World Music Festival 2007 - Penang
It was raining throughout on Sunday - at times, cats-and-dogs; at times, a drizzle; but nevertheless, neverending.
Leonard had managed to persuade me into accompanying him for the Penang World Music Festival, and since I managed to get 30% off the tickets, we went together, happily equipped with raincoats, flip-flops, stools and a huge Maxis golf umbrella.
We arrived at the Quarry Gardens a little after 7.30p.m.; Leonard's friends Shalini and Clara were already waiting for us at the entrance. "We are mad people!" I exclaimed to Leonard amid the downpour; I was eager to experience for myself what Zhiwei deemed as "terrific" and what James predicted to be a "World Noise Festival".
Armed with high-spirits and umbrellas, the four of us scurried down to the front of the stage where the first band - Asika from West Malaysia was already playing its first gig. Many people - mostly Malays, Chinese, and the occasional foreigner - were already cheering and dancing to the joget rhythm. My baba boy, upon hearing this familiar tune, also broke out in a similar dance, with a gleeful smile upon his face. ^_^
Holding hands, we danced all the way till the next group Khaled Arman from Afghanistan came on. However, we didn't manage to see them on stage because we didn't know there was a second stage to the left -_-''' And so I couldn't get to fulfill my vision of actually seeing Afghans in person.
Dizu Plaatjies' Ibuyambo
Next up was like something out of National Geographic - Dizu Plaatjies' Ibuyambo from South Africa. This was the group I enjoyed the most because of its peculiar instruments and their very singular way of singing - in a language very unknown, but extremely sweet and melodious to my ears. Leonard said maybe they were putting spells and curses on us or praying for more rain to fall but we were still cheering. I liked seeing them dressed up in their native African garb; the lead singer I guess was particularly rich because I saw him also wearing a flashy watch. I guess he's quite a phenomenon because he knows how to play so many different, old-as-time instruments from all over the great continent of Africa. And his sister can really shake her booty, too!
And the group kept on playing so many songs until Leonard started to worry that all the other bands had chickened out due to the rain. But luckily this was not the case as the 3-man UK band Mas Y Mas came on soon after, with their guitars and their (cello?), playing some English+Spanish music. Not wanting to miss 2nd stage performance again, Leonard and I trudged hurriedly through the ankle-deep mud to reach the open space in front of the stage. I liked the last song with the guy singing about his girlfriend that broke his heart. Again we danced a little, fiesta style!
Wicked Aura from Singapore came on stage next, with their >30-strong percussion band and enthralling performance (plus lovely, lovely biceps! ^_^). It was, indeed, wicked, the way they played their drums with rapid, breakneck speed and hypnotic rhythm. Kinda reminded me of that scene in the Matrix where everybody was dancing in the Cave. I enjoyed the beat, but I didn't really like the leader who kept on raising the crowd in a typical Singaporean, domineering manner. Besides, I didn't think it was all that special because even the Malaysian 24-seasons drum could have easily topped their performance.
I also wonder howcome there were no bands from mainland China, Korea or Japan performing. What's the selection criteria actually? I guess music from some of the ethnic groups in China, Mongolia or Tibet would be equally pleasing and eye-opening.
By the end of Wicked Aura, I was already quite tired from standing uncomfortably, shifting my feet from one to the other on the uneven, muddy ground. And not to mention I was drenched from top-to-toe, despite my poncho on. And some of the revellers, in their excitement, had kicked up quite a lot of mud that stuck like a wet blanket to my legs. I felt so relieved when Leonard so thoughtfully said that we should leave before the traffic starts... so we left just after the Foghorn Stringband from USA started.
If only it hadn't rained... I guess we would have enjoyed ourselves even more. Overall, the Penang World Music Festival was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, for on usual days, I wouldn't even dream of listening to ethnic music, not to say turn on RTM1 for some Malay joget. But for a festive gathering of musicians from all over the world, I would say, this experience is a truly enriching and powerful one for me.