Words by MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
With the great majority of the live music industry remaining at a standstill, resulting to massive income depreciation and job loss as well as beloved local music spots closing their doors permanently one after the other, there emerges alternative ways of filling up the gap between the demand (an audience who’s spent, or still currently spending, months cooped up at home) and opportunities for musicians: whether to create music or content to market it, and avenues to profit.
In its place currently are virtual music events: pre-recorded live performances, Minecraft-hosted club parties, and virtual hangouts. And let’s face it—these do not come close to the visceral, tangible experience of live music, but perhaps it just isn’t meant to be. Virtual music shows are not substitutes to physical shows and they should not be. Live music are experiential events that satiate not just the auditory pleasures that music provides. The sights, smells, and tastes are indelible; the energy, communal. We feed off each other’s presence, shoulder to shoulder, often looking up at the blazing figure (or figures) on stage like gods granting us mere mortals their presence, flesh and spirit. These cannot be replicated by any other format and understanding this is key to developing another approach that at least, for the time being, offer a reprieve rather than just a distraction during this existential period.
With the goal of elevating the Southeast Asian independent music scene to the global stage, the debut online edition of the ASEAN Music Showcase Festival aims to not only spotlight, but realize the region’s oft-overlooked potential. Happening online on September 19 to 21, the festival will feature performances by 20 artists from participating countries Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines which can be livestreamed for free. The festival is co-organized by key figures from Fungjai Thailand and Indonesia, Bangkok Music City, NYLON Thailand, SRM, Soundscape Records, City ROARS! Festival, Live Fact, SGMUSO, and The Rest Is Noise PH.
The first two days will focus on the artist performances, while the third day will be dedicated to virtual conferencing among the artists and music industry delegates from distinguished music-oriented organizations and companies across Asia and North America, including the Philippines’ Dexter Sy of Cebu-based independent music label Melt Records; Pat Sarabia, musician and A&R of Manila-based Offshore Music label; Jorge Wieneke, producer and head of the virtually held shows at Club Matryoshka, decentralized radio station Manila Community Radio, and beatmaker group BuwanBuwan Collective.
Other participating delegates are LUCFest’s Weining Hung from Taiwan, Trans Asia Music Meeting’s Ryuji Noda from Japan, Zandari Festa’s Kong “Dalse” Yoonyoung from South Korea, Clockenflap’s Justin Sweeting from Hong Kong, and SXSW’s James Minor from the U.S.
Festival organizers, including yours truly, curated a corresponding artist lineup that reflects the genre-bending and defying creativity of each country. Here are our selected performers.
This year’s maiden edition is carefully curated to reflect the progressive and diverse indie and underground music scene in the Philippines, with a broad range of selection that spans genres, movements, and artistic visions. The Rest Is Noise PH specifically chose contemporary artists that have shown incredible track record in terms of live performance and recording, and whose distinct brand has the potential to make it big to the international stage.
With their impressive portfolio in the global music arena, performing in top regional festivals such as Laneway Music Festival in Singapore and Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival in Hong Kong, Cheats have always stood out as a live band capable of delivering big, anthemic moments with riveting surprises and charismatic edge. It would be great to see them perform in a stripped-down setup, and excel in what they do best: wow the audience regardless of the platform and format, and turn the intimacy and limitations of space into an opportunity to showcase a different side of them that remains untapped at the moment.
For some socially aware, game-changing hip-hop that transcends language barriers and cultural differences, Uprising Records’ roster of established and up-and-coming acts will definitely be a remarkable addition to the lineup. With a special record label showcase that marks the genre’s uncompromised versatility, Uprising takes on the challenge of presenting artistic expressions that are both distinctly Filipino and universally relatable in context, and whose level of ambition succeeds not so much on the surface level, but on its ability to mirror and respond to the socio-political conditions of our times with a balance of depth and introspection.
Both R&B sensation August Wahh and experimental pop artist Pikoy understand the importance of maintaining artistic integrity and projecting a persona that isn’t tied down to the expectations of being an industry plant or pawn. Even in a short period of time, their body of work remains consistently compelling and envelope-pushing, finding meaningful ways to grow, innovate, and welcome ideas outside of conventions.
