Culture, Nature, Social Enterprise at Rainforest World Music Festival 2016

From recycling to upcycling, Sarawak's headliner Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 showed its commitment to lower environmental impacts while staging higher musical and social impacts on fans. Mallika Naguran hangs out at Santubong to bask in the festivity and deliver this report.

Santubong, 12 August 2016. Instead of getting a permanent or temporary Borneo tattoo like most fun-loving festival goers would, I bought a unique bag at the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) - a three-day workshop-rhythm-concert extravaganza that brings together renowned world musicians to Sarawak.

 Malaysian social enterprise Biji Biji debuts at RWMF 2016

Malaysian social enterprise Biji Biji debuts at RWMF 2016

Designed as a tough pouch, the Biji Biji handcrafted product is made out of car seat belts. It was a perfect substitute for a camera case, which I lost at the event. Other Biji Biji brand upcycled bags that caught my eye were designed for an elegant evening out. Tempted as I was to walk away with those as well, alas… I had to reserve some ringgit for the delicious Sarawakian ayam bungsu and other local delights and crafts being sold at the festival ground!

I was pleased to see Malaysian social enterprises such as Biji Biji participating at this music festival.

Sarawakian Culture Under Spotlight

Giving booth space to local craftsmen and social entrepreneurs at the Sarawak Cultural Village is just one of the many “go local” initiatives of the festival organizers, Sarawak Tourism Board. Jewellery with cultural motifs, woven bags, art and craft could be found displayed and available for purchase at the various Sarawakian ethnic longhouses.

 Sape maestro Matthew Ngau and business partner displayed exotic Sarawakian designs on tree bark and sape instruments

Sape maestro Matthew Ngau and business partner displayed exotic Sarawakian designs on tree bark and sape instruments

Master sape player Matthew Ngau Jau displayed his handmade sape instruments while his business partner displayed her painting on tree bark. Sale of the smaller paintings did better than the big ones, I was told, and I placed an order for a custom sape to be made for me and to be shipped to Singapore.

Having announced that it would “green the festival” five years ago, Sarawak Tourism Board started tree planting that soon became a yearly affair. The Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 got musicians and media to plant mangrove saplings at Kuching Wetlands National Park., which needs a lot more tree cover and here's why.

The board has moved on from mere tree planting to address other issues such as carbon emissions and waste.

New Measures to Tackle Waste

This year, the organizers of Rainforest World Music Festival introduced new measures to mitigate the possible environmental impacts caused by the expected 20,000 visitors over three days. After all, Borneo’s famous world music festival takes place within the forested area of Santubong and by the South China Sea - two areas with different ecosystems and natural habitats.

 Recycle bins make their appearance at the 19th year of Rainforest World Music Festival

Recycle bins make their appearance at the 19th year of Rainforest World Music Festival

 Food waste composted at RWMF

Food waste composted at RWMF

A new initiative seen was the dealing of waste at the festival grounds - a first after 19 years of event management. The waste management involved the sorting of solid waste types and provision of bins for food waste and recyclables.

A private company collected the bins and took them away daily for sorting and processing. They collected the food waste with the intention of turning it into compost that will later serve as agricultural fertiliser.

“In addition to tree planting, we ensure the use of eco-friendly utensils at the village mart and the use of bio-fuelled buses to reduce carbon emissions during shuttle services,” said Angelina Bateman, director of corporate services with Sarawak Tourism Board.

Tree Planting and Doodling

A mangrove planting event kick-started the Rainforest World Music Festival at the ecologically sensitive Kuching Wetlands National Park. The Ramsar Site in Sarawak was a hit with musicians, and a number of them said they had not been to a music festival anywhere in the world that also organised tree planting.

To mirror the real thing, still images of trees were drawn on the doodle board that was installed at the festival grounds. Called the Tree of Life, the board allowed musicians and festival goers express their thoughts on nature using the art medium.

 The Tree of Life at Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 allowed free flow of creative expression

The Tree of Life at Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 allowed free flow of creative expression

On the spot, people got busy sketching and colouring. Coluring pens sold at the premises helped raise funds for charity.

 Reading, not just rhythm, entertained children at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2016

Reading, not just rhythm, entertained children at the Rainforest World Music Festival 2016

Festival goers also enjoyed the children music workshops, book reading sessions and talks by Friends of Sarawak Museum.

“All of this goes to creating a green brand for the Rainforest World Music Festival,” Bateman added.

The Rainforest World Music Festival is a flagship cultural tourism event for Sarawak, that sees economic spin off benefits hovering at around RM35 million.

It is understood that the organizers did not incur any additional expense with the new greening activities due to partnerships with private companies such as Petronas and non-governmental organizations.

Photos by Malilka Naguran and Sarawak Tourism Board.

About the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF)

The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) brings together renowned world music artistes from around the world including indigenous musicians from the heart of Borneo. Since 1997, the festival has entertained thousands with unique world music sounds, rhythm and dance from around the world.

Next year’s Rainforest World Music Festival will turn 20 and it will take place from Friday 14 July to Sunday 16 July. If you have not been to the festival, well don’t wait. Make a note to go to next year's event and start exploring Sarawak’s many beautiful eco-tourism destinations, which you can visit before or after the festival.