Back To Top

[Herald Review] Musicians from S. Korea, ASEAN harmonize through ‘Round in Korea’

Six-hour online festival allows artists, fans to unite through passion for music

Musicians from Korea and nine ASEAN member states perform during the online music festival “Round in Korea” on Sunday. (ASEAN-Korea Music Festival)
Musicians from Korea and nine ASEAN member states perform during the online music festival “Round in Korea” on Sunday. (ASEAN-Korea Music Festival)
The COVID-19 pandemic may restrict travel, but the power of music to connect and bring people together across borders was apparent Sunday night at the ASEAN-Korea Music Festival’s “Round in Korea.”

The six-hour online festival featuring 15 musicians from Korea and nine of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was hosted by state-run broadcaster KBS and sponsored by Seoul‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund and the ASEAN Secretariat. Musicians from Myanmar were unable to participate due to conditions in the country.

The musicians, performing in their respective countries, created a festive vibe by showcasing eye-opening performances that attracted some 250,000 viewers around the globe.

Under the theme of “Hello to New Normal,” “Round in Korea” aimed to strengthen the cultural bond among the ASEAN member states and Korea through the power of music to connect people. The festival was a melting pot of different musical styles, ranging from traditional Korean music-inspired avant-rock to Pinoy pop, featuring 15 top musical acts from the 10 countries.

The online music event began with a performance by South Korean ambient pop band Lucy. The runner-up in JTBC’s music competition show “Superband” in 2019 seemed nervous kicking off the show, but the group’s mellifluous voices performing “Hero,” “Irrelevant Answer,” “Rolling Rolling” and “Stove” soon grabbed the audiences’ attention.

Laotian singer-songwriter Taiy Akard next sang “See Vid Lung Khuam Tai,” “Jao Bor Man Akard” and “Pharb Kheurn Wai.” Performances by ASEAN musicians were prerecorded and streamed via YouTube.

Malaysian female rapper Sophia Liana mesmerized the audience with thumping beats, powerful raps and strong vocals, performing four songs including the mashup “Sophia Rap Time x Panas x Raja Gelek,” “Bunga x Amboi” and “Dulu.” The artist fused hip-hop tunes with Malaysian culture to create her own style.

Five-member Korean crossover band Jambinai built a strong connection with music aficionados, blending Korea’s traditional gugak and contemporary avant-garde. The band created universal sounds by playing gugak instruments including the geomungo, haegeum and ajaeng, along with drums and bass guitar. The group performed three songs: “Onda,” “Sun. Tears. Red” and “Time of Extinction.” 

Musicians from Korea and nine ASEAN member states perform during the online music festival “Round in Korea” on Sunday. (ASEAN-Korea Music Festival)
Musicians from Korea and nine ASEAN member states perform during the online music festival “Round in Korea” on Sunday. (ASEAN-Korea Music Festival)
Bruneian vocalist Bila Junaidi performed five songs with the band the Stars, while Cambodian singer-songwriter Kesorrr took to the stage with powerful performances with other artists, including the five-member dance group D-Man. Korean boy band N.Flying also excited K-pop fans with their songs “Flowerwork,” “Video Therapy,” “Stand by Me” and “Songbird.”

Vietnamese pop star My Anh performed multiple self-composed songs and showcased her soon-to-be-released R&B tune “Look Easy” in the festival. Her dad joining as a guitarist for the performance caught the audience’s attention as well.

Korean synth-pop group Adoy and Indonesian band Barasuara heated up the stage, while Korean singer-songwriter Sam Kim, Singaporean singer-songwriter Linying and Thai singer-songwriter and producer Two Popetorn delighted the audience with their sweet and mellow vocals. The Thai singer filled up the stage by performing with Jakkawal, a member of the festival music committee.

As soon as the Filipino boy band SB19, one of the Billboard Music Awards’ nominees for top social media artist along with BTS, Ariana Grande, Blackpink and Seventeen, came up, fans of the five-member act left endless messages cheering on the group in the live chat. Nearly 13,000 viewers watched the boy band’s performance through YouTube channels for KBS Kpop and Round Festival.

Korean duo Peppertones, introducing themselves as “musicians who play joyful and hopeful music,” wrapped up the festival with “Long Journey’s End,” “A Cowboy’s Ocean,” “Everything is OK” and “Good Luck to You.” The duo expressed their excitement about performing in front of global music fans as well.

Burmese reggae singer-songwriter Wai La was supposed to perform as well, but due to the prolonged crisis in Myanmar, the prerecording of his performance was delayed and could not be completed in time for participation in the festival. The event, however, hinted that his performance will be unveiled when KBS and KBS World broadcast the festival next month.

Although there were minor technical glitches during the show, the 2-year-old music event deftly managed the situation. The event also played its campaign song “Will You Come See Me Again,” which was produced by Korean singer-songwriter Kim Hyun-chul.

Festival host singer-songwriter Yoon Sang’s live interviews with two Southeast Asian artists gave a sense of intimacy to the online event. During the interview with My Anh, Yoon asked to collaborate with the Vietnamese musician, raising expectations for collaborative performances among Korean and ASEAN musicians when the pandemic is over.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR