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Borneo segues back into international music groove

Sarawak returns to the arts limelight after COVID-19 lockdowns

Organizers of this year's edition of the Borneo Jazz Festival hope to broaden the event's appeal by inviting such performers as Switzerland-based DJ Estephe, pictured, and local hip-hop artists. (Courtesy of Borneo Jazz Festival) 

KUCHING, Malaysia -- In the years before COVID-19 halted tourism in 2020, Malaysia attracted tens of thousands of local and international visitors to a series of arts, music and literary festivals that established the country as one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant creative hubs.

Extended lockdowns dampened but did not extinguish that creative flame. At the end of 2021, some headline events such as the George Town Festival and the George Town Literary Festival made a timid return in the northwestern island of Penang, and Kuala Lumpur hosted the first edition of Klwknd, an eclectic program of dance, music, opera, fashion, architecture, food, visual arts and traditional crafts. But most of these events had to be staged as hybrid programs focused on live performances by domestic artists, with international guest artists limited to online sessions.

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