Monday, 22 July 2013

The Royal Bundle of Joy

 Kate, Will and son leave the hospital
Photo credits to 

Royal Baby
Photo credits to

Finally Buckingham Palace breaks the news, the royal baby is born! Catherine Middleton gives birth to a future King at St. Mary's Hospital. So, he is a boy. He weighs about 3.8 kg or 8 lb. 6 oz. 

However, as tradition dictates, no name is given to His Royal Highness Prince of Cambridge yet. Not that soon. It might take a week or even a month for the nation's golden child to be named. Although I currently live in the interior of Sarawak, but I would not miss out the chance to follow and celebrate this joyous occasion with the rest of the world. I have been a fan of British royal family ever since I knew about Prince William and Prince Harry of Wales at the age of 13. Call it an obsession if you want, but this is nothing new to people who have known me for a long time. After all I am not the only person in this world who is interested with the affairs of the royal family from Great Britain. Besides, Prince William is a son of the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles. 

So, let us see how William and Kate raise their first child. Though he may be the third in line to the throne, I bet they would want him to have as much normality as he can. It is important for the royal family to stay relevant by having common sense and more human touch. I wish both Will and Kate the best for their parenthood and looking forward to seeing the Prince of Cambridge grown up well.

Crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace waiting for the official announcement

The royal baby will have a wonderful uncle to play with

Princess Diana with baby William at Lindo Wing (1982)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

My West Side Story of RWMF 2013

Be warned, this blog post has nothing much to do with the Jets or Sharks of West Side Story, neither with Romeo and Juliet. It is the west side story of my personal accounts at Rainforest World Music Festival 2013. All the previous posts were written in a more formal manner which I found to be a wee bit uptight not only while reading, but also when writing them! Well, as friends say, work gotta be work. Hence, the language had to go along with the purpose - publicity. 

So, in this post I will just talk about my personal experience hanging out at RWMF 2013 with my new found friends. It was all social media networking kind of relationship before we met and became friends. We have one thing in common that united us - the love of blogging. I would say we made a great team and had a jolly great time at the festival. Members who represented Sarawak Bloggers for the RWMF 2013 media coverage were Sentia, Aliey, Garner, Lyndi, Khairool and Ana. The alpha male of Sarawak Bloggers' wolf pack was none other than Mr. Garner, it was his second  time covering the world event. 

According to, wolves are very social animal and existed as a social unit. They travel and hunt in a group and do other activities in the company of fellow wolves (there goes my geeky side!). So, I guess that was pretty much what we were doing at RWMF 2013. We had lunch, dinner and supper together, we went photo hunting at the workshops or concerts together and almost everywhere we went, we did it as a unit. I would not trade those moments for anything in this world. The memories are worth keeping because in our day to day life, it is not often we hear people can instantly clique when they have never met each other. I will not forget the experience of Tia being a very careful driver, seeing Garner's getting his hair tattoo, Lyndi accompanying me getting the airbrush tattoo, taking a photo of Khairool at Heinekabana for his Facebook profile picture and last but not least, donating a laundry hanger to Aliey (which I brought from home) as she left her car keys inside her 'caravan'. 

Though RWMF 2013 had ended for a couple of weeks, but we still keep in touch through Facebook and ad hoc Whatsapp group chat. I do hope we could keep this friendship for as long as we live. This rare moment will not always present itself throughout the course of our lives. Cherish people who celebrate us, they are the positive vibes God sent to make us feel worthy of acceptance of who we really are.

It was totally a new experience for me to be part of the media community in covering RWMF. Experience is truly a great teacher. Of course everything was the first time for me. What I loved about RWMF was how the world music can unite people from around the globe. Seeing lots of smiles when workshops were in progress was very comforting; an escapade from the extremely hectic and tensed situation at work. Those smiles detoxified stress really fast. That was all that mattered to me. I did not have to travel so far to feel like I was on vacation.

Besides, I am glad to be connected via social networks with those who attended the event. We were strangers to each other before, but not after RWMF. We exchanged and shared photos to promote one another on our blogs, Facebook and Instagram. I even met Rayyan Haries, the happy-go-lucky travel blogger ( Such a cute and jovial person. That is why this whole thing is very meaningful. It connects us in a unique way which we least expected. I always believed no one is meant to cross my path if he or she is not meant to have good impact on my life. People stay or leave later on, that is another story. 

Overall, I am satisfied with the event organisation. Those who have been to RWMF a few times might have different views, but I personally loved it. It depends on how each of us perceives the significance of this event. I cannot force people to think positive if they have bad experience or got less than what they bargained for. Based on what I heard and read, some thought the performers line-up was not as interesting as the previous years. Well, I had a blast for sure! I agree with those who think we should use this platform to promote our local ethnic musicians. We need to understand what is common here can be intriguing to foreigners. The same thing applied to the locals who went to RWMF wanting to experience different cultures and musics from foreign lands. I say give our local musicians a chance, they need exposure too. According to a local Dayak magazine (Senawah), Jerry Kamit, the Sape player has made our country proud by winning several Gold medals at a music event in USA. If we do not support our own music, who will? I am also told that another local avant-garde ethnic music band, Nading Rhapsody, will be performing at foreign music festivals too. This is indeed a good news as our local ethnic music is gaining recognition from international music community. They did perform at RWMF 2012. Thus, this festival should be organised each year for as long as it can. RWMF is undeniably a launch pad for local musicians to go far and beyond on international stage. If we do not encourage the current generation to learn and appreciate ethnic music, I fear one day we may lose some precious traditions and cultures of Sarawak ethnics. Even if traditional music instruments have to be played along side the modern ones, the effort is still considered noble in order to revive our tradition and to keep our ethnic identity. As we have witnessed in this age, the existence of religious and secularistic beliefs have gradually wiped out certain rituals among the ethnics of Sarawak. Nevertheless, I think traditional music instruments and religion can co-exist as long as the music does not contravene the religious teaching. Having that said, I hope Sarawak Tourism Board never ceased to keep the RWMF torch burning for the sake of world's music, culture and tradition. I believe STB has done a tremendous and brilliant job on RWMF 2013.

