THIS year’s Miri Country Music Festival (MCMF) is expected to welcome more fans of the genre from across Asean, and as far afield as India, Australia and the UK.
It could even exceed the target of 2,000 spectators set by the organizer, as Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah told a press conference. on MCMF 2022 here last month.
“Since the reopening of our borders this year, our music festivals – two in Kuching and one in Sibu – have doubled or tripled the number of crowds targeted, and I think it will be much bigger for Miri as well,” said the minister. having said during the promotional event.
On November 25 and 26, the MCMF will take place at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club here and in addition, it will also host the ‘MCMF Golf Tournament 2022’ which not only offers great prizes but also a fun time for players. avid golfers during the day and a merry evening as they can enjoy country music performances by a superb lineup of featured bands and singers.
For this edition, the organizer will also highlight “The Buku Project”, the festival’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative carried out in collaboration with an international institution in Miri, the Knewton Global Schools.
According to MCMF founder Gracie Geikie, the project is themed “A Book for Life” and emphasizes the importance of education which can be supported through music festivals.
“Under this project, pre-loved books will be collected from members of the public, festival-goers and also MCMF artists to be sorted and later sent to two rural schools, in Long lama and Long Latei, after the festival,” she added. said.
Support the “Buku Project”
Lesley Tan, a long-time fan of the festival, hails “Project Buku” as “an excellent undertaking” and fully supports it.
“I have already donated hundreds of books to the project, which I think is a great project.
“It’s great that these books are being sent to two needy schools in the ‘ulu’ (far pockets),” she told the writer.
Tan, a longtime resident of Miri, is now an “MCMF Ambassador” – a special honor given to those who have been strong supporters of the festival over the years.
“I’ve been a lover of music, of all genres, all my life, and I love going to music festivals in Malaysia and the North East of England.
“My father was an excellent harmonica player and my great-aunt was an excellent pianist and artist.
“I’ve seen the music industry go from rock n’ roll to pop,” she said.
On MCMF 2022, Tan said it would be even more exciting than previous editions, given the current period still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are slowly emerging from the nightmare that was Covid-19.
“It’s great to be able to meet all these great performers again: Lyia Meta, Johnny Loda, Mountain Wind, Country Roads, Kamal Bukhari, Sessions The Band, Ramon Cedillo, Cambodia Country Band – just to name a few. .
“Unless you’ve been to one of the festivals, you’d never know how great they are.”
For Lesley Linggod, she’s always loved country music festivals and she definitely won’t miss MCMF 2022.
“I love the atmosphere – Country N’ Western fans from all over Sarawak, Brunei and even beyond come together; everyone wore plaid shirts, jeans, boots, and most importantly, their own style of cowboy hats, whether leather, felt, or straw.
“People would also love to show off their line dancing skills – including our very own ‘Poco Poco,'” she said, adding that her late husband Julius Linggod was a huge country music fan.
“We have always tried to go to Parkcity Everly Hotel Miri (former MCMF venue) for the festival in the past.
“I have fond memories of both of us listening to the popular Blues Gang in 2014, in particular.
“This year I will be alone at the MCMF, but I will be wearing his favorite cowboy hat,” she said.
Lesley believed that Miri’s choice as the stage for the MCMF could be attributed to the town’s large expat population.
“This community follows international music and of course we have our own local bands playing good Country N’ Western music. Bario bands are always a big hit.
“After a few quiet years, this will be a fantastic festival.
“I can’t wait for all feet to tap to the rhythm of my favorite songs.”
Talents of ‘The Highlands’
As Lesley said, many of Sarawak’s great country music performers hail from the Highlands.
They are known for their impressive vocal harmonization, with the majority of them also playing string instruments like guitar, fiddle and banjo.
Raymond Sului has been playing guitar since school. This, plus a good singing voice, won him quite a fan following – many of his fans have been with him since his youth.
Born and raised in Bario, the retired teacher’s first guitar was a homemade instrument – one made simply from pieces of planks, with nylon fishing lines for the strings.
“Later, I saw students returning from schools in the city, bringing with them the real acoustic and electric guitars.
“The first sound of these real guitars had this immediate ‘wow’ effect on me.”
Raymond said growing up in rural Sarawak he could not afford to buy a guitar at the time.
“My friend and I had to borrow guitars for our sessions. This friend then became my guitar “sifu”. I didn’t have formal music lessons at the time – everything was done by ear.
Raymond was 15 when his father bought him his first acoustic guitar, but he didn’t begin formal music education until entering Teachers Training College Batu Lintang Campus in Kuching, where he took music as his major.
“That’s how I became a music teacher. My first assignment was at Marudi Secondary School, where I played in the staff band. Later, I formed the Country Road Band in 1984 following my transfer to Bakong.
Raymond has led the group ever since, but many members have come and gone due to career changes and have also moved to other parts of Sarawak.
For MCMF 2022, the Country Road Band has the backing of Tony Unja, drummer Nikezuandi Edris and guitarist Firdaus Dedeaq, with Tony Sigiyanto as backup musician.
“I am happy that country music continues to shine in Miri and is even better known thanks to this festival,” said Raymond, who is also an “ambassador of the MCMF”.
For Tony Unja, he said he and bandmate Raymond had been invited to so many music festivals that they couldn’t even remember the number and locations of the events they performed at.
Tony was born in Ulu Limbang and just like Raymond, he started playing guitar at an early age.
“I was in the Limbang School Band and later joined the Teachers Training College Band.
“When I came to teach at Miri, I joined Raymond’s group,” says the bassist and singer.
Tony Unja said that it was not enough for the band to play country music; they knew the “cowboy look” had to go with their act as well.
“We’re going all out with the must-have ensemble – the signature plaid shirt, complete with hat and boots.
“I’m glad I was able to buy a really good cowboy hat many years ago, and I love buying real leather cowboy boots.
“Most importantly, I recently bought a very good guitar in Indonesia. Raymond and I enjoy playing our own guitars, whether classical or electric.
“The guitar is such a superb instrument that it can be easily transported from place to place, from the city to the most ‘ulu’ (remote) places in Sarawak.
“It goes without saying that the guitar is the iconic instrument of country music – everyone can identify with it.”
Additionally, Tony Unja said he and other musicians here suffered a lot during the height of the pandemic.
“The pubs and other music venues in Miri have been closed for over a year. Many of my musician friends did not have permanent jobs and during the pandemic they faced financial problems, job insecurity and even anxiety.
“That’s why I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of MCMF 2022. We all hope it brings the spark back into our lives.
“Let the music live and give us inspiration to live,” he said.
Best Promising Experience
Gracie was instrumental in establishing the MCMF, Malaysia’s first country music festival, in 2014.
“In reality, Miri is the proud owner of MCMF. The city has become world famous, thanks to her.
She said that for this edition, fans should be delighted to see that the festival site at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club Miri will offer larger standing rooms with plenty of space around the main building.
“There’s plenty of parking space too, which is a plus,” she said.
Gracie added that popular radio personality Jennifer Lau will host the two-day event.
“She loves country music. She had been producing and hosting country music shows for Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) Sarawak’s English radio service since the 1980s, before moving to Red FM.
“His shows have probably been a big influence on a lot of listeners over the years, making them love country music as well,” Gracie said.