Looking back on the past year of festivals
I MAY BE BIASED, but I believe Kuching is the best city in the world to live in. It may not have tall sophisticated buildings, widespread internet usage or a great public transportation system but it has its charms and flaws that I find endearing.
While the people and the rich culture make Kuching as unique as it is, the festivals make the city fun, lively and vibrant.
It may be the start of a new year, but let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the festive highlights in 2014 in Sarawak.
1. Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2014
From the gentle melodic sound of the sape from our local musicians to hauntingly beautiful music of the Ukraine quartet,Dakha Brakha, the 17th edition of Kuching most celebrated festival, RWMF again managed to attract music-lovers from all around the world for the event that featured 22 international and local performances and 27 workshops from June 20th till 22nd.
Besides the highly anticipated night performance, among the other highlight of RWMF were the workshops where different cultures and music knowledge were shared with festive goers.
The annual events was definitely something to look forward gain in the upcoming year as each band gave a spectacular performance with their own unique style of music to represent their culture, origin and country.
2. Borneo World Music Expo (BMWE)
If it is one thing that can bring people from different cultures and background together, it is good music.
Held at Hilton Kuching, the BMWE provided good exposure for members of the public to get to know the musical background of local as well as international musicians who represent their own cultural background.
Among those performing at the musical event was family band ‘Geng Wak Long’, a Kelantanese musical act, the Barmer Boys from India, Ding Yi Music Company from Singapore and Manjalin Raso from Indonesia.
Organised over the course of three days, according to Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan, the expo seeks to be the market place where professionals come to present their services or to hire.
BWME was designed as a prelude to Sarawak’s iconic music festival – the RWMF.
3. World Harvest Festival (WHF)
With the Bidayuh culture as the theme for WHF 2014, an ethnic theme festival which is a local highlight prior to the Gawai Dayak celebration held in June, aside from organising a beauty pageant, the festival also organised an Ironman competition with 15 finalists competing for the champion title.
While 12 beautiful finalists competing to be crowned as the next Miss WHF, in the end it was Stephani Johari of Iban parentage from Kapit who took the title.
Organised annually, the cultural festival is anticipating who will be crowned the next Miss WHF 2015.
4. Blue Lake Festival
Held on August 23rd and 24th, the ‘jong’ competition was held near the Blue Lake for the Blue Lake Festival at the calm and peaceful town of Bau known to be a gold mining area in the 1840s.
According to Bau District Officer, Inting Nyami, the word ‘jong’ comes from the design of the Chinese race boat which depends on the strength of the wind to move. Aside from that, the competition was closely related to the migration of the Chinese community from China to Bau to work using sail boats as gold miners during the 1800s.
First organised during the British colonial era, the first ‘jong’ competition was held on August 8th 1950 by A.J.N Richard who was the District Officer at that time.
For those who have never been to a ‘jong’ competition before, picture a rainbow of miniature boats with colourful sails floating across the deep bluish green water of the Blue Lake.
5. SSPCA WAG Concert
If you attended the World Animal Groove (WAG) Music Festival held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) on October 25th, then you would probably remember roaring with laughter at the comedy sketch by famous drag comedian Bibi Kpoh that night.
With her signature concept of ‘naughty but nice’ along with her trademark look (her tiara) she always wears during her shows, Bibi kept the crowds entertained and amused.
For three consecutive years, BCCK has collaborated with Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) on the WAG Festival dedicated to giving abandoned and abused animals a better home and raising awareness on animal welfare.
6. Regatta Festival
Held from September 4th until 7th 2014 at Kuching Waterfront, the regatta race has been a part of Sarawak history as the first race was held as early as 1872 during the reign of the first White Rajah, James Brooke to foster peace and ending tribal hostilities between warring tribes.
The 142nd edition of the four-day event attracted thousands of spectators to watch the highly anticipated regatta race which saw 500 international paddlers from Brunei Darussalam, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Macau and Malaysia taking part as well as other races such as the Brooke swim and a duck catching race
Organised annually, the race would sure to raise adrenaline and excitement among the spectators while watching the racing teams compete with each other to win the title of the next King of the River in which paddlers from Enraz Cahaya Zen won the King of the River title after beating 14 other boats during the Men’s 30 paddler category last year.
