The Penang World Music Festival is an annual concert showcasing bands from around the world. For the last couple of months, we’d seen advertisements throughout town, so I was looking forward to LIVE music! The event introduced me to new music and gave me the opportunity to reevaluate some of my assumptions.
My anticipation or dread of the event (depending on the moment), grew from the day before and the mis-adventure getting the concert tickets. The bus ride proved equally challenging for I’d only researched what bus to take, not where it was held. SO, we rode 20 minutes to wait 45 minutes, at the bus depot, to ride another 30 minutes to go right in front of our building (a few streets over). I felt like a world-class idiot, especially as I was very grumpy from the wait at the bus depot.
The bus ride was not without its excitement though for it challenged my beliefs about “young people” and confirmed people who travel are overall pretty awesome. My grumpy mood had made me incorrectly assume that the two Australian post-teens were making fun/taunting people (locals). They had a laser pointer and were tagging people with it, then laughing loudly. In the end, James asked them to stop, as I grumbled away. Their response was fantastic.
They agreed and even engaged us, asking us questions, not annoyed with our stopping of their fun. What I realized too was that they had been entertaining others stuck on another bus with their laser pointer, so I had a moment of some much needed self-reflection about my assumptions and prejudices. I will keep reminding myself of these lessons so I don’t make the same mistakes again (i.e.: research where I am going and stop being judgy, especially when annoyed).
Once at the gate, tickets were of course sold there, as any concert on this earth would do but we joined friends, which made it a lot more fun. In total, we heard six different bands, two that I found fantastic.
My favorite was the World Grammy nominees N’Faly Kouyaté & Dunyakan, their frontman N’Faly from Guinea, with other members from Mauritania, France and Belgium. They had the most energy of any of the bands we saw.
He was announced as “the Jimmy Hendrix of the kora”, the large 21-string ‘bridge-harp’ instrument he played. As their set progressed, he would jump with his large instrument and dance with the woman who provided vocals and fantastic dancing. I loved her energy and boy could she move! Another woman who was a djembé drum virtuoso added to the amazement of the group. They were by far the most interesting and lively set we saw.
Second favorite was Mohram, two musicians who were masters at a “Seruling” or Bamboo Flute and Rebana, a Malaysian drum. They were accompanied by additional percussions, guitars, and keyboards. With no vocals, the flute took center stage and lead the audience through many hypnotic songs. This album would be perfect to play when working for the music was interesting enough to keep your brain engaged but no vocals to distract. I wanted to buy the CD but we have no CD player on our current computers.
The other bands in continued reverse order were: Carlos Dje Dje, Nading Rhapsody, Oxus, and a Gamelan Performance which we caught the tail-end of.
Carlos Dje Dje is from South Africa and his set will forever have me answering “Carlos” to the question ‘who is the kind of the jungle?’ for his song repeated this sooo many times. Likewise, the set made me wonder what Miss Piggy is up these days for his vocalists reminded me of her singing voice. Sadly, not a favorite of mine, even as they were defined as a reggae band.
Nading Rhapsody, from Malaysia: Sarawak, was a lively group of musicians playing a mix of modern and Malaysian instruments as they present different folk songs and chanting. They were fun to watch but not terrible memorable.
Oxus, from Uzbekistan, were a group of four with their traditional folk instruments and played very haunting music, the likes of which I’d never heard before. While interesting, after a while my brain started to wander and I wondered if all the music would be that sedate.
The first set as we arrived, was listed as a Gamelan Performance, which wiki teaches me “is a traditional musical ensemble from Indonesia”. With our late arrival, I don’t know if they were actually from Indonesia or a Malaysian school. They sounded pretty interesting and they diversity of instruments made me wish we’d heard a bit more from them.
Overall the concert was pretty low-key. In the past, they’ve claimed 10,000 attendees and I would estimate they had about half that the first night. There was very little dancing and no alcohol sold (coincidence?). The next day we skipped but it had a different diversity of bands from Brazil, Poland, Spain, India, China and Bulgaria. Shame to miss them but was easy to do, hanging around the condo instead. Workshops were also offered each day.
I was glad to have the opportunity to hear some of the traditional Malaysian music and take moments to check-in with myself and readjust some beliefs. I would definitely recommend attending this event in the future and constantly questioning your beliefs.