African acts jet into Borneo for Rainforest World Music Festival

This year’s Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) takes place from 7 to 9 August in Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. As is the case every year, the festival’s organisers know that the event would not be complete without music from Africa!

Ndima from Congo-Brazzaville. Photo:
Ndima from Congo-Brazzaville. Photo:

This year the festival will host Gambian kora star Sona Jobarteh and Ndima representing the Aka Pygmies of Congo-Brazzaville, as well as North African artists Bargou 08 (Tunisia) and Driss El Maloumi (Morocco).

Jobarteh from Gambia is considered a modern pioneer rebelling against the male-dominated tradition of father and son playing an instrument that is exclusively designated for men. The kora is a 21-stringed African harp and one of the main musical instruments of the Manding people of Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Traditionally it can only be played by male members of West African families, thus making Sona an exception for being the first woman in her family to break the ancestral line of playing this sacred musical instrument. The artist has also developed her singing ability, which featured in the 2014 Hollywood blockbuster Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. She also composed the score to the multi-award winning 2010 documentary The Motherland and released her album Fasiya in 2011.

Ndima will present the Aka Pygmies’ own brand of traditional African music, giving the audience a glimpse into their unique, endangered culture. This nomadic tribe that lives in the forests of Africa (particularly in Baka, Bambuti, Batwa, Babongo, Efé and nearby regions) can be easily recognised by their physical stature. Music plays an important role in the life of the Aka Pygmies, with songs dedicated to the spirits of the forest and events associated with their surroundings. The characteristics of Aka Pygmy music are complex and interspersed with the ‘jodel’, which is described as the change between the “voice of the head and of the breast”. Their complex and varied rhythms are supported by traditional Pygmy dances, further evidence of the rich culture of this endangered tribe.

The RWMF is a unique festival that brings together on the same stage renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interiors of the island of Borneo. Other than live performances, the three-day festival will host exciting workshops and lectures on various aspects of world music and dance from all over the world, including the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. The festival’s formula of afternoon workshops, lectures and jam sessions followed by evening performances on the main stage has proven to be a hit with audiences, who come from near and far. The festival also sells a variety of arts and crafts, festival memorabilia, CDs of the performing artists, as well as food and drink, all ensuring a great time in the heart of the Borneo jungle. For more information visit the RWMF website.


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