Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Searching for the Perfect Beat in Borneo

If you want to hear live music in the city of Kuching —located in the state of Sarawak, in the country of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo — your best bet is to take a nocturnal stroll along the city’s undulating waterfront promenade — aka “The People Place” — alongside the Sarawak River.

Amid hawkers of cat-themed souvenirs (the Malay word kucing means cat), glowing plastic toys and tasty street food (but no alcohol, Malaysia being a relatively liberal Islamic nation), you’ll find buskers aplenty.

Some play the sapeh lutes indigenous to the Sarawak region’s Orang Ulu people. Others strum acoustic guitars while singing original American-sounding indie-rock in Malay. And if you’re fortunate enough, as I was, you’ll stumble across a plucky and charismatic little girl, accompanied by her beaming father on electric guitar, belting out what sounded to my severely jetlagged ears like old American show tunes.

Your second best bet would be to attend the Borneo World Music Expo (BWME), which took place mid-June in the Kuching Hilton as a sort of industry appetizer prior to the Rainforest World Music Festival a few days and a hundred kilometers later.

The BWME showcased nine mostly regional artists while negotiating a path around the complicated issues of music and tourism in this still-developing nation. Where the Rainforest festival offered a romantic vision of how local acts might be integrated into the existing “world music” industry, the BWME was a nuts-and-bolts affair that featured remarkably intimate performances that should have attracted a larger local audience.

The two and a half million residents of Sarawak comprise a cultural melting pot of some 40 ethnic groups, each with its own language and way of life. These include Malays, Melanaus, Chinese, Indians, Ibans and Bidayuhs.

Sarawak regional music is a similar stew of influences. The Gendang Melayu Sri Buana, who provided a musical welcome to the first of three nights of showcases, is a large multigenerational family group. The “Gendang” part of their name means large drum, and Malay music is rooted in drums, gongs, metallophones, and other percussion instruments. And like nearly all these acts, their music is so old that it sounds resolutely new again.

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Book on favourite food in Sibu launched

SIBU: ‘A Guide To Sibu’s Most Favourite Food’ was launched at Sibu Base Jump stage, Sibu Town Square on Monday.

The reference book is produced by Sibu Resident’s Office with the collaboration of a former journalist with English daily The Star, Philip Hii; retired English language teacher Arthur Wee, retired English language teacher/lecturer Chang Yi and young model Xiao Jie.

It gives visitors and locals an insight into the best local dishes available in Sibu by bringing the reader on a mini food tour which is friendly, engaging and informative, commented Sibu Resident Sim Kok Kee at the book’s launch.

President of Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hu Yu Siong was among those present.

Sim commented: “This craftily structured book approaches commonplace cuisine in a four or five ingenious ways. It starts with a paragraph on a description of the dish. The next paragraph summarises how the dish is prepared followed by how it is usually served. Last but not least is where each dish could be found or originates.”

Overall, this literature lets you experience the balance of Chinese, Malay, Melanau, Iban and mix-cultural dishes available.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Book on favourite food in Sibu launched

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sabah tourism to be promoted in San Francisco

KOTA KINABALU: San Francisco is the next marketing target for the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry in its effort to promote Sabah.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, said that he would be visiting San Francisco on September 25 and will be meeting with tourism players there.

He said that this would be the State’s first effort to promote Sabah to the Americans.

Masidi also expressed his optimism on the venture as air-connectivity that would link San Francisco and Sabah (Kota Kinabalu) is already in place.

“There are direct flights from Hong Kong and Seoul to San Francisco as well as to Kota Kinabalu. The air-connectivity is available. It is important to promote Sabah to places that have these access/facilities in place because it will not be difficult (for those keen) to come to Sabah,” he said at the launching of the Region Specific Tourist Guide (RSTG) licence here yesterday.

He added that without direct air-connectivity, it would be difficult for the people to come to Sabah.

“And we want the people to keep coming here.”

While in the US, Masidi will also be visiting Portland, Oregon which will become Kota Kinabalu’s first sister-city in the country.

In his speech, Masidi also mentioned that although his ministry may seem to have scaled down its effort to market Sabah to the Chinese market, in reality this was not so.