(Click on photo to view larger image)

Didn't see that many hippies camping here
Stalls at Damai Central to fill up your tummy and quench thirst 
A rare view, double rainbows!
Inside media centre
A flyer about Pesta Benak 2013
Yeah, my name is opHelia
Daily pass, goodies bag and a name card. 

The limited pass and another goodies bag from Heineken
 The producer of TRAXXfm who loved to take photos for us, funny hat!
With Rayyan Haries the travel blogger
With the TRAXXfm team after media brief
Wear media pass ONLY :-)  haha
I was here
Proof of me doing my 'job' which I was so glad to do
 Each of us given free 6 glasses of Heineken but I only drank 2, which I didn't even finish! :-P
Actually I wanted to eat but Tia said we needed to be here first
Crowd at Lagenda Hall for the workshop
We had our lunch and dinner at Bayridge every day
Where we would rest and chat during concert at night
Sore legs that still healing from torn ACL
One of my favourite photos at the Heinekabana
Was really confused at first and then I remembered it was Sarawak mascot, not UBAH. =D
Where I got my first tattoo
Ouch! Not painful at all but proud to have it
Garner getting his hair tattoo
Resting at One Santubong Hotel, exhausted on the fourth day. 
These two photos were from Sentia's mobile phone
Garner helping this group of friends taking photos and they did the same for us too
Our photo without K-Rule
The original group photo which get cropped at Sarawak Bloggers tribune, the members at the back were 'headless'. Haha :D 
I love the colours!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Rainforest World Music Festival 2013: The Precious Gem

Going back to Sarawak Cultural Village for the final day of Rainforest World Music Festival 2013 was as exciting as previous days though we began to feel the exhaustion. For the first slot of workshop, I decided to attend Knock On Wood held at the Theatre. It featured the wonderful African Marimbas and Akadinda. Marimba belonged to the percussion family and it is a type of xylophone, so does the Akadinda. Akadinda is often associated with royal in Uganda. It is played by musicians outside the royal compound and at public functions too. Audience at the Theatre had a chance learning how to play the African traditional music instruments which taught by Dizu Plaatjies and The Ibuyambo Ensemble. 

For the second slot (3.00 - 3.45 p.m.), I went to Lagenda Hall to join Dances From The Past interactive workshop which featured Spiritual Seasons. This particular workshop was my top favourite because we learned three fun European historical dances. They were Norwegian, Scottish and French. What I loved about it was these dances put a smile on everybody's face. People from all over the world were obviously enjoying themselves, so vibrant and so happy! It made us forgot all the troubles in life for awhile. The workshop radiated the feel of joy among dance enthusiasts and even dispersed the aura onto onlookers standing at the side. At this moment, no one needed special therapy or meditation to experience euphoria in their souls because the atmosphere itself drawn in abundant of positive vibes and it was contagious. It made us felt so good. I guess this could be one of the reasons why people keep coming back every year. 

 Lidia Smirnov, the workshop leader.

 Some eager learners.

This was my favourite dance. Look at their faces.

The last workshop was perhaps the one RWMF visitors most keen to participate. It was called UMXHENTSO! or in other words, The Booty-Shaking workshop. As you can see on the above photo, the hall was fully occupied. My friends and I had to be on the stage to take photos and videos as the floor hardly had any space for us to squeeze in and just to make room for people to dance. The workshop was about ceremonial dance from Southern Africa which featured Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble. Performers involved were Thabisa Dinga (leader), Wendy Thoane and Tutsu. The crowd was incredible and they had no problem following the steps. In fact the thumping sound of their feet was rhythmic which quickly impressed the dance instructor. She even wished she could take us all to Africa! Dizu Plaatjies & The Ibuyambo Ensemble was really famous among visitors this year because of their powerful music and energetic dance. I personally hope there will be another group of African performers shortlisted for RWMF 2014. 

Well, as we know all good things must come to an end. The last interactive dance lesson with the South Africans was a wrap up for RWMF 2013 workshops. I believed we all left the hall with great experience and unforgettable memories. If I were to be back, I would surely make it a top priority to attend the workshops. For world music festival goers, watching the nightly concert is not enough to feed our hunger for merriment. You need to get to know the music and performers better to realise the worth of every penny you spend on the festival. The workshop is without a doubt the real gem of RWMF. I would like to apologise for unable to cover every single workshop being held at different locations for a stretch of three days. It was not possible because we were lacked of manpower. There were only Sentia and I to do that. Hopefully next year we could have more local bloggers volunteering for this task. To read more about what my fellow friends from Sarawak Bloggers have to say about RWMF 2013, do visit their sites.

Before I decided to drive back to the town where I work (almost 5 hours of driving), I took a few more shots at the home of RWMF.