Last week, I was invited by Air Asia along with other ABC (Air Asia Bloggers Community) members from Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, China and Indonesia to attend the first ever Asia Music Festival in Miri, Malaysia, and I couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity.

Bembol Rockers from The Philippines
Bembol Rockers from The Philippines

This is what travel blogging is all about, right? Attending events and sharing what I’ve seen? Perfect. And I had a great time. The Asia Music Festival is a two day event when top Asian performers as well as up-and-coming musicians and bands get together and put on a once a year show.


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At the Press Conference
At the Press Conference

Arrival and Accommodation in Miri

I had never been to Miri before, so part of the trip was just learning about the city itself. Miri is a small city by Asian standards, just 350,000 people live in this northern coastal city on the island of Borneo.

Our Rooms at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club
Our Rooms at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club

It’s been mostly an industrial city in the past, as well as being the political center of the Miri District in Miri Division on the island of Borneo. But now it’s hailed as one of the newest and most attractive resort cities in the region and they’ve got the coastline to pull it off. Shopping areas were having special sales and events related to the Music Festival, called the Asia Music Festival Shopping Bonanza.

At the Back of the Concert Area
At the Back of the Concert Area

The local malls that participated include Bintang Mega Mall, Emart, Boulevard Imperial Mall, Sin Liang Supermarket, Boulevard Shopping Complex, and PermyMall.  There are also a bunch of national parks in the region, which all look like they’re worth visiting. Another trip in the works? Perhaps. This time, I didn’t have time to go exploring much.

Breads and Pancakes
Breads and Pancakes

The great thing about Miri is that it’s easy to get to from a number of domestic and international airports. Most connections internationally come through Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which is an easy hub to get to from anywhere in Asia. Maybe this is why the Asia Music Festival was placed right here.

Preparing Sushi
Preparing Sushi

This was the inaugural year and it was awesome. It was pretty busy and impressive for a first year event, but it wasn’t packed. A couple of locals coming from nearby cities said that people they knew found out last minute and couldn’t make it. A bit more advance warning and it would have been much bigger – that’s the feeling I got, anyway.

Souvenir Products from Miri Malaysia
Souvenir Products from Miri Malaysia

I stayed on site at the Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club, which is a modern and well-equipped place to stay. It’s not unique or special, but it’s clean and updated and I have no complaints. Plus, I wasn’t there to sit in my room and things started up right away, since I was there as part of the press and media coverage.

Food and Side Events

There were many delicious options for food, more than I could really taste in two days. There was food from Brunei, India, Vietnam, The Philippines and Malaysia – I tried to find something that I wouldn’t eat and was unsuccessful. It was a culinary adventure, almost worth seeing just for the food.

My Favorite Nasi Lemak and Chicken Noodle Soup
My Favorite Nasi Lemak and Chicken Noodle Soup

There was also a SuperBikes show with many big motorcycles including Harley’s and Ducati’s, as well as Kawasaki’s and other brands.

Bikers at the Concert Area
Bikers at the Concert Area

The featured tattoo artists were also a big hit, with many people lining up to commemorate the event with a tattoo.

Tattoo Sessions at Asia Music Festival
Tattoo Sessions at Asia Music Festival

And of course there were local crafts and artists offering souvenirs and handcrafts from Miri and around the region.

Souvenir Vendor
Souvenir Vendor

Day 1 Performances

Our Day 1 started with a press conference followed by a tree planting activity. During the press conference, Mr. Dato’ Rashid Khan, CEO of Sarawak Tourism Board said they will invite more performers for next year including artists from China and Singapore. Sarawak Tourism Board really aims to recognize Sarawak as a Music Festival Hub in Asia Pacific Region by creating more music themed events.

Tree Planting with Air Asia Bloggers Community
Tree Planting with Air Asia Bloggers Community

So let’s talk about music. The stage show started at 4pm, which makes it possible to put a lot of people up there over the course of the afternoon and evening, but it felt early. To make it worse, nobody knew a lot of the performers who were starting things off at that time. The starting band was Starlet, a cover band that got things moving well with their covers of popular songs from the 70’s to the present.

