By Anthony Dylan Anak Frankie Jurem

The people of Sabah and Sarawak will soon be celebrating the Harvest Festivals at the end of May and the beginning of June. Pesta Ka’amatan would be celebrated on the 30th and 31st of May each year in Sabah. The festivities and activities would normally begin from 1st May until the end of May. When this ends, the Gawai Dayak celebrations would take place on 1st and 2nd of June each year.

Both festive seasons are back-to-back and related to the bountiful harvest. This is also a time when many Sabahans and Sarawakians would make an effort to return again to their cities, hometowns or villages. Tradition is a huge event in Sabah and Sarawak.

Most would have either last come back during Christmas or the last Chinese New Year or Hari Raya holidays. This is a norm as there have been many mixed marriages. Both celebrations are deeply rooted in customary traditions and some of which would be academically enlightening. Merry making and the drinking of lihing, tapai and tuak are customary in many non-muslim celebrations.

Sabahans would also be facing the next Sabah elections within the next one a half years. Hence, it is expected that many would use whatever celebrations to make inroads in the preparations for the next voting exercise. Sarawak on the other hand, is busy with the SUKMA or the Malaysia Games which would be held around Sarawak from 17th till the 24th of August 2024.

Before that, the world-renowned Rain Forest Music Festival would attract you to stay around after Gawai Dayak. This would begin on 28th June till 30th June 2024. The theme this year is “Evolution” and will have Kitaro, Zainal Abidin and the Havana Social Club headlining each of the 3 days. As per the RWMF’s website:

“The Rainforest World Music Festival (often abbreviated as RWMF) is an annual three-day music festival celebrating the diversity of world music. Held in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, it includes daytime music workshops, cultural and craft displays, food stalls, as well as main-stage evening concerts in an actual rainforest setting, under the dramatic backdrop of Mount Santubong. Starting with only a few hundred people attending in 1998, the Festival has grown to become an internationally recognized music festival with attendance in the tens of thousands, and feature well-known performers from around the world. The Festival feature a wide range of performance styles and genres, from traditional music, to world fusion and contemporary world music.”

The Kuching Food Festival would also begin from 26th July until 18th August with 330 stalls before SUKMA. The What About Kuching or WAK which celebrates arts, culture and lifestyle would be held around Kuching throughout the month of October.

Over in Sabah, they too have the SUKMA games at the same time. In September, a unique festival, ‘‘The 3rd Sepilok Jazz” on the 6th and 7th of September in Sandakan. This event hopes to harmonize the upbeat tunes of jazz with the noble cause of sea turtle conservation. There would also be the 14th Borneo Bird Festival in Sandakan from the 26th to the 27th of October.

There are also rumors of a 2nd Borneo Sonic Festival and a 2nd Borneo Opera Festival. Both are scheduled for October this year but yet to be confirmed. These are held in Kuching. What is exciting is the use of the 50,000-seat Sarawak Stadium. Who knows, this could be a precursor to more concerts. Who knows, you may yet see the Hong Kong stars, Taiwanese, Koreans, Indonesians, and Western stars wanting a more intimate venue heading over. Imagine having the likes of Dola, DeFam, Baby Shima and Namewee coming over for concerts?

For this to happen, two things must be improved. One is the availability of good accommodation and the transportation connectivity to these venues. Sabah has the connection with many international flights, and some may come via Brunei. But, for Kuching, there is a need to have more flights in from Singapore.

Sabah is already a tourist haven for Koreans, Taiwanese and the Chinese citizens. They are impressed by one of world’s best sunsets at Tanjung Aru which is ranked amongst the top 8 in the world, the culture, the natural beauty and seas.

Sabah and Sarawak would soon be the focal point of Borneo as Bandar Seri Begawan of Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Nusantara which is the new capital of Indonesia completes the four corners of economic powers.

The Sarawak Government would soon have the Autonomous Rail Transit working in just over a year or so in Kuching. The hydrogen economy and the focus on low carbon footprints augurs well for Sarawak internationally. In the not-too-distant future, the word ‘Negeri’ would be taken down from the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak. It would be known as the Dewan Undangan Sarawak or the Sarawak Legislative Building.  English is also the language used here and in courts.

Borneo celebrates. The next 8 months would be interesting for both Sabah and Sarawak. I strongly suggest those who have not been to East Malaysia, to try to head over to Sabah and Sarawak during the festivities. You would not regret it. There is so much more than the Peninsula to discover. The Pan Borneo Highway is also scheduled an opening fanfare in the next few months.

Here is wishing everyone a Happy Ka’amatan and Gawai Dayak