After last year’s inaugural festivals in Seoul, the ABU (Asian-Pacific Broadcasting Union) continued its new tradition of holding a televised international music gala as part of the ABU’s annual general assembly. This time the assembly was held in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, giving the national broadcaster VTV the chance to host the non-competitive ABU TV Song Festival from Hanoi Opera House.
The show will be broadcast in all of the competing countries over the next few weeks and months, but since VTV showed it live, the songs have appeared on Youtube. Actually the whole show has turned up, I will link it at the bottom, but it might easily be blocked by the time you see this! Just search on Youtube, filter by “long” clips and you might get lucky!
Oh, if you were looking for the ABU Radio Song Festival 2013, you’re not going to get far, as it’s only being run in even-numbered years!Starts promisingly enough, nice logo, extravagant montage of tourist information videos to introduce the competing nations, and an opening song “ABU – A House of love”, how sweet! A light-hearted change routine that’s basically a synchronised swimming routine on land, a disco-lite mime-fest in Vietnamese and then English (possibly) does its best to shatter any claims that this festival is nothing like Eurovision, with a song that sounds like a prime example of 2001 Europop, fabulous.
Thailand: Kandy – Aeb Saeb (Hidden love, hidden fun)
Goodness me, this looks like serious stuff, particular given that titilating translated title. They’ve got those lovely traditional costumes out, the ones with the elaborate headpieces and arm-waving dances. That extended intro – somewhat mired by too much dry-ice – is a lovely start to the show. Kandy (MISS Kandy if you’re nasty) is eventually left to go solo until… war breaks out? Or maybe it’s just the modern world’s chaos. It’s enough for her to get some massive swords out, whatever it is.
Isn’t there supposed to be a song? She could easily kill me so I’ll be quiet. After some swordplay (with some very cautious-looking backing dancers) something even more painful than bagpipes plays and the ladies get down to some Tae-bo (or is it Thai-bo?) until the 9(!) minute mark and Kandy decides to start a song finally.
As expected, she doesn’t put on a pretty dress, it’s a hot bit of Asian ethno-pop with plenty of SWAGGA. Chorus is pretty good, and it’s certainly livened things up after 9 minutes of dance/martial arts. Don’t think I’ve ever heard Thai pop, or much Thai at all. It’s alright, but please keep it within 4 minutes, OK?
Brunei Darussalam: Qeez Idrus – Salankah Aku (Am I to blame?)
Brunei’s debut at the ABU TSF is a much more demure effort, a nice emotional ballad. She doesn’t look like she’s having much fun, and it feels like her vocals are a bit wobbly sometimes, but it’s quite a nice song. It doesn’t seem to lead to any big climaxes, but when the chorus gets going later on, there’s a bit more substance to it, especially when her vocals get out of her lower register.
She lets loose in that last chorus, including a great glory note and key-change for the last chorus. Well done Qeez!
Hong Kong: Mag Lam – Shi Jian (Time)
Ha! Love that jingle in the promo video, “I love Hong Kong, we love Hong Kong” etc. I gather from the VT that Mag Lam is a talent show star. She’s certainly emoting her way through this ballad, lots of hand motions and frowning while her vocals navigate a minefield of ups and downs in the melody.
I guess she’s a famous singer back in HK, and this is one of her bigger hits, it certainly feels like a hit anyway. She sings circles around it too, including some pretty huge notes. Best so far!
Indonesia: Putri & Shella – Mimpiku (My Dream)
Couldn’t find a clip of the performance, but watched a different live performance. A shame really before it’s quite a nice song. Maybe another one to add to the big pile of ballads we’ve encountered so far. I’m going to use the word ‘nice’ a lot today I think…
All very good but … well it’s not really blowing me away. It’s a midtempo so it never really feels the urgency to step it up a notch. It’s alright but not a winner for me.
Vietnam: Văn Mai Hương – Là em đó (It’s me)
The hosts are up next, no idea how to pronounce the artist or the song. Oh goodness, what’s this? Vietnamese hip-hop? Or maybe the artist is really the pretty girl singing this mid-tempo RnB pop song.
She’s got plenty of attitude, and while this isn’t really the sort of song I like that much, I can’t really argue with that chorus. A pretty polished and enjoyable effort all round.
Australia: Justice Crew – Boom Boom/Best Night
Perhaps looking a little less dignified, here’s Australia sticking out like a sore thumb. Last year, exotically-dressed Havana Brown stood out last year amongst big-dressed balladeers, here’s the school band. You’d think the Aussies watched last year’s contest and realised the tone?
It’s fairly average dance-pop with a streetdancing gimmick to keep things moving. I don’t think many girls came here to get naughty or shake their bodies, but who knows, maybe that Vietnamese girl was singing about BDSM. Here’s the cultural exchange from Australia anyway, make of that what you will! Love the heads of the ABU on the front row clapping politely at the end!
