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In 88Rising's Concert, Asian Artists, Including Suboi, Sing From the Comfort of Home

Last week, 88Rising put together a reimagined concert experience during the global pandemic. 

The music touring industry came to a halt as the COVID-19 pandemic started sweeping the world. But hard times are said to reveal people’s hidden gifts. 88Rising, a well-known collective which aims to amplify Asian musicians, successfully organized a live concert called Asia Rising Forever on May 6 (May 7 Vietnam time), bringing together 22 artists from different countries. Among them, Vietnam proudly had one representative: rapper Suboi.

Asia Rising Forever's lineup. Image via 88Rising.

For those who might not be familiar, 88Rising is a media company founded by Sean Miyashiro in 2015. Since then, the company has spearheaded a wave of Asian artists including Rich Brian, Joji and NIKI. Throughout its five years, 88Rising has supported many Asian musicians and bridged the gap between the US, one of the world’s leading entertainment hubs, and Asia, a region with rising musical talent.

On April 29, all 88Rising's social media platforms exploded when it announced “a special 4-hour global online concert celebrating the most exciting Asian talent from around the world.” Cổ Động, a community of Vietnamese underground/indie music fans, expressed their excitement over the festival and pride when seeing Suboi’s name on the list of performers. They had every reason to feel happy, especially considering the postponement of 88Rising’s Heads in the Clouds Festival, which had been scheduled for March 7 in Jakarta.

Kicking off Asia Rising Forever was Bangkok-based indie prince Phum Viphurit. Phum is a 24-year-old singer/songwriter and is no stranger to Vietnamese music lovers since his performance at the 2019 Thơm Music Festival and Monsoon Music Festival. During his set, Phum wore all white, standing out in a purple-lit studio that could very well be a set for his mellow, fun and vintage music videos. He got the audience ready right away with his signature 'Lover Boy,' an upbeat song about a romantic guy who wants to win his crush’s heart. Then, Phum proved his versatility in delivering an emotional track, 'Pluto.'

A screenshot of Phum Viphurit during his Asia Rising Forever performance.

Up next was the moment all Vietnamese music lovers had been waiting for. Suboi appeared, looking dapper as ever, and she presented a personal take on her latest single, 'Bet On Me.' On camera, the rapper shared that people’s commitment to hard work inspired the majority of her songs. “I dedicate [my songs] to all the people who work a lot, but not a lot of them get recognized. There may be nothing glamorous about them, but they’re an important part to make something run,” she said.

The Saigonese icon also took time to answer burning questions from fans, revealing her thoughts on whether she would choose bún bò Huế or cơm tấm, geckos or dinosaurs, and what she Googled last. Just like an actual concert, these little moments helped fans see more of their idols’ personalities. It turns out that they also share some of our interests and face some of our dilemmas. 

Suboi performing her new single, Bet On Me.

The concert went on in mutual enjoyment between the performers and viewers. More than 1 million viewers gathered on YouTube to catch the live broadcast of Asia Rising Forever, and the chat box was full of messages showing support for the artists. The artists also prepared a wide range of activities to interact with fans, besides singing their hearts out. UMI took fans through a quick guided meditation. AUDREY NUNA instructed fans on how to make her favorite Korean snack. NIKI took her love for Panda Express’ orange chicken to the next level, as she attempted to replicate it at home. Rich Brian and Kang Daniel engaged in a pajama-style dance battle, which was both adorable and funny.

The pajama dance battle between Rich Brian and Kang Daniel on 88Rising's YouTube page.

What made the concert most memorable, however, was its focus on charitable cause. 88Rising opened a donation portal during the event, and over US$27,000 was collected for the nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC. With their mission “to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all,” the money will be used for their work in helping Asian Americans deal with discrimination, which has been on the rise due to COVID-19. The concert was a great starting point, as it connected young Asian artists, who say that music helps provide them with an outlet that they could not find elsewhere.

In Vietnam, many artists are also showing their adaptability to cope with a tough time. Monsoon Music Festival and Thơm Music Festival are two popular events that have taken their shows online, featuring big names like Ha Tran, Ngot, Vu, and Thịnh Suy. Van Mai Huong is another singer that has made great use of the live performance trend. With a strong, high-pitched voice, the singer mesmerized fans with covers of many famous songs, including the Vietnamese version of 'I Will Go to You Like the First Snow' (Goblin OST by Ailee).

While a virtual concert cannot be a perfect replacement for an exciting in-person festival, these efforts are worthy of praise. This is also a reminder for all of us that the next time we go to a concert, we can also contribute to make the experience worthwhile. We can show more love to artists and help put a smile on their faces, just as they do for us on a regular basis.

Watch the full Asia Rising Forever broadcast on 88Rising's YouTube page below:

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