Finally today, after an early morning flight, a somewhat turbulent landing and an hour on a taxi, I was at the Damai Beach Resort reception to check in… Only last week, as the days went by, I felt a kind of excitement growing. I was in for a return that should have happened two years earlier, a return that the pandemic had blocked without possibility of an appeal. Nine years, this is the time that passed from my first attendance to one of the events that fascinate me the most since I live in Asia, and today.
Nine long years later, yet everything reappeared so familiar to me, almost as if I had been there the day before. I immediately tasted that atmosphere made of magical uniqueness, of arriving luggages and cases of instruments with strange shapes that were to indicate a content that would have been worth dwelling on. Eastern and western faces so obviously different from each other but in whose eyes a common denominator could be found: the passion that brings them closer and, in some way, makes them similar.
What? I am forgetting something? Oh well, yes, pardon me. I was forgetting the most important things: my destination and the cause of my state of mind. Well let me fix it straight away: this morning, on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, I arrived in Kuching, in the Malaysian Borneo, to witness once again that amazing event that is the Rainforest World Music Festival.
From the moment I arrived at the airport, I had the feeling that only a few details had changed; in general, I immediately realized that I would be moving in an environment well known to me, with the only discordant note given by the grey and rainy weather, which I did not expect but which will be accompanying us for the entire event. Paying little attention to the weather, I ventured out through the paths leading to the concert area, still semi-deserted, and imagined what it would be like the day after: sparkling, colourful, full of food stalls from which columns of smoke and inviting smells will rise, tempting passers-by with tasty local products, and tribal Iban boys and girls showing off their traditional clothes with a touch of pride.
But above all, the day after the notes of the 25th Rainforest World Music Festival will start to be heard in the air for an event that is back in the post-pandemic era with a new hybrid format. That’s how the artistic director of the Rainforest World Music Festival, Mr. Randy Raine-Reusch, 70-year-old Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist with a particular passion for traditional Southeast Asian musical instruments, defined it at the the inaugural press conference.
Hybrid. Similar to cars that can work with two or more different types of fuel, a festival that has a traditional music brand in itself is projected towards the future. A future made up of performances in which some artists will physically attend, alternating with other artists being there only virtually in the form of a live video or a recorded performance that, based on set agreements, could be granted exclusively to the festival. A hybrid festival. That’s how this edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival will look like. And to those who object that in this way the meaning of a concert would be degraded, Mr. Randy calmly replies that in exchange we would have an absolutely unique and unrepeatable event.
A statement worthy of respect but questionable, especially since the Rainforest World Music Festival already proposes an element of absolute uniqueness through its workshops, which in my opinion represent the highest and most significant moments of the entire event, even higher than the concerts themselves. The performance of artists from all over the world, with different musical traditions and with similar instruments but with important differences between them (I am thinking for instance of the many varieties of flutes or stringed instruments not-so-close relatives of the guitar) will in fact meet together for an impromptu, unique and unrepeatable exhibition in these workshops where one cannot fail to be enchanted.
Just a few more hours and this ensemble of music, dances and songs will once again be the protagonist at the rainforest, and the performances of performers unknown to most, with the accompaniment of instruments that are often even unimaginable (have you ever heard of the ‘Nose Flute’?) will take us into a dimension out of our time, making us forget the pains that have afflicted and still afflict our world.
Let the party begin!