With the breakout success of singer-songwriter indie darling Phum Viphurit (followed by successful tours across Asia—including his debut Manila performance at All of the Noise 2018 and co-headlining Summer Noise 2019—North America, and Europe), Thailand’s poised to push more Thai acts towards the global stage. With the success of the maiden edition of Bangkok Music City (BMC) 2019, local and international music fans alike are treated to artistry that recalls familiar sounds from the West with the distinct touch of domestic heritage.
BMC co-founders Fungjai and NYLON Thailand’s selection of performers gleans on the pop sensibilities of Thai contemporary music: the diaristic, radio-friendly appeal of singer-songwriter Valentina Ploy, the tender melancholia of STOIC, the mainstream crossover charm of indie pop-rock act H 3 F, and the emotional dexterity displayed in the musicianship of electronica-Isan folk group Tontrakul are a fitting premiere offering for the festival.
On the debut edition of ASEAN Music Showcase Festival, SGMUSO specifically handpicked local music acts through an open-call artist selection who will represent the eclecticism and vibrant pulse of Singapore’s music scene, which has not only grown exponentially through the years, but also managed to showcase world-class potential.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Linying, inarguably one of the biggest acts in the region, has gained international recognition for her introspective blend of pop, folk and electronic music influences. She has reaped several praises from major publications such as Billboard for her music’s “earthy imagery and lush instrumentals” and tastemakers such as NPR for representing “both the tenacity and vulnerability of her own starry-eyed generation in songs about coming of age and coming to terms.” Having the globally renowned pop icon grace the virtual stage for ASEAN Music Showcase Festival definitely adds prestige to the roster of performing acts.
Linying will be joined by exciting newcomers and established icons such as alt-rock/shoegaze outfit, Coming Up Roses whose well-received EP, Waters was released on digital platforms just last year; Singapore-based singer-songwriter Marian Carmel whose honeyed bop “‘Might Never Get Better” debuted on several Spotify-curated playlists all over the world; and fast-rising star J.M3 whose new single “Don’t You Save Us” evokes the minimalist art-pop of Billie Eilish, sprinkled with a bit of hip-hop and R&B influences. Together, these artists are slowly making a name for themselves outside of Lion City’s consciousness, by virtue of global appeal and talent, combined.
There was an underlying premise of the monolithic nature of Indonesia’s music scene: a dominant raucous rock and metal noise scene that its industry’s key players challenge but don’t completely disagree with. Indonesia, like the Philippines, consists of large main islands and chains of smaller islands with a dense capital and major cities that bring more attention to music practitioners from populous areas like its capital Jakarta while posing greater challenges for artists based in distant areas aiming to widen their listenership. This predicament is not lost in its dedicated community of private organizations (often established by and within art circles) whose work supports and elevates local musicians at large-scale international music festivals like We The Fest, or independently-run music companies that also specializes in events like Sun Eater and Archipelago Festival, as well as a plethora of music labels like Kolibri Rekords and SRM.
SRM’s curation of Indonesian acts for the ASEAN Music Showcase Festival debunks any preconceived notions about its music the range of its creators by presenting a motley of artists that range from Tanayu’s avant-garde folk and experimental electronica to the stripped-down intimacy of Rangkai. Joining them are Bangkutaman, with their local brand of unfettered sunniness and Jirapah, whose music is an expansive palette of psychedelic pop, ambient, and indie rock, just to name a few.
As far as music exports go, Malaysia has proven to be a vital source of globally ready acts that are worth keeping an eye on. City ROARS! Festival, an initiative dedicated to promoting independent music and arts from across the region, sees to it that the artists representing their roster would give local and foreign audiences alike a taste of Malaysia’s underrated music finds.
Two of these acts have already released critically acclaimed records that were on our radar this year: psychedelic rock outfit Golden Mammoth and post-rock band Mutesite. While not anywhere near as ubiquitous as Alextbh and Yuna, both acts serve as a much-welcomed diversion from the cookie-cutter talents that proliferate in online spaces for years. These artists not only explore weirder, more sonically ambitious soundscapes that defy trends in production and music-making, but their songs aren’t afraid to tackle themes that were hardly dealt by their peers in general.
Other acts that will take part of ASEAN Music Showcase Festival are acclaimed duo Budhha Beat whose music occasionally mixes traditional instruments with pulsating electronic sounds, and neo-folk artist Bayangan, whose intimate musings on contemporary life in Malaysia have garnered praise from the local music media.
For continued updates and details about the festival, visit the website.