People Who Are Addicted To Music
The international summer festival circuit is full of contenders, celebrating cultures and subcultures while hustling for global vacation dollars. For musicians, festivals mean exposure, a paycheck and a rolling party of peers. For communities, they’re a revenue engine and self-promotion platform. For music-hungry fans, they’re vacation anchors, or vacations unto themselves.
The menu has exploded in recent years, from veteran post-Woodstock pop feasts like Glastonbury and Roskilde to more specialized events like Sonar (highbrow EDM) and Kill-Town Death Fest (metal, duh) to more ethnically-minded gatherings like Finland’s Kaustinen Folk Festival, which look to advance regional culture. The Rainforest World Music Festival, staged spectacularly between a beach and a rainforest mountain peak in the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, is an object lesson in the latter. The 16th annual event, which concluded its three-day run on the last day of June, showed how a region can use a festival to grow its local music scene and tourism industry, while also raising consciousness — along with, in this case, some uncomfortable questions — about its environmental stewardship.
A nominally Muslim country defined by a mix of Chinese, Indian and native cultures and the warmth of its people, Malaysia has always had a bit of an image problem. At one time it was local tribal headhunting practices; more recently it’s been political unrest in Sabah and a checkered environmental scorecard. In part, perhaps, to help counter this, a group of international concert promoters and journalists were brought in for a world music business conference and expo in nearby Kuching prior to the festival. [Full disclosure: I was among the journalists invited to speak.]
by will hermes