Madeeh: Music Of The Rainforest

The fairytale city of Santiago De Compostela in north west Spain witnessed five days of music from all across the globe this past weekend, at the cultural extravaganza that was WOMEX 2014. Musical showcases, film screenings, conferences, panel discussions, networking sessions – this was all part of the WOMEX programme, an initiative that has developed into one of the most significant gatherings for professionals of the music industry worldwide. With over 60 musical acts from around the world performing, audiences had the privilege of being exposed to a unique and rare selection of artists from remote regions of the planet. One such artist was Madeeh – a three piece ensemble from the upper Padawan region of Sarawak, Malaysia, that plays traditional Bidayuh music. In an exclusive interview, IndiEarth spoke more with ensemble leader and instrument maker Arthur Borman Kanying about their country’s age old traditions, and unique approach to musical storytelling.

IndiEarth: What are the major themes and significance behind the music, and what are the stories you’re communicating through it?
Music in the Sarawakian culture is only used for happy occasions and nothing for moments of sadness or loss. Our music played is based in ceremony and celebration, and combined with dance and song is meant to convey a feeling of peace, serenity and joyousness. The music is often derived from nature to mimic the feeling of or sounds which come from the surrounding rainforest.

IE: Tell us more about the origins of the name Madeeh, and how your ensemble came together?
Arthur: The word ‘Madeeh’ means cousins, relatives, brotherhood or sisterhood – all the members of Madeeh come from the same home village and are related to each other in one way or another. While the music is very much rooted in tradition and family, we have joined together by individual choice for the love of music. We have a lot of fun playing together, and love to bring entertainment to the community through the joy of music, song and dance.

IMG_4379-rev1IE: What does it mean for you – performing at WOMEX, and representing Malaysia on the international stage?
Arthur: The feeling is unexplainable. It is a great experience as well as a great feeling to be chosen by WOMEX for this honour to represent our country and our culture. We also feel a very big responsibility to Malaysia in upholding our ethnic music.

IE: What do you hope to achieve for the future of your music – by performing at WOMEX?
Arthur: My hope is that by playing here on the world stage at WOMEX we are able to introduce our traditional music to the world, and by doing so, reach a wider scope of the international community. This is something we believe in representing, as it is a part of our heritage and history, and in this way we are able to teach and preserve our own culture and music.

IE: Finally – a little recap of the past five exhilarating days in Spain. Tell us about your overall experiences, the people you’ve met?
Arthur: We play together for the love of music and arts and we never thought that we would be given the opportunity to play here in Spain. We’re very thankful to WOMEX, The Sarawak Tourism Board and Malaysia Major Events for supporting us and allowing us the chance to share our traditional music. Coming to Spain is an indescribable experience and we’ve met so many different people from all over the world to share the love of music. In fact, I have met another instrument maker from Madagascar that also makes a bamboo zither that is similar to my own! It is a wonderful experience to explore the world of music in this way.

For more on Madeeh, visit their Soundcloud page here and their Facebook page here.
For more on WOMEX 2014, visit the website


IndiEarth is an online B2B platform that connects India’s non-mainstream independent Musicians and Filmmakers to worldwide Media. The platform features a blog, offers value-added services and wider opportunity networks through its partnerships. IndiEarth is an EarthSync Initiative.

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