“We have not stopped … but they (Chinese tourists) are coming to terms with the MH370 and the kidnapping incidents. We just have to modify our (marketing) strategies. We will continue to market, but in a quiet and subtle way. We don’t want to be looked at as aggressive marketeers,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah tourism to be promoted in San Francisco


Reminiscing the old Bintulu

BINTULU: In the 1960s, the Bintulu town was merely a fishing village with a population of 5,000.

On the 16th of Sept 1963, Sarawak joined Sabah (then North Borneo), Singapore, and Malaya to form the new Federation of Malaysia.

Today, the coastal town with one of the world’s largest natural gas reserves is booming with activity, and has a population of over 200,000.

Three friends who grew up during the time share with Bernama their experiences during the transition.

Travelling outside by land was a difficult affair in those days, said Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Abdul Majid, who grew up in Bintulu.

“There were no roads at all connecting nearby towns. All travelling had to be done by boats. It was only in late 60s that road construction was started to Miri,” said the 66-year-old when met here, recently.

He said the first buses introduced in Bintulu were owned by the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara).

The buses plied the untarred road from Batu 18 (of the Bintulu-Miri road) to the town in 1969.

“Most of the passengers coming from Batu 18 were Iban villagers who did not have money to pay for the bus fare. Instead, they would pay the bus driver, known as Abdul Jabbar, in the form of vegetables, chickens, bamboo shoots and other items,” the former Science Faculty Dean of Universiti Malaya told Bernama in an interview.

He said the local Ibans used to refer to the bus as “bas Jabbar” as some of them would assume that it was owned by him.

“Udah datai bas Jabbar?” (Has Jabbar’s bus arrived?) would be an oft-repeated question.

Bintulu historian Mahmud Yussop, who is also Mohamed’s childhood friend, in his blog “Images of Bintulu Before and Now,” said the buses provided a much-needed public transportation for Bintulu to Miri, some 200 kilometers away.

Mahmud explained that Miri back then was the capital of the Fourth Division.

Sarawak, under the British, was divided into five Divisions and each Division was headed by a Resident. Each Residency had a number of districts.

In the early 1970’s, Bintulu was a sub-district in the Miri division and all government affairs were headquartered at Miri for the final decision making.

This arrangement made progress very slow for Bintulu.

“In the 60’s, Bintulu was in the backwaters of development. Not many people were able to buy cars in the 60’s and 70’s, so the bus service was a real boon for the general public of Bintulu,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kiprawi Aman, the supervisor of Kenderaan Bas MARA Service then, said the bus service was not so much for profit than an obligation by the federal government to provide public transportation for the rakyat.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Reminiscing the old Bintulu

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Miri City ready to host national level best Malaysia Day do ever

MIRI: The stage is all set for Miri City, the country’s first non-capital town being elevated to city status in 2005, to welcome thousands of visitors to celebrate the national-level 51st Malaysia Day celebration.

This time around, the celebration to be held at the Miri City Fan – a popular fan-shaped recreational park and tourism spot located in the heart of the city – is expected to be the grandest ever.

It will be grander than before, thanks to the week-long school holidays which began last Friday, as it will see a drastic increase in the volume of visitors, including those from oil-rich Brunei, about three-hours’ drive on the road from the city centre.

For local community leaders here like Dayak Association Miri (DAM) president Serawa Budol, the first-ever national level Malaysia Day celebration here would be the moment that she and others had anxiously been waiting for.

“We are very honoured that Malaysia Day is so special to us, Sarawakians, we have assigned 50 DAM members to take part in Tuesday night’s celebrations. We wish to send more but the organiser has set a maximum of 50 people,” she told Bernama here yesterday.

The soft-spoken Serawa suggested that in future, the main organiser would set aside more financial allocation, including getting sponsors from multinational companies like Shell and Petronas to chip in to ensure that people from all walks of life could appreciate the true meaning of Malaysia formation.

“There is room for improvement, maybe next year. In the run-up to Malaysia Day, the organiser can ask big companies to sponsor big billboards that depict historical pictures that led to the Malaysia Day formation so that the people will understand the history, especially the young generation,” she noted.


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