Malaysia: Alyah – Kisah hati (A heart’s story)
With a title like that, it’s GOT to be a ballad right? Are Malaysia still using “Malaysia, truly Asia”, I’m sure it’s been well over a decade! Alyah’s a power dresser, and engaging from the first moment. Lots of drama, like the piano on it too. I get the impression we haven’t seen everything Alyah can do, she’s got a powerful voice.
The key change is really good too, and she nails the climactic final act. It looks like a movie soundtrack song from the backing visuals, but as a standalone it’s one of the more enticing ballads of the night.
Iran: Mohsen Mirzadeh – Arman (Wish)
Third debuting nation tonight (Thailand was another one, I didn’t say) is Iran. They are taking the traditional culture exchange idea and running with it, aren’t they? Hate to say it, but this particular style of traditional music leaves me a bit cold, he’s a likeable guy but I just can’t get a hold on this one. He’s trying his best though, HEYYY!!!!!
Kyrgyzstan: Tola Tursunaliev – Enekeme (Mother)
If I didn’t know much about Iran, I know less about Kyrgyzstan, apparently not even what Kyrgyz natives look like. Central Asian, let’s say. He’s got quite a nice voice really, and it’s a nice contrast to the mostly female ballads we’ve had so far.
But like those ballads, it’s not exactly the most contemporary stuff, but it’s in keeping with the evening’s entertainment, which is more than I could say for Australia. Quite nice really, well done Kyrgyzstan, wherever you are. It’s nice to know the art of the key-change has reached every corner of the world.
Japan: May’n – ViViD
Frustratingly I couldn’t seem to find ANY whole performance of this anywhere, only 90 seconds of the music video. It sounds like an anime theme, not bad in itself though without understanding the words it sounds a bit like every anime theme I’ve ever heard before.
That chorus has that nice Vi-vi-vi-vi hook and plenty of energy. I mean she’d never follow Perfume who were Japan’s entry last year, but who COULD? Seems likeable anyway, just wish I could have seen more of the song.
Sri Lanka: Sarith & Surith – Together, forever
“Two child wonders”?? Drumming brothers who won a Sri Lankan TV talent show. If Iran left me a bit cold, it’s for different reasons than why Sri Lanka are doing the same. Quite shouty, isn’t it? There’s a decent tune in there I suppose, even if it’s a bit old-school rock & roll.
WHAT THE HELL is he doing to that guitar, playing it with a bow?! Very inventive, if only it sounded ANY good. Now both playing the same guitar … it’s exhausting but at least it sounds alright. I can definitely see this fitting in on a TV talent show anyway.
Singapore: Shabir – Maybe
Is this a promotional reel for Singapore or for the one and only Shabir? Evidently this is going to be something special. Hmm… not sure on this, a bit of a funky bit of pop with some weird distorted vocal effects and some light martial arts. Can’t say I really like this one, it’s a change from the rest of the stuff but… no thanks. He’s quite pleased with himself isn’t he?
Afghanistan: Shahzad Adeel – Ma Ba Tu’em (We are with you)
Were they in this last year? Apparently they were. Anyway, this is perhaps more in line with what I expected from this part of the world, i.e. a bit like the Indian/Pakistani music I’ve heard. Shahzad is quite sweet really, even if the song isn’t doing a lot for me. I was going to say it’s catchy but that’s the wrong word. It’s listenable I think I mean.
Audience are looking bored as fuck apart from one guy dancing on his own in the middle of the crowd. All good fun, certainly heard worse tonight!
China: Splendid7 – Love will keep us together
Well what can I say? It’s CHINA, they’re surely going to bring it. And with a name like “Splendid7” too, wonderful. After some serious-looking posturing and hand motions, it unexpectedly kicks off with a pleasant dance-pop-lite dance sound a little reminiscent of the opening “House of love” love-in.
A bit flat really, again it’s a bit like a dated Eurovision entry. Their voices are a little off-point in places, especially that awkward moment during the key-change, but aren’t they having fun? How nice. But let’s move on…
South Korea: Sistar – Give it to me
Forget China, we need some hot K-Pop up in here. I love that intro, this is looking disco-fabulous, they don’t disappoint on the hot K-Pop action, a great disco-tinged pop song.
Actually there’s not a huge amount I can say about it apart from that, just that there are plenty of moves, a few canes, a wig and plenty of hair tosses. What more could you want?
So that’s that for another year. I can’t pretend it wasn’t tough going, there are plenty of songs I’d happily never hear again, but it’s still a nice little oddity in the world music calendar isn’t it? Roll on 2014, from Macau!