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The Friday and Saturday festival at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club showcased 13 bands and had an energetic crowd of about 4000. Like Borneo Jazz, the inaugural Asia Music festival (AMF) was fantastic, with amazing acts by outstanding performers. The whole atmosphere was surreal, there were several traditional bazaars, tasty food from neighboring Asian countries, over 170 bikers, and 17 seasoned tattoo artists. The concert started with the local band, Starlets at 4pm. They gave a good performance, mainly covering international hits, such as “Set fire to the rain” by Adele, “Listen” by Beyonce, “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner, and a few more in their native language, Malay. Starlets was the only band to perform on both days.
Based in Bintulu, Sarawak, Hevance topped all expectations and set very high standards for other bands to break. Their ultramodern “Dayak rock” music impressed both Iban and non-Iban speakers alike. They proved that music is universal regardless of language. To connect with their foreign fans, they sang in English, a song they composed back in 2008, titled “Dream.” Next to perform was Bob Yusof, who sang mostly in Malay but also covered a couple of slow English songs like “Sway” by Michael Buble.
In Bahasa Indonesia, the phenomenal Soesah Tidoer was able to entertain the crowd through their powerful use of instruments and vocals. They performed exceptionally well and played a number of original compositions. Their song “Goyang Merdeka” literary meaning “rocking independence” in English was a hit among the audience. The band next in line was Tritha, who performed marvelously on stage, despite having come to the venue straight from the airport with less than 30 minutes for sound check. All at the scene can agree that they were beyond amazing; each song had its own story-line and the sequence of which their songs unfolded gave the audience a spiritual feel, the kind that can only be felt in India.
Sixth on set was the Bembol Rockers from the Philippines. Their set was composed of kundiman (Traditional Filipino Serenade), jazz, swing, rockabilly, and jump blues. They hit a number with the fans of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Overall, Bembol Rockers performed well and left the audience asking for more. Last, but not least, was the amazing V. Star Band from South Korea. They were definitely the people’s favorite, through using traditional instruments to cover hits like, the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme song and “Let It Be” by the Beatles, V. Star connected with the crowd instantly. The four member band tried their level best to interact with their audience in English to fill the language barrier. Their third song, which was tango themed, hyped up the crowd like no other, but nothing could compare to the twist they made once they started rapping.
Later, the band surprised the audience by collaborating with Kamal Mussalam, a Middle Eastern guitarist whose guitar solo took the crowd by storm. They performed two compositions of Kamals and “Nobody nobody but you” upon request. V. Star reached new heights that night especially when they ended their performance with “Gangnam Style.”
In the latest press conference, the organizers explained the objective of the event, which is to tackle the low peak tourism season; hence, this festival is planned to be an annual event taking place in the month of October for a few years to come. Mr. Dato’ Rashid Khan, CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board hopes that AMF will become an iconic musical festival in the Asia Pacific region within five years. He believes this is a critical component of positioning Sarawak as a preferred destination for music and lifestyle tourism.
Coming up next is a recap of Asia Music Festival Day 2, featuring The Mountain Wind Band and Melissa Francis from Malaysia, Fakhrul Razi from Brunei, Boy Thai Band from Thailand, Antoney Dassan Yen Party from India, and Foxy Girls from Indonesia.
Image credit: Sarawak Tourism Board