Line ups for most South Korean music festivals almost read like an English alphabet …after one too many sips of soju. BIA4, ZE:A, BoA, G.Na and U-Kiss are just a few Korean acts to have put a quirky English spin on their name and lyrics. Get past the trendy, mildly confusing Konglish, and you have K-pop (Korean pop) – an infectiously catchy brand of pop music that is surging in popularity around the globe. For die hard Korean pop fans, and those curious about the K-pop craze, the Asia Song Festival is the place to be.
Now in its ninth year, the Asia Song Festival has showcased a wealth of talent since debuting on the international music scene. To date, groups from Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia and surprisingly even the Ukraine have graced the stage. Having become so popular across Asia, the event is also now televised in many neighboring countries.
Hosted by the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, the festival is focused on promoting new talent, as well as interest in Asian musicians across the board. Generally 15-20 groups perform each year to a diverse audience – all vying for the title of “Best New Asian Artist.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the top honor usually goes to a Korean group or performer. In 2012, Korea will be represented by an impressive line up of young pop talent such as Kim Hyung Joong, Tiger JK and Moon Mirae, Teen Top, Ailee, MBLAQ and SISTAR. International acts include China’s Wei Chen, Japanese group Aqua Timez, Singapore solo artist Fann Wong, Taiwan’s Yoga Lin and super sweet girl group Candy Mafia of Thailand. Those who understand Korean can also enjoy the entertainment between acts. Special guests such as popular local comedic group Brave Guys will keep the crowd energized between sets.
Regardless of the language divide, the Asia Song Festival is a must for any music lover – and a great way to experience Korean style and youth culture. The vibrant spirit of the music and energy of the performers translates loud and clear. The singing is superb, the dancing is sharp and amazingly synchronized and the crowd (often full of love-struck high schoolers waving homemade signs) is nearly as entertaining as the performers themselves. A helpful tip, be sure to toss a pair of ear plugs in your pocket – just in case you get stuck next to a pack of screaming pre-teens.
The festival is hosted by a different city and venue nearly every year. Though generally held between September and November, the 2012 festivities were bumped up a few months to share the stage with Korea’s Yeosu Expo. This is a fantastic bonus for Yeosu-goers, as the Asia Song Festival ticket is included in the price of Yeosu admission. It’s a great way to experience multiple facets of Korean and Asian culture in one fun, easy weekend.