Infectious beats got Aref Omar grooving to the rhythms in the jungle at the recent Rainforest World Music Festival
THE primal connection between pulsating beats and moving feet got the crowd of thousands who attended the 15th Rainforest Music Festival (RWMF) to shake some booty.
Some were more serious and got down with all-out dancing while the more sedate ones were content to bop their heads and tap their feet.
Those seated on the hilly fringes on either side of the festival's two stages clapped along as well. Bottom line, everyone was moving.
The annual three-day festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village, right next to picturesque Mt Santubong, saw slight spells of drizzles but the night concerts were dazzling under a starlit sky.
This year saw 17 acts from around the world with a euphoric mix of ethnic fusion that showcased the universality of music.
UK-based band from Congo, Kanda Bongo Man, gave the crowd something to dance to — the Kwasa Kwasa. By moving the hips back and forth with the hands following and some finger gestures, the popular Congolese dance was quite a hit with the women.
Others just moved to the sticky rhythms and drums of the Soukous music. Musical jungle fever was also present during Mamadou Diabate’s Percussion Mania set, where the crowd jigged to the West African beats and melodic rhythms of the balafon.
The group from Burkina Faso played ethnic strains tied to a modern band setting that provided a potent mix of new and old.
Oreka TX, featuring musicians from the Basque region of Spain, showcased the txalarpartas — an instrument made of long wooden and stone boards hit by two players.
Once almost extinct, the songs featured an exotic collaboration with musicians from India to Mongolia, which were displayed on a big screen behind the band.
Danyel Waro and his band from the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion performed the percussive-heavy Creole folk music of maloya.
Brazilian Amazonian Indian musicians of Raiz de Cafezal played an energetic set of Carimbo music, named after the traditional instrument made with tree trunks.
Local groups Diplomats Of Drum and Rhythm Of Borneo provided an energetic and infectious combination of beats, rhythms and melodies to excite the audience.
It was easy to see why Rhythm Of Borneo, made up of six young and enthusiastic musicians, was chosen as the winner of the RWMF 2011 Talent Search.
The youthful collective of Diplomats Of Drums displayed great showmanship too. The 13-member band lived up to the hype, having been voted three times as Best Live Act by MTV Asia and the Asian Musician Magazine.
Hata, a collaboration between musicians from Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and Malaysia, delivered an enchanting Eastern sound that alternated between moving tunes and upbeat rhythms with a feel good vibe throughout.
Local classical Indian musicians, sitar player Samuel J. Dass and tabla percussionist Prakash Kandasamy (the Malaysian component of Hata), also had a separate performance as a duo. Despite the virtuosity of their playing, the beguiling musical conversation between the two instruments seemed to soothe the spirits of the appreciative audience.
Another calming balm came in the form of the String Sisters, a project band featuring six accomplished female Celtic violinists from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and the US, backed by a funky male rhythm section.
On the rockier side of things was Czech Republic fusion group Cankisou, which performed a lively series of rock tunes spiced up with various ethnic elements and exotic instruments.
Its rotund lead singer, Karel Herman, was an imposing figure in his traditional garb and got the crowd to groove and sing along at certain moments to the band's tight sound with driving guitar chords and a punk-inspired attitude.
One of the highlights of the RWMF was the YouTube sensation-turned-US recording artiste, Zee Avi, who performed a mesmerising set with her band and guests percussionists.
Singing in English and Sarawakian Malay dialect, the petite Miri native performed songs from her two albums (the self-titled debut and Ghostbird) including Kantoi and Swell Window, as well as a traditional joget number.
Along the way she played the acoustic guitar, sapelele (combination of ukulele and sape) and even banged on a drum for Concrete Wall.
Some of the other acts that performed included Nading Rhapsody (Sarawak), La Zikabilo (France), Le Trio Joubran (Palestine), Khusugtun (Mongolia) and the various musicians from the Sarawak Cultural Village who performed cultural dances and traditional music.
As with previous editions of the RWMF, the afternoons saw a series of interesting workshops conducted by the various musicians to give festival goers an insight into the music, instruments and dances of the diverse cultures involved.