This year the Borneo Jazz Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in one of the most beautiful tropical paradises. Maria Bakkalapulo travelled there to roundup the event
With new festivals popping up in every country, organisers face the challenge of getting in the numbers and living up to the hype to see their event succeed for another year. Increasingly they are becoming attractions to put at the centre of a foreign trip and in light of that, let’s take the example of Borneo Jazz. This year’s festival took place on 8 and 9 May in the small city of Miri, in Malaysia’s largest state of Sarawak, North Borneo and it’s a two-day event bringing in a wide gamut of international and local jazz artists. It’s an accessible and picturesque destination, which is a big part of the festival’s appeal. Being an inexpensive flight away from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, makes Borneo Jazzan event to build an adventurous holiday around, with the world famous caves and limestone pinnacles of Mulu, coral diving and jungle trekking all in the region.
To mark its 10th anniversary, 8 of the 72 bands that played over the last 10 years were invited back to perform in the tropical heat and the backdrop of one of Sarawak’s epic sunsets. Some might still be a little jet-lagged, but their polished performances all deliver. Pianist and singer Anthony Strong (pictured top), who played last year, delighted the crowd with his pitch-perfect and upbeat set that went by all too quickly. New Orlean’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band (above) ripped into some chunky brass riffs, powered along by the electrifying drumming of Julian Addison, while Australia’s Doodaddies provided a laid-back contrast of soulful Chicago blues. Local act Shafiee Obe and All The Best showed us that jazz is evolving with Sarawak’s own instrumentation and traditions into the mix by incorporating gendang drums and oriental scales.
A cappella group the Nylons, from Canada, proved that four voices can be a lush palette, while Berlin’s Mo’Blow played a fantastic set, layering saxophone loops with rippling Rhodes piano and grooving beats. Swedish keyboardist Ulf Sandstrom of Jump4Joy roused the emotions like a preacher and got the crowd waving their hands in the air. Lluis Coloma’s ambidextrous tour-de-force on acoustic piano reflected his ebullient personality, and arguably stole the show.Marking a 10th anniversary in the ultra-competitive world of festivals is a challenge, and credit for Borneo Jazz Festival’s ongoing success goes to support Sarawak Tourism Board, and the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia and Ministry of Tourism Sarawak.