MusicMatters – The Music
The recent MusicMatters conference featured a lot of live performances. We had artists on stage during the proceedings. Moreover, there were four consecutive nights of showcases – the final two nights of which involved free gigs across four venues in Lan Kwai Fong, on Friday and Saturday night, with at least five performance slots for […]
The recent MusicMatters conference featured a lot of live performances. We had artists on stage during the proceedings. Moreover, there were four consecutive nights of showcases – the final two nights of which involved free gigs across four venues in Lan Kwai Fong, on Friday and Saturday night, with at least five performance slots for each venue.
What may surprise some music fans is that a lot of the acts featured had made it to the conference with the help and support of the national (and sometimes regional) trade commissions. This was particularly the case in terms of the Australian and Canadian performers.
It just wasn’t possible to get along to watch everybody. Still, here’s a rundown of all the bands and artists I did manage to see.
Altan Urag opened the conference in spectacular fashion and by the end of the conference had secured a deal with BMI! Hailing from Mongolia the band is supported by the South Gobi Mining Company, in the kind of deal that is more common in the classical music world, than the pop and world music scene. They mostly play adapted traditional instruments, but with loads of distortion and effects and combine throat-singing with western dark-metal singing to create a bend of music that is more like melodic metal than typical world music fare.
BEILEI was a singer I managed to see twice. A substantial R&B vocalist performing with a guitarist and turntablist, she sung solidly in both English and Mandarin. I was particularly impressed with how soulfully she sang in Mandarin, especially in set I caught on the final night.
Guarav Bangia has a wonderful voice and cool stage presence. Indian pop culture is globally prominent right now, but there is a surprising lack of live artists who can perform the marvellously eclectic music of Bollywood live and take it globally. Sourev has the talent to do that.
Dappled Cities are a very hip, stylised post-new wave rock band from Australia. As with a number of other rock bands in the showcase, there were strong 80s BritRock influences (early U2, The Smiths, The Cure, Simple Minds).
DD/MM/YYYY were one of the big hits of the conference. An inventive group, who describe themselves as art rock, but for me they felt more like grungy prog rock – and I mean that as a compliment! They had some great riffs, compelling, if anarchic stage presence and delivered solid sets on repeat nights.
Dira is a great soulful singer from Indonesia who sung a convincing set of jazzy pop in the showcase and also performed a wonderful duet with Jason Mraz during the conference.
D.O. is a freestyle rapper from Canada who brought a lot of fun and positive energy to his sets, delivering great vocals and improvised rhymes. D.O. holds the Guinness world record for the longest freestyle rap.
Delhi2Dublin were one of the acts I was keen to see well before the concert started. Blending Bhangra, Celtic, Techno and Breakbeat, they have loads of style and confident onstage delivery. Their fusion has huge potential not just to fans of electronica but also to massive Indian diaspora worldwide (especially second generation kids) and to music fans in India as well, were there’s a fast growing youth market for non-Bollywood music.
Elyzia were one of the more interesting bands of the showcase. Hailing from Singapore, they moved between metal and hard rock while retaining a good melodic sensibility (and some craziness, including lots of bass wah!). I’d like to hear more from them.
Galaxy Express just kept gathering momentum across the three nights they played. Hailing from South Korea, they were described as psychedelic rock, but that doesn’t do justice to their range and outrageous onstage energy. Crazy, over the top and everything you could want in a power rock three piece they were loads of good fun.
Inward Eye are a band I only managed to catch for a song and a half, which was a shame as what I heard left me with the impression of solid song-writing, great feel and pure rock performance.
Jully Black was another big hit of the showcases. Already a mature performer, she really warrants broader attention and publicity. Her acoustic set during the conference left the crowd demanding an encore (thank you to MC, Celina Jade, for bringing her back) and her performances with a band over two nights were even more captivating.
Kris Lau was billed as dark folk, though her performance was something I would have described as inventive acoustic pop (though maybe in Hong Kong pop carries the wrong connotations). Reminiscent of Angie Hart, Michelle Branch and even singer and Jonatha Brooke, I was impressed by both performances.
Li-Tong woke up the first night of showcases with a barnstorming performance of Listen from the Dreamgirls (a tune made famous in the film version by Beyonce). Originally from Holland and now based in Shanghai, she has a tremendous voice and polished stage presence.
Marsha Yuan gave us a set of introspective and engaging pop. I have to be blunt – it’s a mystery to my why material like hers (and also Ms Lau’s) is not more popular in this city.
Pesawat are an accessible indie rock band from Malaysia with a strong melodic sensibility and confident onstage presence. As I understand it, they already have quite a bit of success in Malaysia and I don’t see why they couldn’t grow a big following across Asia.
REDPOLL was one of my favourite bands of the festival. An inventive pop rock combo from Singapore, with a lot of texture to their music and a cool 60’s beatnik meets beach boys vibe that won me over.
Sasi The Don delivered a very entertaining brand of dancehall and contemporary reggae. Malaysia might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Reggae, but it makes a lot of sense that this kind of gentle, beautiful, fun and provocative music would bear fruit in SE Asia. I’ve been playing his album a lot in the days following the conference.
Shairah, a Canadian singer/songwriter/producer was one of the performers I made a point of seeing twice. To me she seemed most at home with R&B but could clearly perform in a number of different styles.
26 are a very well developed, alternative rock band from Australia. They also brought the 80s BritRock influence to the stage, but with a more raw, provocative and occasionally political edge. 26 are also a brilliant example of an independent band who produce and distribute their own music and have, through blogging, mp3 downloads and podcasts, deepened their fan base.
Of course, there were a lot more good acts that I can’t report on. In particular Moja from Japan and Drawn from Bees from Australia attracted a lot of positive comments. Please leave a comment if you managed to catch any of the bands I haven’t reviewed here.
Finally, here is a gallery of super grainy iPhone images,