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At the North Borneo Music Festival, KDM music breathes anew

29th July, 2017

By Jonathan Nicholas and Jason Jack Ebit

PENAMPANG: Kadazan Dusun Murut (KDM) music is starting to see a revamp.

By fusing elements from different genres, the native music scene has been given a breath of fresh air. Listening to Joe Balangiu Jr’s new Kadazan single “Au zou kaanu momohiu diau” which translates to “I cannot seem to forget you”, one can’t help but notice the jazzy vibes swinging the song towards a more soulful beat – a refreshing take on the usual simplicity of the genre.

Performing at the North Borneo Music Festival (NBMF) last month, the artist said that he was not shy of mixing things up to keep up with the current times.

Raised in Penampang, Joe has faced hardships in his musical career and said that is not easy to be a musician, especially here in Sabah.

“Hurdles many Sabahan musicians face are finding platforms to perform as well as commitment to a day job and time for practice,

“A lot of talented young musicians do not have other places to perform other than Waterfront. So they resort to busking.”

Joe sees the NBMF as an opportunity for young KDM inspired artists to emerge and shine, as well as a stepping stone for such events in the coming years. He hopes for collaboration with the Tourism Board for a much larger event and to “make it huge just like the Sarawak Rainforest Festival.”

The event was hosted at J Borneo Native Village (JBNV) located at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. Cultural conservationist and proud owner of JBNV, Jivinsol Mosoom is elated that more youths are reconnecting with their culture and said that the state government, and the people involved in the local music industry must work together to ensure local musicians’ spirits continue to soar.

Jivinsol said the JBorneo Native Village is a purely native concept village,

“With events like these I also hope to perpetuate the Penampang culture, customs, architecture and traditions.” As the night went on, new talents such as The Male-Efficient, Pepelclane Band, The Vibez, Cristopher Aban, Kookie Family, Keydeet Jake, Bongga Ethnic Fusion Dance Crew, resident band JBNV Ethnic Fusion took to the stage. Spectators even saw a comeback by singer and beauty queen Jo-Anna Henley Rampas.

“These are the new musicians that we want to introduce and I hope that through this event, they will gain experience and develop to be better,” Jivinsol said.

No stranger to KDM cultural music and dance, 20-year-old Rayon Sitim – lead vocalist for the JBNV house band – has accumulated many awards for his vocal capability and has also played live on local television.

He expressed his disappointment that many youngsters are not interested in learning the musical instruments of their heritage.

“Don’t spend too much of your time on games and playing with your mobile phones. Try picking up something ‘new’ from our ‘past’. If we don’t do it, who will continue the legacy?” he pleaded.

According to Rayon there is a lot that can be learned and brought to benefit from learning to play traditional music and its instruments.

Starting from keeping in time with the simplest gong beats to the nimble movements in the traditional Murut headhunting ‘Magunatip’ dance, it is another way to project creative energy sealed deep in the soul.

Diving into music may help pave the way to generating side income for the young and old and is a good way to reconnect with ones roots said Rayon.

His advice for people who have always wanted to create music but have been holding themselves back is to start momentum gradually by picking up an instrument that is most appealing to the individual.

“Just go out and pick it up. Once you get better you can advance to other instruments, maybe even traditional ones, which connected me to my roots and might do the same for you.”

Rayon says that playing music is a good hobby to fill up one’s time with, and it has a positive influence on the soul.

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