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The World Animal Groove (WAG) Music Festival

 | November 5, 2012

WAG marks World Animal Day, which falls on Oct 4 every year.

FEATURE

The Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) celebrated its 50th anniversary in style with a gala charity dinner on Oct 5 and a sold out free standing one-night music festival on Oct 6. Both events were held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).

The festival is a celebration of music, creating awareness about the plight of animals and raising funds for the construction of a new shelter for SSPCA’s rescued, abandoned and unwanted animals.

WAG featured an evening of artistes, performers and stand-up comedians from Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Mexico and Spain, while the music genres ranged from pop to jazz, blues, rock and world music.

WAG marks World Animal Day, which falls on Oct 4 every year. World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. Oct 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

Since then, World Animal Day has become a day for remembering and paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them. It is celebrated around the world in different ways in every country, regardless of nationality, religion, faith or political ideology.

Approximately a thousand revelers thronged the World Animal Groove Music Festival, which featured local crooner Hafiz AF7 and Stanley Meringgai from the sixth season of Akademi Fantasia.

Among those flown in for the concert were Victor Valdes and The Quartet from Australia, Inka Marka from South America and Natasha and the Mellowmotifs from Bangkok.

On the sidelines of the main concert were the WAG Bazaar and flea market, and Animal Blessing ceremony. The concert aimed to raise funds for SSCPA’s new and improved state-of-the art green shelter which is estimated to cost RM1.5million artistes, both international and local, sang, danced, and teased their hearts out, entertaining a crowd from all walks of life.

SSPCA also held accompanying happenings the day prior to the festival – a Gala Dinner on Friday, a WAG Bazaar and Flea Market from noon the following day, as well as an Animal Blessing session later in the afternoon, which also took place at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching.

The night started with a touch of feel good jazz. Music fans were introduced to Natasha Patamapongs and her band Mellow Motif. The young, pretty and sassy songstress from Thailand warmed up the concert hall with her strong voice and cool taste in jazz, while at the same time reminding revelers why they were at WAG.

While it was their first time performing at WAG, it certainly was not their first visit to Malaysia as this reviewer remembers Mellow Motif showcasing their talents at the Miri International Jazz Festival 2010 (now renamed Borneo Jazz). They also return to Malaysia every now and then for gigs in Kuala Lumpur, particularly at No Black Tie.

Akademi Fantasia Season 6 contestant, Stanley stirred the crowd up with a couple of songs, including a lovely and heartfelt cover of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”. Kuching boy Stanley represented Sarawak in the popular local reality talent show back in 2008.

Sarawak is rightfully proud of Stanley as he recently won three silvers and two bronze awards in the World Championships of Performing Arts (an international competition with 54 countries worldwide taking part) in Hollywood, for five vocal categories.

Rip roaring laughter erupted soon after when Kuala Lumpur’s Bibi KPoh made her appearance on stage. Multi-talented Bibi is a comedienne, an emcee, dancer, actor, singer and a producer who manages her own group of performers.

She had everyone in stitches at her risqué jibes as she ‘tortured’ two male members of the audience, and mingled with the audience while singing and dancing. In fact, Bibi’s act was so enjoyable; the crowd roared for an encore, which of course Bibi coyly and sportingly complied with another dose of her brand of hilarity.

Following the madcap madness were the dashing Latinos Victor Valdes and The Quartet. Victor is a true blue Mexican musician and dancer whose specialty is playing the harp, and boy did he wow people with his incredible harp playing skills.

Not quite done yet, he went centre stage to show off his tap dancing skills. The crowed oohed and aahed  with each dazzling step. The award winning solo harpist is also a professional guitar player. From the conga, bongo, timbale, maracas, cajon, guiros, to almost every other percussion instrument, he is a truly gifted musician in the rhythms of Latin America.

Next up was another Kuching boy, Hafiz – winner of Akedemi Fantasia Season 7. His appearance definitely had the ladies and teenage girls affected, especially as he stepped off stage to greet the audience while belting out a string of soulful ballads.

Hafiz is already a household name and is no stranger to locals in Malaysia. At only 22 years of age, he has won not only hearts but music awards, proving his soulful vocal skills are no flash-in-the-pan and making Sarawak proud in the process.

The final act to rock Kuching that night were Inka Marka, Andes musicians based in Australia. If they sound familiar, they should be for they have performed at the Rainforest World Music Festival in 2000, 2002, and 2007. Even after so many appearances here, they still excited revelers with their music.

The band has expanded, adding members and is actually more animated on stage now, and they showcased what they were made of by multitasking with more than one musical instrument per person. The crowd danced along to their infectious melodies till the end.

As the festival drew to a close, all the performers went up the stage to thank everyone again for supporting such a worthwhile cause before saying goodbye with a rousing finale.

Veteran DJ the Projen closed the night, spinning his fabulous mixes.

Dave Avran is the founder of MARAH (Malaysians Against Rape, Assault & snatcH)

[Photos credit: Veronica Ng]


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