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Sarawak-Based Collective Borneo Bengkel Brings Together Musicians From Across Borneo And The United Kingdom To Create A Digital Living Archive Of Sound, Music And Endangered Languages

16 creatives from 5 countries; Sarawak, Sabah (Malaysia), Kalimantan (Indonesia), England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (UK) gathered to create a ‘Soundbank’ digital archive, collecting endangered languages, musical beats and sounds from the world around them.

Kuching, 5th November 2021 – Art Platform Borneo Bengkel have brought together a group of international musicians and artists to create a ‘Soundbank’ – a digital archive of sounds, images and videos from their respective countries.

The online interactive  exhibition, launching on 5th November, explores the theme ‘Divided by Lockdowns and Borders, Can We Still Connect Digitally Across Oceans Through Sound?’ and presents words, songs and photographs from Malaysian, Indonesian and British collaborators.

The groundwork for the project was started in July 2021 by Kuching-based arts organisation Borneo Bengkel. They organised an online gathering for 16 creative industry practitioners from Borneo and the United Kingdom. Here the invited collaborators presented and shared virtually about their music and creative practice. Collaborators then spent the following months individually collecting and recording sounds, video and photography that represented their daily lives in their different countries.

Utilising a newly developed app Living Archive, the musicians then uploaded, shared, and re-mixed audio and visuals. The outcome; Soundbank, a digital archive and playspace of music, visuals and found sound.

SoundBank Sarawak-Based Collective Borneo Bengkel Brings Together Musicians From Across Borneo And The United Kingdom

The soundbank archive features recordings in over five indigenous languages, a number of them highly  endangered, KayanDusun and Gaelic to name a few, demonstrating the diversity of the collaborators involved in this international project. There are also recordings taken of morning birdsong, and the throng of cicadas in the rainforest. Produced in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic many of the recordings uploaded were either made from home or local surroundings during the various lockdowns. Others are videos or live recordings made prior to the pandemic, which document gatherings and performances, which the musicians have been unable to do for the past two years.

The online exhibition of the Soundbank will be launched in November, and broadcast digitally via Borneo Bengkel’s new website. Soundbank will highlight collaborators such as:

  • Sarawak Malaysia: Alena Murang, Adrian Jo Milang and Ezra Tekola
  • Sabah Malaysia: Maya Bayu and Gindung Mc Feddy Simon
  • Kalimantan Indonesia: Nursalim Yadi Anugerah, Reza Darwin and Juan Arminandi.
  • Britain: Curator Catriona Maddocks, Musicians- Rob Griffiths, Ceitidh Mac, Nick Williams, Callum Younger and Jayne Dent aka MeLostMe
  • Scotland: Kaitlin Ross
  • Northern Ireland: Cameron Clarke, aka Calm C

The curator of the project Catriona Maddocks, originally from the UK, had spent over 10 years living in Sarawak before being forced to return to England at the start of the pandemic.  She explained, “This soundbank project came from the realisation last year, that while we were all so separated from one another, the digital world gives us so many opportunities to connect with people from distant places. There is such rich folk music and cultural heritage in both Borneo and the UK, we wanted to bring these musicians together in an innovative way, and use technology to create conversation through music.

One of the soundbank collaborators is Adrian Jo Milang, a celebrated Sarawakian cultural practitioner working to ensure the preservation and continuation through practice and performance of the Parap and Takna’, an oral tradition of the Kayan communities of Borneo. He said “For many, many months I haven’t been able to visit the community elders who I usually sing with. Taking part in this project, and sharing our music and recordings on the soundbank, gave me a chance to connect with others and see that the work I do is part of a much bigger story of indigenous representation and preserving endangered languages.”

Soundbank is supported by the British Council’s Connections Through Culture grant, and will be launched to the public on the 5th of November via www.BorneoBengkel.com/Soundbank