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The Sarawak Rainforest World Music festival of Borneo (Malaysia) has been held since 1997, to showcase music from the entire world but also to highlight indigenous music and instruments. It is known for the considerable visibility it gave to Borneo’s intangible heritage worldwide through its showcasing of traditional music and for its transmission of music and instrument from all around the globe.

“The Rainforest World Music Festival is a unique festival that brings together on the same stage renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interiors of the mythical island of Borneo”69

  • The festival showcases Borneo’s intangible heritage such as music, songs and dances. The festival gives a platform to practitioners to perform their art with international musicians. The practitioners use the festival as an opportunity to teach local people about their musical heritage as well as for educating visitors. It thus creates a space for the awareness of ICH and the transmission of this practice to younger generations.
  • The festival also showcases related tangible heritage like instruments, thus giving visibility to the associated practice of instrument making.
  • The festival has a beneficial economic impact on the whole region and creates many jobs for the local population.
  • As it grew from a small festival to a famous, large festival, the number of visitors grew too. This brought accommodation and catering challenges.
  • To date, few academic or scientific studies have been done on the positive and negative impacts this festival could have on local communities and on ICH.

Collaboration: This festival was funded by different sources of income as it grew bigger: government, tourism actors and private sponsors. The Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival aims to demonstrate that the promotion of performing arts and sustainable cultural tourism can actually work as an ensemble.70

  • 69 Rainforest World Music Festival. Introduction. Facts on RWMF. Available at:
  • 70 UNESCO Office Bangkok and Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific, Establishment Initiative for the Intangible Heritage Centre for Asia-Pacific (2008). Safeguarding Intangible Heritage and Sustainable Cultural Tourism: Opportunities and Challenges. UNESCO-EIIHCAP Regional Meeting, 94-95. Available at:

Web Dossier on Intangible Cultural Heritage and sustainable tourism