Natural Foods vs GMOs & Health at Ubud Food Festival

Food source and its impacts are as important as using consumer power to influence food ethics. Such views make up the political hot potatoes at Ubud Food Festival 2017, reports Kayti Denham for Gaia Discovery.

Bali, 15 June 2017. This year’s Ubud Food Festival, delicious as always, entertaining as ever, had an underlying current to it that was as pervading as that secret ingredient that chefs never share. In surprising and unsurprising ways, things were getting political.

Diana Von Cranach is a well-known face on the Bali food circuit, with her beautiful Northern Bali retreat Puri Ganesha Villas, her pioneering of raw food rijsttafels and her vision and provision of rawfoods and indigenous spices. Known as one of the island’s colourful and kind eccentrics, she brings a flash of beauty and laughter to any gathering and smiles abound. As it was with the panel The Language of Spices, accompanied by three other presenters, Helianti Hilman, Manjunath Mural and Arif Springs their discussion on the history of the Spice Trade was fascinating, what made it more so was Diana’s dire warning at the end.

The act of eating is very political. You buy from the right people, you support the right network of farmers and suppliers who care about the land and what they put in the food.
— Alice Waters - food crusader and activist

In a clear voice, she implored the audience to support the diversity of natural foods by signing up to Sum of Us – a popular public advocacy network to protest the Monsanto’s acquisition by the giant corporation Bayer. Monsanto has already wreaked havoc with its product Round Up and this latest merger could see the unregulated use of pesticides in the mega production of genetically engineered crops. Diana warned that if we do not act now, the ability to access natural foods, food produced without some form of interference will be greatly diminished. In a world where many struggle to survive the idea of ever available, viable crops may seem like a dream come true, the reality is that it has a far, far darker side.

Handcrafted cheeses with local flavours such as durian at the Ubud Food Festival 2017

Handcrafted cheeses with local flavours such as durian at the Ubud Food Festival 2017

That side was presented by Tri Sutrisna, an emerging star of last year’s festival, in Artisanal vs Artificial an interactive tasting workshop that highlighted the work of his Balinese farming cooperative Wanaprasta. This cooperative now represents hundreds of Balinese farmers and produces fine charcuterie and cheese products using traditional and creative applications of process ( including his amazing durian cured cheeses!! ) and pitted these productsagainst the ‘commonly found’ supermarket products.

Tri Sutrisna shares the spirit of farming and healthy food movement in the cooperative Wanaprasta of Bali.

Tri Sutrisna shares the spirit of farming and healthy food movement in the cooperative Wanaprasta of Bali.

The workshop began with a presentation on the production methods that began benignly enough, yes, we understand that a chicken that lives in the open air is going to have a better life than one in a coop, but what was revealed is not just that your average chicken for consumption is cooped up, it is also dosed to its blind eyeballs on drugs, pumped with chemicals and contained in a way that is cruelty in the extreme.

The list of ingredients that go into chickens, pigs and cows developed for meat is scary. Never mind the antibiotics, think for a moment about the chlorine baths and the bleaches to make that meat smooth and e.coli free and then imagine this, supermarket seafood is being fattened by the use of a suspected neurotoxin Sodium tripolyphosphate. It got a little mind boggling so it was something of a relief when Tri turned to the practical aspect of his presentation and invited us to try for ourselves the obvious benefits of eating well-cared-for life stock and naturally processed cheeses.

It was not strange that by this time no one was helping themselves to the alternatives of frankfurters, bacon and chicken nuggets that Tri had brought along to offer in contrast.

Politics of another nature was also in the air when Dylan Jones of Bo.Lan spoke to Gaia Discovery of the much-protested recent decision of the Thai Government to clean up the street food stalls of Bangkok’s inner city. Dylan had caused a little controversy in his adopted home city when his comments in the press were interpreted to be going against the fandom that surrounds the ubiquitous trade in street cuisine. Rather than being against it, he implied, that with regulation street food could be better, healthier and yes, while street food is a huge part of Thai daily life, shouldn’t it at least have the opportunity to be a healthier part, a cleaner part and more nutritious part?

