Jazz Around the World by Wolfgang König

Wolfgang König

Dear friends,
This time I am not reporting from a jazz event in the strict sense of the word. But don’t we all hate the “jazz police”? ! Jazz musicians have always been interested in other cultures. Just think about Dizzy Gillespie’s love for Caribbean and South American rhythms, John Coltrane’s and Charlie Mariano’s interest in Indian music or the collaboration of Stan Getz with Brazilian colleagues.
Yesterday I arrived in Kuching, the capital city of Malaysia’s biggest state Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo. About 35 km from Kuching, between a mountain and the beach of the South China Sea, there is the Sarawak Cultural Village, a beautiful outdoor museum that displays the cultural variety of the region: of the many indigenous groups as well as the Chinese and Malay immigrant communities.
Twenty years ago, in 1998, the Sarawak Cultural Village became the venue of the annual Rainforest World Music Festival. The event grew from an evening with one stage and 300 visitors into an internationally famous festival that lasts three days and attracts 20,000 people. RWMF does not only present musical acts from around the globe, it builds bridges between cultures by arranging collaborations, for example with performances like “COUSINS – Lutes of Africa & Asia”, “THE TURN OF THE WRIST – Bowed string instruments” with performers from Scotland, China, India, Malaysia and Russia and “LONG AND THIN” with traditional flutes from around the world.
Great about RWMF is also that it offers many ways for the visitors to become active themselves. There are workshop for Lakota dances from the U.S., the local bamboo dance (where the players hit long bamboo sticks on the ground and against each other and the dancers, who are in between have to take good care of their bare feet) , for belly dance, for percussion instruments and, of course, for the ubiquitous sape, the traditional Sarawak lute
This afternoon, I saw a kind of jam session called “BLOODLINES” with African musicians from various parts of the continent. Among them Aly Keita from Ivory Coast who plays the balafon, the West African marimba, and he has been based in my home town of Berlin for many years. Aly (who could bee seen at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival last year) is incredibly versatile. I saw him performing with Joe Zawinul a few times, he plays with two Swiss musicians on bass clarinet and drums, he runs his own group and here in Sarawak he collaborates with a Chinese friend who plays the erhu, a traditional violin.
Now I am going to watch the evening shows with bands from Korea, Brazil, Guinea and the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific.

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