Five rising Asian bands you must see, from Hong Kong’s Phoon to Indonesia’s Seahoarse

Southeast Asian music has long been overlooked in the West, but the tide is turning, with a plethora of new and exciting acts transforming the region

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 7:31pm

Tokyo has long been a hub for touring bands and music lovers, but recent years have seen strong music scenes grow across Southeast Asia, shining a spotlight on a plethora of creative new talent, as seen at last month’s Clockenflap music festival in Hong Kong.

Bands in the region might have a notoriously tough time breaking into the Western market, but why would they want to when there’s so much going on here? Check out these five rising Asian acts that are leading the way.

Singapore – Jasmine Sokko

Jasmine Sokko’s deceptively minimalistic electronic sound hides layers of spongy, syncopated synths, bass-heavy washes and choppy, distorted vocals. The singer-songwriter-producer has made a name for herself on Spotify, hitting the top of Singapore’s viral chart with her debut single 1057 last year. In March, she teamed up with New York producer Lucian for the tropical-sounding Close To You, inspired by long-distance relationships. Fans of Lorde and Lykke Li’s husky, intimate delivery and heartfelt songwriting should check out this rising Singaporean star, who released her long-awaited EP in September.

Hong Kong – Phoon

After opening for US rockers Diiv in September and drawing significant crowds at the Wow and Flutter Weekend and Clockenflap festivals in Hong Kong this year, Phoon has earned a reputation as one of the city’s most essential live acts. Their sound channels a post-rock sensibility with shifting tempos and moods, while catchy melodies and sunny hooks evoke upbeat indie bands such as The Temper Trap.

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Their name, which means “wind”, derives from the word “typhoon”, and as lead singer Forest puts it: “It relates to our music and personality … the wind can be gentle or fierce.” At Clockenflap in November, they revealed they’re back in the studio making a new album, so expect to hear much more of Phoon in 2018.

Malaysia – Killeur Calculateur

Subang Jaya punks Killeur Calculateur are live favourites wherever they play. They combine post-punk, emo and post-hard core genres, delivering a heavy onslaught reminiscent of bands such as Glassjaw or Refused. The band have pushed to record in their native Malay on their new batch of songs released this year, making a comeback after their lauded debut album Book of Flags in 2014.

Indonesia – Seahoarse

Music fans are spoiled for choice in Indonesia, which is quickly gaining recognition as a hub for original indie music. There’s plenty of goodness to be found among the Jakarta-based Kolibri Rekords roster, but the colourful, kitsch and self-aware Seahoarse are some of the most eye and ear-catching of the bunch. The quartet, whose debut, Magical Objects, was released in June, reveals a penchant for twinkly, jangling guitars, soft and dreamy singing and bittersweet songwriting influenced by 1990s British shoegaze acts.

Philippines – Yurei

Described by one publication as “the only grunge band in Manila”, Yurei combine their nostalgia for Nirvana with an extra dose of eccentricity, fierce punk jams and a more nuanced sound. In June, they released their psychedelically-tinged new single, Bright Master, that was filled with a lush soundscape of arpeggios, swirling electronic effects, and distorted guitar.

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They have a sense of humour, too: their debut EP in 2015 was titled, The Problem of Grunge in 2015, or How to Deal with Boredom and Other Stories, or Memoirs of My Nervous Condition, or The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Confronting the Self, or Meditations on Life and Death in Metro Manila. The band are also finding their feet outside Asia, with tour dates currently scheduled in the US.