Dylan explained that many of the ‘street food vendors’ are no longer actually making their food, rather they are buying it bulk, prepared from larger ‘wholesalers’ , cutting corners on costs to keep prices down and taking the quality down with them. This was cause for reflection what if by protesting the regulation of street food entire cities are being surreptitiously fed horrendous amounts of unregulated drugs and chemicals by a power crazed despotic leader - and that kickstarted a bleak dystopia where citizens become zombies without a voice, mute and unprotesting leading meagre lives of unclear meaning in urbanised industrial estates providing only the means for others to gain power, wealth and global dominance.

A nightmare of gargantuan proportions loomed, so to better the view a visit to the cocktail class was in order. And there under the stage lights was the most charming, non-verbal political protest of all. The young men of Locavore’s Night Rooster were wearing especially made t-shirts that noted their support of the recently jailed Governor of Jakarta.

Solidarity is in the kitchen… thank you Ubud Food Festival!

About the Ubud Food Festival

Founded in 2015, the Ubud Food Festival is a three-day culinary adventure that celebrates the archipelago’s rich culinary heritage and the entire spectrum of its food industry, from farmers and producers to world-class chefs and restaurants.

Ubud Food Festival is a major annual project of the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, with a vision of enriching the lives of Indonesians through community-building and cultural programmes.

Photos by Kayti Denham.

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How Sarawak Reforestation Gets a Boost From Musicians

Mallika Naguran represented Gaia Discovery in joining Rainforest World Music Festival musicians at planting new mangroves at the ecologically-sensitive Kuching Wetland National Park that has a sad history.

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

From recycling to upcycling, 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 the event to bask in the festivity and deliver this report.

Highlights of Rainforest World Music Festival 2016

From kiddy workshops, traditional crafts, spontaneous music workshops to energetic stage performances by international artistes - here are a few highlights of the one and only Rainforest World Music Festival 2016. By Mallika Naguran

Singapore 7 July 2016. The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) brings together renowned world music artistes from around the world including indigenous musicians from the heart of Borneo. The all-day-long festival for all ages takes place this year from Friday 5 August to Sunday 7 August 2016 at the Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong. Kuching, Sarawak.

The acclaimed Cimarron from Colombia will get you dancing with its rippling "joropo"!

The acclaimed Cimarron from Colombia will get you dancing with its rippling "joropo"!

This year’s acts include bands such as Shanren from China, Auli from Latvia, Torgeir Vassvik from Norway, Chouk Bwa Libete from Haiti, Cimarron from Colombia, Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band from Ghana and many more.

A must watch gig would be Violons Barbares, which brings together a rare mix of traditions from Mongolia, Bulgaria and France. Look out for Dandarvaaching Enkhjargal on the morin khoor and jaw dropping overtone singing!

RWMF is most loved for its fun formula of interactive workshops, ethno-musical jamming sessions and mini concerts in the afternoon… prior to the actual show itself at night. To loyal fans of RWMF, the afternoon sessions are most entertaining, often making it the highlight of the festival itself.

Local and international food and drink can be purchased at the festival grounds. There will also be an arts and crafts area - get a temporary tattoo there! Buy festival memorabilia, Sarawak souvenirs and CDs by the performing artists. 

Rare chance to hear rare voices and blends of traditions at RWMF, especially with Violons Barbares.

Rare chance to hear rare voices and blends of traditions at RWMF, especially with Violons Barbares.

So yes, we are talking about festivity and feasts at the Sarawak Cultural Village from afternoon to past midnight. So bring lots of cash - Malaysian ringgit of course, although credit/debit cards may be accepted by certain merchants.

Something for Mom & Dad… and the Kids

There will also be fringe events to highlight Sarawak culture namely the Rainforest World Craft Bazaar and the Food and Village Mart, where one can purchase the local arts, crafts and cuisine of Borneo, as well as the Borneo Tattoo Expo at Damai Central, where one can see the traditional tribal tattoos of the indigenous tribes of Sarawak.

