Sunset Music Fest on the Tip of Borneo

Strong winds are bent on distorting sound quality and two faulty generators are threatening to ruin the concert, but Sound Tech Productions stays composed, writes S Puvaneswary

Sri Pelancongan Sabah, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sabah Tourism Board, has been organising the annual Sunset Music Fest at the Tip of Borneo  in Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, Kudat since 2009.

As Sabah’s largest outdoor concert, the musical event attracts both local and international acts, delivering a diverse buffet of classical, folk and contemporary hits. A backdrop of the setting sun and rugged coastlines lends a magical touch to the ambience.

In 2011, it appointed Kota Kinabalu-based Sound Tech Productions to provide the event’s sound system, lighting, canopy supply and generator, as well as street lighting from the car park to the stage area.

Recognising the fact that Kudat is a four-hour drive from Sabah state’s capital city Kota Kinabalu, Kenny Shiau, managing director of Sounds Tech Production, came prepared for the event. He and his team of engineers and crew brought back-ups of every equipment, from generator sets and microphones, to lighting and canopies.

Mother Nature presented Shiau and his team the first challenge. Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is known for its strong evening breeze, and Sounds Tech Production must ensure that the music was not affected by the strong winds.

To achieve undistorted music quality, the team used Condenser microphones and windshield for the music equipment to minimise wind noise.

Shiau recalled: “Initially we wanted to provide wireless microphones for the musicians but the frequency of sound was disrupted by the strong winds.”

Another challenge was the lack of electricity supply in the area. Two 20-foot wide 300kVA generator sets had to be brought in by two ten-ton lorries three days ahead of the concert, so the crew could start setting up and testing the microphones and street lightings.

Shiau said: “Actually, only one generator was needed, but we brought in a back-up just in case a problem crops up. Being cautious paid off, as one of the generator sets did indeed fail.”

Unfortunately, as testings progressed, the second generator start to spew trouble for the team.

“We could not turn on the digital mixer and other equipment as they were dependent on a steady supply of electricity. I was really nervous as things were getting out of control and the reputation of our company was on the line.

“Getting a (third) generator from Kota Kinabalu was out of the question as there was no time. The show could not be delayed,” said Shiau.

Eventually, the engineers found a solution: they swapped parts between the two generators. The problem was solved less than an hour before showtime.

Sounds Tech Production’s successful delivery of the event earned them a contract for Sabah Fest 2012, and this time, the company was tasked to manage the full production.

“One of the things we learnt from this experience is to stay calm in a crisis, and always have a back-up close at hand,” he said.

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