Sabah’s ‘Rimba’ to promote Borneo music to world

KOTA KINABALU: Local band ‘Rimba’ which was formed in 2002 is all out for promoting their version of fusion ethnic jazz to the world.

Combining traditional and modern musical instruments, ‘Rimba’ believe that they would be able to capture the hearts of jazz enthusiasts.

“Our music is easy listening, and by blending the traditional musical instruments with modern ones, we believe the fusion ethnic jazz music would be able to penetrate into the international market,” said band leader Felix Samunting.

He described the decade-old band as “versatile”, adding that everyday is a learning process for them.

“We like doing experimental ethnic jazz music, such as re-arranging songs to add twists of traditional and modern touches into the song.

“Blending the traditional and modern also attracts the people’s attention,. For instance, people are more interested to know about the bamboo flute rather than a normal flute, or may be the kulingtangan, to mention some … we want to show the people that we can play all kinds of music, and to be able to include traditional touches into our music is a bonus,” he said.

Speaking after performing in the 6th KK Jazz Festival 2012, Samunting added that ‘Rimba’ is also planning to produce their first singles soon.

“We are proud to be part of the event such as the KK Jazz Festival as it provides us with the exposure and confidence to move a step higher in the music industry,” he said.

Samunting, who has been in the industry for over a decade said, that with Rimba having participated in three KK Jazz festivals, he expressed belief that they are ready for other internationally-known events like the World Music Festival in Penang and the Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak.

“Over the years, I believe that the younger generation are beginning to embrace jazz music as they are more exposed to this genre of music, unlike the more senior ones. So it is our hope that blending the old and new musical instruments would capture the interests of everyone, regardless of their age and background,” he said.

And while Rimba is all pumped up to promote Borneo music to the world, Samunting admitted that it was not exactly a bed of roses for them, due to financial constraints.

“Although we may have creative and talented people in the band, it is hard to move forward without financial support, and I believe I share this problem with other artistes in the local music industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, touching on the KK Jazz Festival, Samunting said it took them about a month to select suitable songs for the show.

“This time around, we had a 10-piece band to entertain the crowd,” he said.

Samunting, who plays the saxophone, bamboo flute and kulingtangan, teamed up with his younger brother Walter, who plays the guitar, and a group of equally talented musicians, James Simon Gunsilou (drummer), A Zainuddin Ag Sulaiman (violinist), Fredy Duing (keyboard), Zul Khalif and Amat Nasarudin (percussionists), Khairul Anuar Dean (bassist) and vocalists Christie John @ Bakey and Afsah Jumrin @ Cha.

He said that two of his own compositions, entitled ‘Paduka’ and ‘Kinabalu’, were showcased to the people for the first time, along with a rendition of songs by local artistes and Indonesian band – Kerispatih.

“We decided to begin the night with a little of chanting, just like the ones done by the bobohizans (spiritual priestesses) through Evaristus Gungkit’s ‘Molong Kolong’ song, followed by ‘Paduka’, Abu Bakar Ellah’s ‘Urang Kita’, Kerispatih’s ‘Sepanjang Usia’, ‘Kinabalu’, and Band New Havies’ ‘Dream Come True’,” he said.

It took them just a week to perfect their performance and the hardwork did not go to waste as their performance was electrifying.

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