Look out for Pustaka Bookaroo, an event which combines music, stories and crafts from around the world for children aged between seven and 12.

RWMF Gets Bigger on Local Sounds

This year at the RWMF, eight Malaysian groups will share the stage with 26 international artistes.

Alena Murang sings as she plays the sape bringing the oral tradition of the Kenyah and Kelabit people from Ulu Baram alive.

Alena Murang sings as she plays the sape bringing the oral tradition of the Kenyah and Kelabit people from Ulu Baram alive.

Five artistes and groups from Sarawak will be featured, including sape maestros Alena Murang and Mathew Ngau Jau, Gendang Melayu Sri Buana, Thunder Beats of Nanyang Wushu Drums, as well as a performers from the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Two bands from Peninsular Malaysia, and the Unique Arts Academy and the Band Girls of Sabah State Cultural Board will also take the stage.

“We are proud to provide a stage for our own talented performers to shine, showing that we too have leaders and groundbreakers in World Music as a genre.” says Angelina Patricia Bateman, Director of Corporate Communications, Sarawak Tourism Board and Project Director of the festival.

Local and international treats await you at this year's most unique Rainforest World Music Festival. Don't delay anymore - plan your trip today.

Visit the Official Website for more information:

Visit RWMF Facebook

How to get your tickest for RWMF?

Practical tips for festival goers at RWMF

Threatened dialects revived at RWMF

Borneo Jazz 2016 Artiste Lineup in Miri, Sarawak

Mallika Naguran begins the countdown to Southeast Asia's acclaimed jazz festival - Borneo Jazz!

Singapore, 4 May 2016. In less than a week, you'll be grooving the night way to the sounds of jazz, funk, blues and more - if you can head towards a small and sleepy town of Sarawak!

Award winning Yuichiro Tokuda RALYZZDIG from Japan brings us modern jazz.

Award winning Yuichiro Tokuda RALYZZDIG from Japan brings us modern jazz.

In its 11th year, Miri awakens to celebrate the Borneo Jazz Festival 2016 with a top line-up of entertaining performances from the US, Belgium, Spain, Cuba right through to Singapore.

Year after year, Borneo Jazz picks up steam, pluck and nerve to give us earnest, raw, and some mind-blowing sounds to a polished finish!

A dance session with DJ sets ensures that fun and partying continues well through the night!

The two-day festival will be staged from Friday, May 13 until Saturday, May 14 at the breezy seafront garden of ParkCity Everly Hotel. Bring your picnic mats and get ready for two nights of non-stop action by the following bands:

Yuichiro Tokuda RALYZZDIG from Japan

Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion from Germany/Cuba

Raw Earth from Singapore

Expect some mean jazz, groove, funk and afro-beat from Manou Gallo.Manou Gallo Groove Orchestra from Belgium/Ivory Coast

Expect some mean jazz, groove, funk and afro-beat from Manou Gallo.Manou Gallo Groove Orchestra from Belgium/Ivory Coast

O Sister! from Spain

Funkatorie from Malaysia

A.P.I from Malaysia/India 

The Rad Trads from New York, USA

Watch trailers and read about Borneo Jazz 2016 bands and artistes here.

Tickets are available at pre-sale prices with adult passes selling at RM80.00 for a one-day pass and RM140.00 for a two-day pass.  For children ages between seven to 12 years, ticket is priced at RM40.00 for the one-day pass and RM60.00 for the two-day pass.  

Family package is also available, with two adult passes and two child passes for RM160.00.

Pre-sale tickets can be purchased online at the festival’s website at until May 12. You can also grab tickets at the door! The festival ground will have lots of food and drink, a number of local flavours and goodies, so it is all good fun.

The event is organized by the Sarawak Tourism Board, endorsed by Tourism Malaysia and is jointly supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism, Sarawak.

Borneo Jazz Festival was formerly called the Miri International Jazz Festival.

