Reasons to Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak

As a first time attendee at the Rainforest world music festival 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a cultural world music scene. However, the music, ambiance, vibrancy and the lively crowds totally sold me on the RWMF in Kuching this year. So much so that I wanted to share the awesomeness of this event with all my readers.

This unique and interesting music festival brings indie musicians with their ‘rarely heard of’ indigenous instruments, from remote parts of Borneo and the world into the limelight. With performers from Cape Verde, Tahiti, Mongolia, Guinea, Spain, Hungary, China and more.. you can enjoy a world of cultural and musical experiences as well as interactive workshops, local cuisines and even souvenirs.

RWMF hashtag

Loved their hashtags all around Kuching and at the venue!

RWMF has been going on for 20 long years so they are obviously doing something right. With an attendance of over 20,000 music and festival lovers this year, it was bigger and better than ever before.

Its pretty apparent that I have not just one but seven reasons for you to visit this musical extravaganza so without further ado, here goes.

Why You Must Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival

Rainforest Ambiance

rainforest world music festival

Dancing in the rain at RWMF

Okay so this one is pretty self explanatory – the ambiance is seriously kick ass. Imagine this, a huge ground with water bodies, green paved paths – all leading to two full blown stages, which are surrounded by jungles!

Plus, it does rain in the rainforest and it did on two days during the festival. Everyone was ecstatic and dancing in the rain to the tunes of Sape, nose flutes and the likes. I have never seen a “cultural” festival to be so lively – I actually felt like I was at a rock concert.

Rock concert feel at RWMF

Rock concert feel at RWMF

By the way, where else in the world can you attend a music festival amidst mountains, rainforests and beach? I think there is no such place as Sarawak and the best location to host this event!

Traditional Music

A post shared by Jyotsna Ramani (@wanderwithjo) on


Yes! The traditional lute of upriver folks who live in the longhouses, called Sape creates such a magical sound…and so do the 20 or so odd other traditional instruments which I have never seen, heard or even heard of in my life!

You can feel goosebumps on your skin when you hear the sounds these instruments (which mind you, you never even knew existed) create and the fervor with the crowd swaying to the tunes, all adds up. This is truly an unforgettable musical journey in the jungles of Borneo.

I was simply amazed by the performers and went gaga over the Cape Town band – Abavuk, Hanggai from Mongolia and Bitori from Cape Verde, among others. To be very honest, I prefer listening to bands I already like and enjoy but the festival opened my eyes to a new array of music altogether. In short, if you love music, you will love RWMF.

Wellness Workshops

Yoga workshop at Iban Longhouse

Yoga workshop at Iban Longhouse

A unique twist to the festival are the daily wellness workshops. You can enjoy a fun-filled ‘healthy’ festival with various interesting free programs like – Hatha Yoga, Vibrational meditation, Zumba, Silat moves. Budokon Yoga, Yin yoga or Homa therapy. Each having it’s own USP and health benefits. This could give you a good flavor of what each has to offer and you can pursue it later on as well, if you feel inclined to do so.

Learn to Play Indigenous Instruments or Sway to Them

Want to learn how to play the Sape?

Want to learn how to play the Sape?

Not only can you watch these artists perform on stage, but also get some pointers on how to play the nose flute and other indigenous instruments.

You can also up your dance moves by learning dances from different countries and of various styles. Want to learn how to dance like a gypsy? Check! How about learning the Welsh Clog Dance? Check!

RWMF has a jam packed schedule full of interactive learning workshops, jamming sessions, drum circles.. apart from the daily performances. What’s not to like? 

Making Dying Traditions Trendy and Fun

Fun event for the youth

RWMF is a Fun event for the youth

I loved the whole concept and idea behind the rainforest world music festival which is to ensure our old musical traditions and cultures don’t die. For example how many people do you know who can play the Moon lute or the Mandolin vs how many play the guitar? You see how our traditional instruments can long be forgotten and there will be no one left to pass this knowledge if the current artists are not encouraged.

This festival provides that much needed platform for these indigenous artists from across the globe to showcase their talent. It was also very surprising to see how many youngsters were performing as well as following this event. It was just like any other fun music festival with funky attires, tattoo stalls, ample people watching opportunities and a lot of young crowd. Basically the youth are the future, so by making them believe that a playing a nose flute is just as cool as playing the drums, makes all the difference.

Local Cuisine to Tantalize your Taste Buds

With a wide array of traditional Sarawakian food as well as fast food stalls, there is no dearth of options for food lovers at the event. My favorite was the Budaya restaurant which served delicious lunch and dinner buffets for RM 65.

International Audience

Lively audience from around the world

Lively audience from around the world

Seeing that around 30% of the total attendees were international, goes to show on what scale this festival takes place. I even saw many expats and met people from other Asian countries as well as peninsular Malaysia. The crowd was simply amazing and totally beyond my expectations.

Video of walking around the Rainforest world music festival 2017

Official Promo video for RWMF2017

Practical Tips for RWMF goers

Well, I would say just like any other festival – be prepared. Carry your own lawn mats/chairs/inflatable bean bags if you wish or just stand/sit on the grass.

You are allowed to carry one small bottle of water but no other outside food/drinks or drugs – Yes, you will be thoroughly checked.

Since you are in a “rainforest” remember it can pour anytime. Carry your rain jacket and umbrellas and wear waterproof footwear or flip flops. You can also buy rain ponchos at venue. That being said, if you are at a rainforest music fest, you need to get drenched. So get ready to have some fun and dance in the rain to music you have probably never heard before – but are surely gonna love.

Booking info for RWMF

Day time ambiance at Sarawak Cultural village

Day time ambiance at Sarawak Cultural village

I am sure you are now convinced you need to make it for Rainforest World Music Festival 2018, right? I know I would love to go back. So for all bookings, event dates & updates, pre-ticket sales, lineup and all info, visit their official website – http://rwmf.net/.

Where to Stay if you are attending RWMF

Well, since it’s a bit away from Kuching city, it is ideal to stay closest to location which would be in one of the three Damai resorts. However, they tend to fill up fast and get super busy during these dates. I would suggest getting an unlimited shuttle bus pass and staying in the city center as you can enjoy other attractions of Kuching too while you are at it.

Room at Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites

Room at Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites

Plus, there are so many lovely hotels in the city, including the one where I stayed – Merdeka Palace Hotels & Suites , which was simply wonderful. Loved the location as it was 5 mins walk from the waterfront and just opposite the popular Merdeka plaza mall. Don’t take my word for it though, here’s a pic of my cozy room with warm decor to help you make up your mind before you book –

How to Reach RWMF

Since this is located at Sarawak cultural village in Damai beach, 40 mins from main Kuching city center, RWMF offers a 3 day unlimited shuttle pass for RM 80. You can also buy point to point one way tickets for RM 15 each.

I flew to Kuching with Malindo Air from Delhi and would recommend this airline if you are flying from any of their destinations. You get ample leg space, in-flight entertainment, meals and 30 kg baggage limit. Basically all perks of a full service airline at groundbreaking LCC rates.

Special Thanks to Asmaul from Tourism Malaysia and Suresh from Malindo Air for taking good care of us and spoiling us with amazing local cuisine and cruises!

Disclaimer – I was a guest of Sarawak & Malaysian tourism boards and Malindo Air flew me to experience the epic Rainforest world music festival 2017.

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