Hevance
Hevance

They were followed by Hevance, who rocked pretty hard. HEVANCE is a Malaysian Independent Iban rock band from Bintulu, Sarawak. Formed in 2001, the band was known to the public with their first single Semampai Ngenang in the year 2008 but what really boosts their popularity was the second single Aku Nemu which was in their mini studio album or EP titled Sada Ati in the year 2010. The song topped the charts in most of the local radio station in Sarawak which later was nominated for 3 categories in Anugerah Carta Borneo ERA 2010/11 organized by ERA FM. To be the only iban band nominated in the event, HEVANCE break the boundaries of local iban music to be accepted in a Malay Award.

Bob Yusof
Bob Yusof

It was followed by another great performance from Bob Yusoff, known from the reality show Akademi Fantasia. Yusoff was definitely a crowd pleaser, and one of my personal favorites of the Festival.

Soesah Tidoer
Soesah Tidoer

Indonesian band Soesah Tidoer was interesting, if a little different, and then came another excellent performer: Tritha, from India.

Tritha
Tritha

Tritha combines traditional Indian vocals and instruments, including Tibetan singing bowls, with a modern pop/rock sound. Plus, her voice is beautiful. I was enchanted, and so was much of the audience. Tritha has traveled and performed in Europe for four consecutive years; enchanting audiences there. She is a true global artist, always eager to discover new cultures and sounds. She is planning a collaboration with musicians in Congo after being featured in a TV show in the country. Tritha’s first studio album, PaGLi, will release in the first quarter of 2013.

The final two acts for the evening were both big crowd pleasers. I particularly enjoyed Bembol Rocker, a Filipino band that gets people dancing every time.

V Star Band
V Star Band

After that was the K-Pop group V Star, who managed to show a bit of uniqueness by playing a bit of more traditional Korean music. I’m not sure the entire crowd was excited about their divergence from the normal K-Pop stuff, but I thought it was a good move. V Star was one of the finalists of KOREA’S GOT TALENT of 2012.

Day 2 Performances

Before the music started, I got to see a few of my favorites from the day before, including Tritha, at a press conference. I was also looking forward to the performance by Boy Thai Band, and they gave an idea of what they had planned for the evening.

Pinoy Music by Bembol Rockers
Pinoy Music by Bembol Rockers

I managed to stuff myself (again with the excellent food) and missed the start of The Mountain Wind Band from Malaysia. They were alright, as was Malaysian Melissa Francis who was followed by Starlet, once again.

Starlets Band
Starlets Band

For me, Brunei’s Fakhrul Radzhi was a huge highlight. He’s full of energy, sings beautifully, and the crowd was totally into it. Apparently, many of his fans from Brunei (Miri is very close to the border) made it to the festival and were singing along with many of his songs.

Boy Thai Band Performing
Boy Thai Band Performing

Boy Thai Band was also a lot of fun, with their blend of classical Thai instruments and modern sounds and arrangements. I really enjoyed their set and they were clearly a crowd favorite.

Another Indian, Anthony Dassan Yen Party, had people dancing, as did The Foxy Girls, from Indonesia.

An Asia Extravaganza Worth Seeing

Melo Villareal with Tritha
Melo Villareal with Tritha

Thanks to AirAsia and the Sarawak Tourism Board for making this incredible festival possible. Organizers are hoping that the next Asia Music Festival, tentatively slated for April 3rd and 4th, will draw bigger acts and therefore bigger crowds. But for the first Asia Music Festival, I’m sure many people made great memories and are looking forward to even bigger and better next time.

Asia Music Festival was organized by Sarawak Tourism Board and supported by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia. For updates news about Asia Music Festival 2014 visit www.asiamusicfestival.net or Facebook.

*some of the photos are property of Sarawak Tourism Board:)

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