Nature Tribute at Rainforest World Music Festival 2015

Nature lovers can look forward to songs being sung and music being played that are dedicated to elements of nature. How apt, since the setting is by the rainforest of Santubong in Sarawak.

Rainforest World Music Festival 2015 Brings Memories

The 18th edition of the festival on the weekend of 7th to 9th of August 2015 will be set among lush forest greenery, crowned by the lofty Mount Santubong.

Borneo Jazz 2014: Hey Mr DJ

Malaysia's DJ Roundhead of TraxxFM will put a record on (or two) for nightbirds starting from midnight. Mallika Naguran reports.

Singapore, 2014. Wanna dance with your baby? Head to Miri for Borneo Jazz 2014. DJ Roundhead comes on right after the jazzy nightly performances on Friday 9 May and Saturday 10 May. The 9thedition of Borneo Jazz will dedicate a special DJ slot after the main stage show each night held at the Pavilion, Parkcity Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak.

DJ Roundhead stirs up action at Borneo Jazz 2014

Festival goers get in for free. Non-festival goers pay RM10 to get in to the clubset. 

Who is DJ Roundhead? He was dubbed  ‘Malaysia DJ Champion’ three years in a row when he entered the Malaysian DJ Championship competition from 1995-1997. He represented Malaysia in the Rotterdam Love Parade in the Netherlands and served as DJ residency in Melbourne, Australia for a year.  Roundhead was the producer, composer and the song writer for Malaysia’s very first techno group Asian Tech for Sony Music Malaysia in 1994. 

Eight great gigs from around the world will hit the town of Miri during Borneo Jazz 2014. Borneo Jazz 2014 Tickets are still available online for early birds: RM 50 - one night, RM95 - two nights. Doorsale price: Adult RM70 - one night, RM130 - two nights.

Read about Borneo Jazz 2014 on Gaia Discovery here. Check out DJ Roundhead on FB.

Borneo Jazz 2014 Lineup

By Mallika Naguran

Singapore, 18 January 2014. Jazz lovers listen up. Borneo Jazz in Miri, Sarawak will be held from the 9-10 of May 2014 and will feature the following:

Iriao, an eight-piece ethno-jazz band from Georgia. Iriao’s repertoire is based on Georgian authentic folk instrumental and polyphonic music, which has been recognized by UNESCO as being a masterpiece of oral heritage. The unique polyphonic Georgian music will have jazzy overtones. 

Vocal Sampling, an all-male a cappella musical group from Cuba with the album “Cambio de Tiempo” nominated for 3 Latin Grammy Awards.

Brassballett from Germany – the first and only show worldwide where musicians are dancers at the same time. They will perform a choreographed show on stage whilst playing their instruments,

Mario Canonge – a great virtuoso and showman playing creole jazz with West indies rhythms from Martinique/France

YK Band from Indonesia who will feature Jazz with hints of Borneo flavour

Anthony Strong – hailed as “England’s new jazz superstar" from UK. He beat Gregory Porter, Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr. to become No 1 on the iTunes and No 2 on the jazz charts in the USA.  

From the local scene we have Diana Liu, the Sarawakian born artist who plays pop, jazz, bossa nova, gospel and funk/soul and who will represent Malaysia/USA/Taiwan. Lewis Pragasam will be on drums.

Entry tickets will be on sale starting on the last week of January 2014. For promotional offers and discounts as well as further information on the festival please log on to Updates also available via STB’s Twitter account @SarawakTravel and Facebook at Sarawak Travel.

This annual event is organized by Sarawak Tourism Board, supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and endorsed by Tourism Malaysia. This is in line with year of ‘double celebration’, the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY 2014) and Visit Sarawak Year 2014.

Clean and Green Singapore 2014 Theme Song

lean and Green Singapore 2014 has a new theme song. "Mother Nature's Cry" has been chosen to reflect the thrusts of environmental protection and care for nature by the National Environment Agency in Singapore. It is the winning entry of the Eco Music Challenge 2013.