While all eyes may be diverted to the regatta race, the EATOF Food Fair organised by Absolute Tribal restaurant stole the limelight as it boasted a range of cuisine from Japan, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, and of course our local dishes.
7. Santubong Nature Festival
Do you know that just by installing Stellarium, a free open source of software it can show you a realistic night sky in 3D?
As part of the Santubong Nature Festival, Sultan Iskandar Planetarium (PSI) and Sarawak Astronomical Society (SAS) shared their interest in astronomy with the public by giving a talk at Permai Rainforest Resort.
With the aim to raise public awareness about the priceless natural and historical heritage (locally and globally) of Santubong Peninsula, the event was organised by Kuching branch of Malaysian Nature Society and Permai Rainforest Resort with support of Kuching City North Commisions (DBKU), Sarawak Museum and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
Among other activities were nature walk, talk on Santubong history and dolphin watching.
8. Kuching Festival Street Parade
For Kuchingites, the Kuching Festival Street Parade is something to look forward to where people from all walks of lives get to see the colourful and vibrant parade of cultural troupe, fancy costume, and marching bands.
While the street parade may have been the limelight of the festival, the typical Kuchingites being the foodies we are have their focus towards the food fair at the MBKS building and devoted their time on trying every single food at the fair.
Every year there’s one culinary star that brings people back for more, last year it was the ice cream served in a small plant pot.
Kuching Festival is the annual event to commemorate Kuching being elevated to city status on August 1988.
9. U Are The 1 (URD1) Youth Band Challenge
Organised by the 1BFF Pending Sports and Recreational Club, a platform that encourages the youth to think creatively, the URD1 Youth Band Challenge that was held on October 12th featured the battle of six bands to win the champion title at Padang Merdeka where in the end the band Cermin was announced the winner for the competition.
Aside from the band challenge, 1BFF Club had also organised a line-up of interesting and fun-filled youth activities and programmes for the U Are The 1 Youth Carnival 2014 at Padang Merdeka from October 8th till October 12th.
Among them were the Yoyo Ultimate Challenge and Defence of the Ancients (DOTA) 2 Challenge.
In addition to that, the youth club also organised the Imagine Retrowalk on October 11th along the Waterfront in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of backwards walking participants and also to raise funds for five charitable bodies: Sarawak Autistic Association, Hope Place, Sarawak Cancer Association, Habitat for Humanity and Peryatim.
10. Tattoo Expo
From November 28th until 30th, the Third Traditional Tattoo Expo organised by Monkey Studio and supported by OurYouth.my was held at Le Park featuring tattoo artists from all over the world with the aim of promoting Sarawakian traditional tattoos as a form of body art as well as to raise awareness towards the dying art of traditional tattooing.
For three days, tattoo lovers hovered around Le Park, Civic Center to feast their eyes on the exquisite art works of tattoo artist from Sweden, the Phillipines, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Holland and also Malaysia to name a few.
But, it was the traditional hand tapping technique that stole the limelight at the artful event. Among the tattoo artists present during the expo that still practices the traditional tattooing was local tattoo artist, Boy Skrang the founder of Skrang Tattoo Borneo who first got a taste of rendering hand-tapped tattoos from his grandfather about six years ago and Okayama-born tattoo artist, Hayashi Sousyu who does the traditional hand engraving technique called ‘tebori’ with his own tools.
Intriguing and fascinating, the artful event was sure to tempt just about anyone even those without tattoos to get one by the end of the expo.
This year, Sarawak’s going to be a major host to the 2015 Malaysia Year of Festivals (MyFest 2015).
Among the events which the state will host in conjunction with MyFest 2015 are the Asean International Films Festival and Awards/Aiffa (April), Mukah Kaul Festival (April), Borneo Jazz Festival (May), World Harvest Festival (May), Babulang and Bisaya Buffalo Racing Festival (June), Rainforest World Music Festival (July), Borneo Cultural Festival (August), Borneo International Kite Festival (September), Sarawak Regatta (September) and Sarawak International Dragon Boat Regatta (September).