Eight nations, ten Asian sensations. Despite the early threat of rain, about 8,000 music fans flocked to the Marina Promenade’s F1 Pit Area last November 16 to catch top artists from all over Southeast Asia heat up the stage at the annual Sundown Festival 2013. Clocking in at eight hours, this year’s lineup boasts a rich and diverse set list that cuts across musical genres, from glam metal and alternative/punk rock to bubblegum pop as well as bittersweet balladry.
For its fifth installment, the music festival saw the addition of established headliners from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to its uniquely regional lineup, which consists of crowd favorites and up-and-coming acts from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. Concertgoers also got a taste of Asian cuisine and culture as they sampled hawker-style street food from all eight countries while watching fringe performances by Indonesian “barong” dancers, Tinikling B-boys from the Philippines, and muay thai fighters from Thailand.
Musical melting pot
Filipino alternative band RockSteddy kicked off the festival with its signature upbeat ditties, while female-fronted Thai outfit No More Tear and Indonesian band Nidji took the crowd further down the pop-rock route with powerful, guitar-driven tracks. Riding high on the popularity of J-rock, visual kei bands Screw and D=OUT turned up the energy full throttle with frenetic glam metal beats and lots of fan service, to the delight of J-rock fans in the audience. Meanwhile, the crowd got a hefty dose of K-pop sweetness by up-and-coming Korean girl group AOA (Ace of Angels), an eight-member outfit that alternates between a seven-member idol group and a five-member band. Effortlessly holding their own amid the group-based acts, the solo artists each turned in shining repertoire that proved why they have become household names in their respective countries.
Representing the best of Mandopop and Cantopop were Adonia Shao Yu Han from the People’s Republic of China, known for her vocal prowess in the 2005 talent show “Super Girl”; Taiwanese crooner Yoga Lin, season 1 winner of the reality TV singing tilt “One Million Star”; and Hong Kong heartthrob/TVB actor Bosco Wong.
In the wake of the devastation brought about by super typhoon Haiyan, Filipino rock music icon Rico Blanco dedicated his entire performance (as well as 100% of his talent fee) to his native Leyte and put on an audiovisual spectacle like no other. Clad in ati-atihan-inspired armor and face paint, the matinee idol unleashed his fierce “Fiesto Bandido” persona and dished out hits from his solo second album as well as well-loved Rivermaya songs. He started off his high-energy set with the sonically aggressive track “Burado,” followed by the radio hit “Antukin” and “What It Is” from the 2012 album “Galactik Fiestamatik.”
Although the tracks were mostly in Tagalog, Blanco’s songs and sentiments were warmly received by Filipinos who came to watch and the mostly Singaporean crowd present. The set reached an emotional high when he performed a timely medley of uplifting Rivermaya anthems “Posible,” “Liwanag sa Dilim (Kaya mo ‘to),” “Hinahanap-hanap Kita,” and “Awit ng Kabataan,” which drew more loud cheers from the Filipinos in the crowd.
He sang an intro line from “Bangon,” the song he’d written when super typhoons hit the country in 2009, then capped off his set with the sweet serenade “Your Universe” from the 2008 solo album of the same name.
Sundown Festival is an annual event that celebrates Asian music and culture, with the aims of not only showing the best and most vibrant of Asian entertainment but also to unite and bridge the cultural diversity of Asia. Each year a new Asian country will be added to the list of performers, creating a snowball effect to the festival in order to generate hype, anticipation and captivate audience.The Festival often features some of the most popular and up-and-coming musicians, on top of their cultural exports (such as food and other consumables) through fringe activities and stalls set up at the event grounds on the Festival day itself. Sundown Festival started in 2009 with the theme Seoul’dOut!, focused on Korean music and culture and single-handedly caused an explosion of interest all things Korean (also known as the Hallyu wave) in Singapore.
In 2010, Japan was added to the performance line-up, giving rise to the popularity of J-rock and visual kei youth pop culture. Meanwhile, Taiwan was added to the mix in 2011, prompting new Asian entertainers and industry players to make Singapore as its maiden stop of fame. In 2012, Hong Kong and China were fronted to set the precedence for Sundown Festival to be the go-to platform for established TVB actors, fledgling singer-songwriters, and as an avenue to realize potential and spread their music wings outside of their home soil.
Today, Sundown Festival continues to play the role as the purveyor of all things Asian, turning the world’s spotlight to this part of the world and in its course hopes to unite culturally diversified Asia through music. The ultimate goal is to culminate all efforts to give rise to Sundown Festival World Tour of all 11 Asian countries, beginning at home, in Singapore.