KUCHING, 30 May 2022: Returning for its 17th year is one of Southeast Asia’s longest-running international jazz festivals – the Borneo Jazz Festival.

Like the preceding years, it brings diverse music lovers to Miri, the second-largest city in Sarawak, but this time in a hybrid format. 

‘Jazz in The Jungle’, this year’s theme held at Coco Cabana, Marina Bay, Miri, Sarawak from 24 – 26 June 2022, will portray cross-cultural musical collaborations presenting their brand of ‘Jungle Jazz’. One of those artists will be ASIABEAT featuring celebrated Asian drummer Lewis Pragasam.

A pioneering force in creating cross-cultural musical collaborations in the region, and drawing inspiration from ‘Fusion’ and ‘World Music, ASIABEAT brings together a convergence of different musicians. For BJ 2022 edition, the band will feature Helga Violin from Hungary, Grace Leong on keyboards, Luke Joseph on Guitar and Zailan Razak on Bass. Additionally, Sarawak’s homegrown talent, Clinton Chua will be featured as a guest vocalist.

A versatile artist, ‘Helga Violin’ graduated from the Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest. Helga has appeared in numerous concerts as a soloist and chamber musician not only in Hungary but in Italy and Asia, namely Jakarta, Bali and Singapore. With a custom-made electric violin, Helga is passionate about fusing modern electronic music with Asian ethnic music elements.

The ASIABEAT project was conceptualised in 1979. Lewis started ASIABEAT as a percussion outfit that would explore the blending of various traditional percussion instruments inherent in four of the major ethnic groups in Malaysia, namely; Malay, Indian, Chinese and Sikh, with the goal to highlight and enlighten the general public about the incredibly rich and diverse culture that is largely ignored and taken for granted. ASIABEAT has since evolved with its seven-album recordings, namely ASIABEAT, DARE TO DREAM, SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE, MONSOON, DRUMUSIQUE, URBAN BEYOND & AKAR, reflecting Lewis’ penchant for diversity and knowledge of current trends in the global music industry.

Since the band’s inception in 1979, ASIABEAT has been invited to perform in more than 500 concerts and festivals like the Edinburgh Arts Festival, Java Jazz and ASEAN Music Festival, to name a few.

Recently in 2020, ASIABEAT celebrated its 40th anniversary with a 7th album recording entitled “AKAR”, featuring musicians from 8 different countries. This marked a personal milestone for Lewis, as the album was conceptualised and manifested as a musical entity during a global pandemic.

Lewis Pragasam will be leading the Borneo Jazz’s Eco Drum Project happening on Sunday, 5 June 2022, from 1600 to 1830 at Coco Cabana, Miri, to create unique drums and percussion instruments from recycled waste and to produce feel-good beats from community drumming sessions as a lead up to Borneo Jazz Festival 2022.

Meanwhile, raised on jazz and soul music, coming to Borneo Jazz Festival from the French Riviera is DJ Estephe, a producer, remixer, record collector and creator of musical identity. Cradled in an era without musical concession, DJ Estèphe, at the dawn of his 20s, roams European clubs solo or accompanied by musicians. In the 90s, he decided to move to Switzerland, where he was responsible for a vinyl shop and the artistic direction of various Clubs in Geneva. He produces with Jules Vulzor, his friend and Studio accomplice, two of the most beautiful revisits of Marvin Gaye songs that topped the charts in New York City and London.

DJ Estephe will play solo ‘Sunset Hour’ daily sets by the Borneo Jazz outdoor stage (1800-1930) and will be joined by Chris Stalk on saxophone and Jules Vulzor on bass during the festival’s Outdoor Late Night Sets (2330 to 0130), with nightly themes of Afro Latin House (Festival Day 1), Boogie Disco Funk (Festival Day 2) and Nu Jazz Soul & Bossa (Festival Day 3).

A self-taught artist, saxophonist Chris Stalk began his career in famous ballrooms with his father, who played the drums, quickly discovering Charlie Parker and jazz. The 90s marked the advent of Hip Hop “sound systems”, in which he actively participated, moving toward abstract hip hop and electronic music, playing sax through guitar effect pedals. Constantly evolving as an artist, STALK has performed in various formations in festivals such as Montreux and Paleo in Switzerland, Moers in Germany.

Jules Vulzor is a producer and bassist from Switzerland. He produced “Guess What” in 2009 and “Stress”, a platinum disk winning hip hop band from 2003 onwards. With DJ E’stephe he co-founded ‘Revivra’, a nu-disco label that went on several times on the New York Charts for remixes of Marvin Gaye, and has worked with Dave Richards (Queen).

Chris Stalk and Jules Vulzor have been conducting music workshops and lighting up Miri’s local live music scene as part of the Borneo Jazz Fab Lab Music Empowerment Programme organised by No Black Tie, curator of Borneo Jazz 2022.

Jazz music lovers can start purchasing tickets for BJ starting now from the official website at jazzborneo.com or directly from our official ticket resellers, Miri City Council at [email protected] and Transworld Travel Services Sdn Bhd at [email protected]

For the public category, 1 Day Pass is priced at RM128 per ticket, 2 Day Pass is RM228 per ticket, and 3 Day Pass is RM338 per ticket. As for students and senior citizens, 1 Day Pass is priced at RM88 per ticket, 2 Day Pass is RM128 per ticket, and 3 Day Pass is RM188 per ticket.

For those who want to enjoy BJ virtually, tickets are priced at RM25 per one-hour block. For more information on the Borneo Jazz festival 2022, log on to BJ’s official website at www.jazzborneo.com.

(Your Stories: Sarawak Tourism Board)