Sarawak’s Miri is not a place we would say is ablaze with culture, yet two days a year it plays host to the Borneo Jazz Festival. A tiny festival held at the Park City Everly Hotel, this event sees jazz musicians from around the globe perform. It recently changed its name from Miri Jazz Festival to Borneo Jazz Festival to, according to organisers, ‘reflect the growing stature of the festival among leading jazz festivals in the region’ – so now you know.
The festival itself is small, both in the programme and in physical measurements. There is one stage and music only plays during the evening, starting from 19:30 and ending at around midnight. This does mean however that you can go and do day trips during the day, such as Niah Caves or Lambir Hills national park or even enjoy the sites that Miri has to offer and be back with plenty of time for some laidback jazz in the evening.
This year the Borneo Jazz Festival will be held May 10 and 11 in the grounds of the Park City. It’s possible to buy a package, which includes a room at the hotel and a weekend pass to the festival, but these have yet to come on sale. It should be noted that the Park City Everly is a fair distance from Miri centre, around 30 minutes by foot or an 18 ringgit taxi. Tickets for the festival are available on the day and weekend tickets are available on the first day. If you book online before February 28 there is a 20 ringgit discount on the weekend tickets and a 10 ringgit discount on the day tickets.
Let’s be totally honest: Miri is not the natural home of jazz. You are more likely to hear Psy blaring from the speakers of cars than sticky, languid jazz chords and this is reflected in the atmosphere of the festival. Much more laidback than Rainforest in Kuching, the crowd borders on catatonic, only making appreciative sounds at the end of songs. This is not the place to come and crowd surf on a wave of jazz euphoria. It is, however, the place to come and peacefully watch some very talented musicians doing what they do best.
By Hollie Tu
Last updated on 31st August, 2014.