Sarawak Asia Music Festival 2013

Asia Music Festival will feature musicians from India, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia that will perform over the 2-day festival

MIRI, Thursday – Asia Music Festival, another celebration of music is set to take centre stage in Miri, Sarawak this coming October with almost full line-up for the said event already confirmed.

The whole host of electrifying eclectic mix of live music will spread over two days.

The event will run from 4-5 October at Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club, 5km from Miri city centre.

Dato Rashid Khan - CEO Sarawak Tourism Board

The event is set to become another iconic music festival for Sarawak after the success of Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) held in Kuching city and Borneo Jazz held in Miri. Sarawak Tourism Board will bring together several key musicians from India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Brunei as well as Malaysia to this inaugural event.

“This is another event the Board has created to attract visitors to the resort city of Miri. With this we hope that visitors from our neighbouring countries, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and our fellow Malaysians will come for 2 days of fun and music.” said Dato’ Rashid Khan, CEO, Sarawak Tourism Board.

The Board looks forward to introduce this new event with its objective of attracting the Asian expatriate community working in neighbouring country like Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and the region to come and celebrate the music while visiting the destination. The atmosphere is planned to be that of a carnival as apart from the night shows, there will also be a fun event starting in the afternoon with lots of food, fun and games.

The Board is also proud to continue its successful internship and volunteer program, which was initiated in past events like the Rainforest World Music Festival. Through this program, the Board will provide a unique learning experience for the volunteers and interns whilst at the same time being exposed to the product experiences of Sarawak’s culture, nature and adventure.

STB will also continue to collaborate with Universities and Colleges as part of an industry advisory platform and to undertake this initiative as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

Asia Music Festival promises an extraordinary weekend of fun, music and more, within the greeneries and fresh air of the countryside at the brand new musical venue, Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club. “This is an inspiring opportunity for everyone to come together and experience the adventure of yet another music festival” reiterated Dato’ Rashid Khan.

Mixture of live music will be featured throughout two days event and will include a mix-genre of music from national, regional and local talent. The initial line-up of performers initiated by Sarawak Tourism Board includes Antoney Dassan Yen Party (India), The Foxy Girls (Indonesia), Bembol Rockers (Philippines), V.Star Band (Korea), Boy Thai Band (Thailand), Soesah Tidoer (Indonesia), Fakhrul Razi (Brunei) and several Malaysian bands.

Based on the success of the Rainforest World Music Festival and the Borneo Jazz, Sarawak Tourism Board is confident that the inaugural Asia Music Festival will thrill the crowds when it makes its debut next month.

Entry tickets are priced at RM30 for adults and RM15 for children/students aged 3-18 (ID required during entry).

Tickets available from all STB’s office and Visitors Information Centre located at Old Court House, Kuching (+6 082-423600), Jalan Melayu, Miri (+6 085-434180) and Jalan Tukang Besi, Sibu (+6 084-340980) from Monday September 9th.

For enquiries, contact Sarawak Tourism Board at or +6 082-239171  or log on to and for more updates.

Beto Jamaica Rey Vallenato in Rainforest World Music Festival

Sarawak’s top musical event, the Rainforest World Music Festival 2013, featured Colombian folklore music performed by accordianist Alberto (Beto) Jamaica and Vallenato ensemble. An exclusive by Mallika Naguran.

Review of Rainforest World Music Festival 2013

Mallika Naguran checks in to Sarawak to check out the region's popular world music festival.

Kuching, 1 July 2013. The 16th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Santubong, Sarawak was a highlight in Asia's world music calendar. As before, the organisers Sarawak Tourism Board and artistic director Yeoh Jun Lin brought in mega international acts to perform alongside lesser known ones – striking varied rhythms to unleash vibrations of energy – from meditational low to fever pitch high. Festival-goers of nearly 20,000 over three days lapped it all up, 80 percent of which were mostly from West Malaysia and beyond, according to Angeline Bateman, communications director of Sarawak Tourism Board.

