Rainforest World Music Festival 2009 @ Sarawak Cultural Village

We arrived on the first day at the festival prepared to take on anything with our survival kits. Masks – check, hand sanitiser – check, wet wipes -check, Vitamin C – check. But what we really needed for this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival was wellies.

Not that you would have known it. A stiflingly hot day greeted us as we made our way to Santubong from Kuching where we were put up in Damai Puri Resort and Spa. Upgrade! Literally 5 minutes away from the festival site by foot and by the beach - no complaints here.

But the heavens opened up regardless and as it was pouring down, we found the perfect excuse to warm ourselves up in a major drinking session of tuak and Heineken beforehand with friends from KL and Kuching alike. It was half way through the first night’s concert when we finally pried out way away from the bottle to find fewer food stalls to choose from and platforms erected especially for people to sit on. The latter we liked.

But with grub grabbed, we soon realised that a whole lot of people were sitting down and not a lot of them were geting down. The lineup was downtempo and there wasn’t a chance for us to shake it off – stupor, exhaustion, wet clothes, anything. On the upside, as we had had copious amounts to imbibe, the fun was ours to make. Oh and that late night ayam penyet – dope!

The next day’s concert was another lubricated affair, well oiled by an endless flow of Heineken, red wine, long island tea and one very weird mojito. Propping ourselves up at the bar with familiar face Adam Mathews of Zouk night #2 saw us retreat across the lake to watch the concert from afar as bumping into friends and making new ones became the centre of our activity – albeit it to a live world music soundtrack. Spotted were Arabyrd’s mum/manager Magie Abang Saufi, songstress Camelia, fashionista Jiman and a bunch of randoms.

Even when the last note rung out, the night continued a group of us picked our way to to the bidayuh house for more drinks, and music that can only be described politely as eclectic. Among the selection: remixes of the Chicken Little theme, Pussycat Dolls’ ‘Don’t Cha’ and even Crazy Frog. But in the spirit of letting loose we endevoured and took it all the way until the end. The things we do for a story eh….

The following morning, lo and behold, we miraculously woke up with our heads still intact. Must be that mountain air. It was the last night. Tonight the crowd had thinned out in comparison with previous evenings, but like those that had pitched themselves in front of the stage we were ready to rock it up and spent the entire time on the concert ground. Thank the rain gods too. They must have looked upon us favourably, as we avoided another mudfest.

The night started with Malaysia’s Akasha who were by far one of the event’s highlights and blew us away with their timely rework of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ set against their trademark backdrop of Indian fusion music. We felt goosebumps! And being in the thick of it made all the difference.  Of course the endless Heinekens helped. Easy.

If there were bugbears, it was this. While we get the concept of commercial sustainability, the heavy handed XPax branding was a put off and proved a major conversation point particularly amongst the repeat RWMF goers. Such details surely didn’t sit well, particularly for an event better known for its simple pared down back to nature quality and its warmth and cameraderie. Along with the down-sized food stalls, this is a point to note. Other than that, it was win for the ayam penyet rice and satay. And after all, it’s the energy that we go for.

Despite it’s years, RWMF is still as fresh as ever. Our verdict of 2009’s RWMF – not bad at all.

Rainforest World Music Festival 2009 was held at Sarawak Cultural Village on 10 – 12 July. Thanks to Heineken for the hospitality. Check out www.heineken.com.my and www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com for more. Pics to peruse in the Gallery.