there where you really can connect with people and artists in a more personal and intimate way. At the workshops, you can really learn about the artists’ music, their dances and their instruments”.
Linda also told me that other than the workshops, she loves the art and craft bazaar areas. “I have been buying lots of souvenirs from Sarawak, like most other tourists I guess. I love anything that has a tribal motive, from traditional basket, to bracelets and necklaces”.
Despite Linda’s comments bout the festival were almost all on the positive side, there is something that is bothering her: “You see, this festival is not a baby anymore; it has been growing and changing a lot since it started, becoming a more advanced and much better event that can be well-known the world over. What really disappoints me at this level is the peoples’ behaviour. I have observed that most at the festival tend to sit and play on their smartphone. This is indeed not good. It is a world music festival where people are supposed to mix and mingle, make new friends, enjoying the performances and dance a lot. It is not about ‘sharing’ a picture or a video to your friend back home, or to chat to your regular group. I really hope they introduce a complete ban on Internet and 3G in the future, this would really give back the freedom feel to this magnificent event”.
I kind of agree with Linda; I can see myself that ironically as it may sound, nowadays with the coming of new technologies, the younger generation has less interaction with each other, if not through their media devices and applications.
After all, Linda keeps enjoying Rainforest World Music Festival year after year, and publicly praised the organisers for doing such a good, amazing and successful job.
As you can see, people’s accounts of the Rainforest World Music Festival is usually a positive one. The only advise I can give you today is, be part of it one day!!!