Sarawak native chanting for blessing

Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble

Australian native gig Nunukul Yug

This year, RWMF 2013 showcased great acts from the corners of the world. Literally! Australian aboriginals Nunukul Yug; Ukrainian Spiritual Seasons; Habadekuk from Denmark; Kila from Ireland; Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble; Kries from Croatia; Alp Bora from Turkey; Pine Leaf Boys from Lousiana; Chet Nuneta from France; Mohsen Sharifian & The Lian Band from Iran; Rey Vallenato Beto Jamaica from Colombia; and Palsandae from Korea.

Nunukul Yug

On the home front were heritage showcases of culture set to music. The audience loved the local Borneo and Southeast Asian acts for their authenticity. From Sarawak, we had Maya Green, Gema SLDN-SCV, Lan E Tuyang (led by Matthew Ngau Jau) and Madeeh (featuring Arthur Borman “Bai Kas” Kanying). Malaysian Rhythm in Bronze gave uplifting gamelan and gong sounds, a pleasure to watch and listen to. Rafly Wa Saja crunched the spiritual nuances of Acehnese folk with groovy vocals using scat technique improvisation.

Australian aboriginals Nunukul Yuggera commanded attention with their narrative styled acts relating stories close to the heart of the people. There were adulations of dolphins for their role in saving mankind. There were calls made to the spirits for the protection of earth. There was a live demonstration of the art of making fire from sticks and hay. Yes, the way things used to be back in the good old days before the invasion of electric stoves and microwave ovens!

High-energy performances by Kila and Habadekuk stole the limelight, got audiences raving and dancing on their feet, while Colombians sent Latino-styled currents to the crowd but with authentic Cumbia and Vallenato performances. Alberto “Beto” Jamaica had a few years ago gotten a name for being the best accordionist in Bogota for Vallenato style music, pitting against 100 others to clinch the first position. Indeed, the Latino Vallenato folk compositions were among the highlights of the evening.


While smoothly run most of the time, the festival programming seemed halting with Sarawakian performances coming on in between with bigger sounding acts. The music revelers that had their hands high and feet thumping before suddenly stood still to soak in meditational sequences and chants. From the programming perspective, this might have been deliberate, to try to inject some variety, alternating the pace for some relief. For some, it was time to visit the loo and grab the beer, passing over the rather pricey wine at RM18 for a puny glass. 

Korean Palsandae

Kries from Croatia was beautifully dark, haunting and gothic, but not quite the right band to slot in as the night’s anchor. Prior to it was Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble - the pride of South Africans.  Once again, as in most world music gigs, the Africans delivered!  There were every minute mesmerizing, culturally engaging, danceable and melodioius with amazing vocal harmonies. The call to remember ailing Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black President and all that he brought to South Africa was touching. After all what is world music if there aren’t any activist rejoinders? 

But there’s only so much that one can write about music. To appreciate these musicians, you’ll have to buy their CDs and listen to their tracks. Hook up with their vids online, or watch this space for Gaia Discovery video posts. Better still, be there in Sarawak next year to enjoy some wonderful world music, actually among the best in this region, and that can only happen at the Rainforest!

Photography by Mallika Naguran and Sarawak Tourism Board.

Read Gaia Discovery's article on Chet Nuneta's reasons for singing in disappearing languages.

Rainforest World Music Festival: Chet Nuneta Saves Dying Dialects

Chet Nuneta from France dares conventions, braves norms and crosses international borders in oral music, delivering powerful vocal polyphonies backed by polyrhythms in many languages of the world. Their style is inimitable as it is definition defying. Their mission is not just to make unforgettable show stopping music but also to relive endangered dialects, forgotten sounds in distinct melodies sung simultaneously. Mallika Naguran gets to the heart of the matter with an exclusive chat with Chet Nuneta at the 16th edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival in Santubong, Sarawak.

Penang World Music Keeps Folklore and Traditions Alive

What does it take to keep world music alive? Mallika Naguran checks in with world musicians at the Penang World Music Festival 2013 from Iran, Portugal, Brazil, Bali, Malaysia and Latin America, just to list a few, to find out.