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Around the world in music festivals — we’ve shortlisted the ones worth travelling for

THE experience of attending a music festival is unlike any other. The combination of being among a sea of people swaying to the same melody and rhythms, the vibrant energy of live music and the general party atmosphere really elevates the experience of listening to music.

For true music lovers, it is a must to attend at least one of the great fests around the world. And it pays to plan early. Woe betide those who waited last minute to get their Glastonbury Festival tickets —after all, it’s only the biggest music fest in the UK.

We’ve shortlisted four you might still be able to make. They are fun and cool, and rank high in star power.

Coachella — California, USA

One of America’s largest music festivals, the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held annually in April, is a magnet for hipsters and celebrities alike. It’s not unusual to spot some of the world’s most famous stars — such as Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto, to name a few — dancing alongside some 579,000 attendees. Its list of past performers also reads like a who’s who of the music scene. Held over two weekends featuring an identical line-up, the long running festival saw 184 artists perform in 2014, grossing a record-breaking US$78.3 million.

Why it’s worth going: The mega-festival goes beyond just the music and is an experience in itself. Its mainstream reputation means ample opportunity to do some celebrity spotting, which is the main draw for some attendees. Dubbed the “Fashion Festival”, it’s also a hotspot for the latest and best of boho-chic fashion. So much so that fashion retailers such as H&M, Coach and Jimmy Choo set up shop on the festival grounds. On top of that, artists have been known to bring along fellow entertainers as surprise guests.

What to look out for: Headlining acts this year include AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, Florence and the Machine, Ryan Adams, Kaskade and David Guetta. Also check out the large-scale art installations throughout the festival grounds. To top it all off, the stunning desert sunset is definitely a picture moment. For more information and full line-up, visit www.coachella.com.

Rainforest World Music Festival — Kuching, Sarawak

Since its inception in 2005, the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) has put Malaysia Borneo on the map, allowing us to claim cultural “coolness” with its diverse range of world music artists performing in the middle of our well-known lush tropical rainforest. Festival acts include traditional, world fusion and contemporary world music, which provides a more organic experience with an emphasis on traditional acoustic instruments from all over the world. Previous acts have come from the Southeast Asian region and also as diverse as Madagascar, South America, Scotland, Tuva, Mongolia and Greece. From the 400 people that first attended the festival, RWMF has seen more than 20,000 attendees yearly since.

Why it’s worth going: Nestled at the base of Mount Santubong at the Sarawak Cultural Village, RWMF has a more laidback and informal atmosphere that easily fosters cross-cultural interaction. A major attraction for the festival besides its evening performances is the daytime workshops held inside traditional houses throughout the village. Here is where attendees can get hands-on and up-close with performers, allowing direct conversation without barriers.

What to look out for: This year’s festival will be held from Aug 7 to 9, and the line-up of performers includes Alaverdi of Georgia, Moroccan jazz musician Driss El Maloumi, Mongolian ‘Choomie’ singer Enkh Jargal Dandarvaanchig (EPI), Polish family band Kapela Maliszów, as well as Malaysian sextet CULTURE SHOT a.k.a LA LA LI LA TAM PONG, who combines the traditional Chinese er hu with the Malay gendang and rebana. Don’t forget to sample the local cuisine and other Asian food that would be sold. The early bird promotion ends this month. For pricing and details, visit www.rwmf.net.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Louisiana, USA

Known simply as Jazz Fest, the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was birthed as far back as 1970, when the legendary Mahalia Jackson performed in a parade with a microphone. Widely considered the Jazz central of the world and the place of its origin, the festival has seen the world’s greatest jazz artists play — including Louis Amstrong’s centennial celebration. The four-time ‘Festival of the Year’ event celebrates the Louisiana culture and essentially American musical style, making it a pilgrimage for all jazz lovers.

Why it’s worth going: Embracing the spontaneous spirit of the festival that first began with a parade, the Jazz Fest is just a melting pot of music, crafts, culture and food. Held over two weekends from April 24 to May 3 this year, it is more than just a music festival but an institution celebrating music and New Orleans’ unique heritage. Beyond the 14 stages set up at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course — according to categories such as contemporary jazz, blues, gospel, brass band, Cajun and Afro-centric and World music, unaffiliated shows also take place throughout the city.

What to look out for: Over the years, the Jazz Fest continues to stay relevant, as evident in the headlining acts this year: Elton John, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, The Meters featuring Dr John and Irma Thomas, The Who, Keith Urban, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Hozier and Jimmy Buffett, to name just a few. But it’s the food that often takes centre stage, with more than 70 strictly picked food booths that displays all of New Orleans’ renowned creations. To find out more on travel packages and a comprehensive guide, go to www.nojazzfest.com.

Creamfields — Daresbury, England

Belgium’s EDM (electronic dance music) mega-festival Tomorrowland may be sold out, but fellow dance music festival Creamfields will step up just fine for those who are still looking for a rave. Held in Daresbury Estate in Cheshire on the August bank holiday weekend, the annual dance music festival began as an offshoot from Liverpool’s Cream nightclub. At a relatively lower price than most Europe or US festivals, the line-up of acts is no less impressive. The introduction of new stages and sound system also gave Creamfields a revamp last year.

Why it’s worth going: At a relatively lower price than most Europe or US festivals, the line-up of acts is no less impressive. The introduction of new stages and sound system also gave Creamfields a revamp last year.

What to look out for: Headlining acts this year include Above & Beyond, Afrojack, Alesso, Axwell, Armin Van Buuren, Avicii, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas, Pete Tong and Steve Aoki. Divided into 10 stages, make sure you plan ahead to catch your favourite artists. Tickets are fast selling. To purchase, visit www.creamfields.com.


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 3, 2015.