Siniawan’s Little Nashville

Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it.
– Lou Rawls, American musician

It was Friday October 4 and I have been looking forward to this day for quite a while now. Octoberfest is finally here and I just can’t wait to see and experience the fuss that everybody has been talking about.

I was told by one of the store owners a couple of weeks before the event, that Siniawan was once a thriving socio-economic town for people living within the vicinity.

Historically, Siniawan town was home to multi-ethnic communities until a war broke out in 1874 resulting in the withdrawal of Malay and Bidayuh communities, leaving the Chinese occupying the town area. Consequently, the town gradually lost its fervour as a trading centre.

In 2016, the Sarawak government decided to capitalise on Siniawan’s historical and cultural richness by turning it into a tourist spot. Siniawan town was and still is dominated by a Chinese community of Hakka descent.

The town was very quiet and quite deserted during the weekdays. It only came alive over the weekend. Most of the store owners live in Kuching and come back only during the weekend to participate in the market activities at night.

The initiative to revive the town was to attract people from a nearby area, especially the villagers to participate in the socio-economic activities in Siniawan bazaar. However, from observation, it looks like the government’s attempt to engage the local people from surrounding villages to participate has not fully achieved its goal.

For example, very few non-Chinese food stalls are seen operating over the weekend. The store owners rent out space outside of their store to non-Chinese food vendors.

There is only one Malay store in Siniawan which is situated opposite of the Siniawan homestay building.

Siniawan is a small town in the Bau district, about 25km away from Kuching.

Initially, I wanted to go on Friday but work got in the way. So, I decided to go on Saturday instead. I made my way towards Siniawan as early as 4.30 in the evening even though the event started around 6. I didn’t want to take any chances.

I arrived at my destination 45 minutes later. There are so many vehicles already parked by the side of the main road. Parking space is very scarce. It took me about 20 minutes to find one.

I was quite disappointed, to say the least, because the authority should have prepared for the event. After all, the authority concerned has been talking about the event for months and there was so much hype made about the event in the media in terms of the number of visitors expected to turn up to the event.

The very first Siniawan festival was held in 2016, and it turned out to be one of the most successful events in Siniawan old town when it managed to attract so many local and foreign tourists to the event.

This marked the beginning of the festival and it has been one of the most highly anticipated events in Siniawan bazaar ever since. Moreover, the festival which was based on the famous Octoberfest in Germany is all about good food, good drinks, good music and good ambience for all.

The festival is into its fourth edition this year and featured 12 performers and they came from all over the place. The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Take me home to Siniawan Country Music Festival 2019’.

As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed that almost everyone I saw wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, holding a drink or two in their hands. Suddenly, I felt like I was out of place.

I let my nose to guide me through the crowd. There are so many stores and I can see some plastic chairs and tables already in place.

I saw some store owner busy taking customers’ orders. Apart from food and drinks, the event organiser also set up a playing corner for children to enjoy. I could hear someone singing country music in the background.

The bazaar is already packed with people of all walks of life. The place is so crowded, making it so difficult to find a place to sit. The lights are so beautifully hung and create a rather romantic ambience.

I don’t really care for crowded places in general but I am going to make an exception today. I found myself a place and started ordering my food while waiting for some friends to arrive. The food were reasonably priced and delicious.

After finishing our meals, I excused myself and decided to return home early to avoid traffic congestion. When I was about to leave, I decided to make my way to the stage area where most country music lovers gathered.

They dance along with the music. And what fascinated me the most was that most of the country music lovers were people in their late forties and mid-fifties. I stayed on for a short while to enjoy the music before heading home.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.