Borneo Jazz Fest 2018: Nights to Remember
Unlike the usual post-event puff pieces, where the mere mundane is inflated to epic proportions, I’ll try not to excessively embellish.
But here goes nothing. The Borneo Jazz Fest 2018: A testament to artistry.
It’s a bold claim, I know.
Let’s start at the beginning. I was introduced to the Borneo Jazz Festival in 2012. Intrigued by the idea of attending my first actual concert since I left my country, I surreptitiously bought the tickets, only to resell them at a later date due to unforeseen clashes with a mandatory leadership coaching session at university.
My fondest memory is that one of my closest friends crashing the session, begging me to ditch the event and come… followed by grovelling at the student leader to let me go. She didn’t, as it would hurt my chances of getting a leadership position. To my friends’ dismay, I acquiesced in fear of disappointing my student leader. A regrettable decision, considering I subsequently failed in my tenure at student leadership, and failed at making memories with a dear friend who went back to his home country.
Since then, I became a regular at the event, budgeting an ungodly sum from my meager student allowance to buy Saturday passes. Every year I’ve attended has had amazing performances that have got the crowds on their feet and dancing the night away.
This year was no different, except this time I had the best view of the stage. Here a few memories from Borneo Jazz 2018.
We have to talk about the Havana Social Club. They were the act that brought the house down, and the program director should be given a raise for putting them at the closing act on Saturday.
I had the pleasure of talking to the double bass player Ethan Seow (and his amigos), who is the lone Singaporean in a band of Latinx roots, and sticks out like a sore thumb.
However, when the Havana Social Club kick off their performances, they have this amazing synergy that produces the best sounds and the tightest beats. To the barely trained ear (mine), they seem almost like a perfectly produced audio track.
Though I sometimes tend to dabble in the occasional Tito Puente and Celia Cruz album, I could never call myself a connoisseur of latin Jazz. That night, it was as if I had an out of body experience. My feet couldn’t be stopped from moving and my hips felt as though they were possessed by Shakira. I embellish a little, but you get my drift. They filled Coco Cabana with energy I can only describe as “joyful sexiness”, an ambient euphoria that makes you feel alive and wanted.
Other fantastic acts of the night include Malaysia’s best Jazz vocalist, Dasha Logan who performed “Too Darn Hot” by Mel Tormé. Miri’s very own and world renowned Zee Avi rocked the stage with Mirians revelling in awe of their very own.
The night could not have been complete without the vocal stylings of the legendary Dato Zainal Abidin. Practically every Malaysian in the room was enamoured with the charisma and charm of this musical icon, echoing the lyrics to Hijau as he sang them with the grace and poise of a veteran artist.
Many attendees wondered whether Coco Cabana was a right fit for the venue. However, the quaint setup of the stage, and the surprisingly spacious lounge proved quite a hit. The VIP section was an overhead balcony overlooking the stage, with a truly enviable view of the picturesque landscape that is the Miri Piasau Estuary.
What made the Borneo Jazz Fest 2018 truly special, was the emphasis on keeping the jazz culture alive in Borneo. The amazing folks at No Black Tie and Sarawak Tourism had a competition for younger local talent in jazz and encouraged the youth of Borneo to learn and embrace jazz. Knowing the theme of rebellion strikes a chord with younger people. What better way to rebel, than with the musical artform that was an original act of rebellion.
I promised I wouldn’t embellish, but I have a final few words to say. My love for the Borneo Jazz Fest stems from its unique ability to house Mirians from all walks of life in celebration of artistry. It’s the one event you’d find the expatriate community, and the affluent families of Miri escape the confines of gated communities and join the hordes of broke uni students and struggling solopreneurs in the communal appreciation of jazz.
I can’t wait for next year.