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Bengkel Borneo gathers creative talents to create ‘Soundbank’

Soundbank features recordings in over five indigenous languages, demonstrating the diversity of the collaborators involved in this international project.

KUCHING (Nov 5): Creative platform Borneo Bengkel has brought together a group of international musicians and artistes to create ‘Soundbank’ – a newly-launched digital archive of sounds, images and videos from their respective countries.

The online interactive exhibition 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 kicked off by Kuching-based arts organisation Borneo Bengkel, in July this year. They arranged for an online gathering involving 16 creative industry practitioners from Borneo and the UK.

Here, the invited collaborators virtually presented and shared with one another their music and creative practices. Collaborators then spent the following months individually collecting and recording sounds, video and photography works that represented their daily lives in their respective countries.

Utilising a newly-developed app ‘Living Archive’, the musicians then uploaded, shared, and remixed the audio and visuals. The outcome was Soundbank, a digital archive and a playspace of music, visuals and sounds.

Launched today, Soundbank features recordings in over five indigenous languages, where several are highly-endangered; Kayan, Dusun 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 amidst local surroundings during the various stages of lockdowns.

Others are videos or live recordings made prior to the pandemic, documenting gatherings and performances – all of which the musicians have been unable to do over the past two years.

Soundbank highlights collaborators such as Alena Murang, Adrian Jo Milang and Ezra Tekola from Sarawak; Maya Bayu and Gindung McFeddy Simon from Sabah; Nursalim Yadi Anugerah, Reza Darwin and Juan Arminandi from Kalimantan, Indonesia; Rob Griffiths, Ceitidh Mac, Nick Williams, Callum Younger and Jayne Dent a.k.a. ‘MeLostMe’ from Britain; Kaitlin Ross from Scotland; and Cameron Clarke a.k.a. ‘Calm C’ from Northern Ireland.

Project curator Catriona Maddocks, originally from the UK, has spent over 10 years living in Sarawak before being forced to return to England at the start of the pandemic.

“This Soundbank project came from the realisation last year that while we were all so separated from one another, the digital world gave us so many opportunities to connect with people from distant places.

“There’s such rich folk music and cultural heritage in both Borneo and the UK (that) we wanted to bring these musicians together in an innovative way, and use technology to create conversation through music,” said Maddocks.

One of the Soundbank collaborators is Adrian Jo Milang, who is 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 community of Borneo.

“For many, many months I haven’t been able to visit the community elders whom I usually sing with. Taking part in this project, and sharing our music and recordings on Soundbank, has given 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,” said Adrian.

Soundbank is supported by the British Council’s ‘Connections Through Culture’ arts mobility grant – a programme to seed online cultural exchanges between the UK and Southeast Asia.

Soundbank would be made available to the public via

To learn more, click to Borneo Bengkel’s social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@borneobengkel).

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