88rising’s Asia Rising Forever: Good Music and a Whole Lot of Heart

88rising’s Asia Rising Forever: Good Music and a Whole Lot of Heart

Stories and live performances, with a side of Panda Express, please



It’s hard to remember the last time I watched a live broadcast from start to finish, which is pretty surprising considering I’m a K-Pop fan who is constantly bombarded with Instagram and V Live notifications. In between work and the madness that is this pandemic, tuning into live shows just isn’t as easy as it used to be. As far as fan culture goes, there’s a unique longing to be there for everything your fave does when you brand yourself a fan of a K-Pop idol, but these days, I find it hard to even muster up the capacity to stay updated on their new music—let alone their broadcasts.


If anything, though, I’m glad I made the time to watch something today.


That something just happens to be Asia Rising Forever, a fully online music festival presented by 88rising. The label-meets-media-company was built with the intention of spotlighting Asian talent (“with a hope and a dream, on top of a parking garage in New York,” they say in this tweet—anyone else getting emotional?), so it only seemed appropriate for them to whip something up in time for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In addition to reaching existing fans of their star-studded roster and putting new Asian artists on the map, the virtual festival was also a fundraising effort. 100% of donations collected during the livestream are going to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a non-profit committed to putting a stop to xenophobia. God knows we need that at a time like this. 


RELATED: Is NIKI’s Switchblade the Quarantine Anthem We Needed?


For starters, the lineup was stellar. 88rising’s own Dumbfoundead took on the role of hosting the stream, reminding folks of the objective that backed up the online event and facilitating the flow from one artist to the next. He may have thrown a few fun facts here and there, too. Then there were his labelmates. Stephanie Poetri serenaded the internet with her acoustic track, I Love You 3000. Higher Brothers and their hard-hitting rap blew us away. Rich Brian performed his latest release BALI straight from his studio—and created a fresh track out of one of his old beats (be sure to let him know if you want a full version, btw.)


Among the 88rising crew, it was NIKI whom we found to be a total show-stealer. Yes, we know she’s young and charming. Yes, we know she’s talented. But this stripped-back version of Switchblade just—as they say—hit different. 



While these folks would have made for a pretty solid rota already, the rest of the Asian artists rounded everything out and transformed the experience. There were stories. There were snacks. There was an abundance of new music we’re adding to our playlists.


The last time we caught Phum Viphurit perform was at Karpos Live Mix 10. A good six months later, he proved to us that his performances are every bit as smile-inducing and poignant as we remember. He kicked off the show with Lover Boy—a favorite, of course—and followed it up with Pluto.




Another easy favorite was Yuna, who—as far as we’re concerned—is the queen of everything with her vocal chops and her personality and her Marine Serre get-up. The Malaysian songstress got honest, admitting that she used to believe that there were no platforms for Asian women musicians such as herself. Her track Likes—which is definitely worth a listen on its own—completely metamorphoses when she sings it live, recounting the struggles she found herself facing when she first branched out to the United States. It’s a lot of emotion; you ought to experience it yourself.




Speaking of emotion: there were some really earnest, heart-on-your-sleeve moments interspersed throughout the concert. From their goal to the stories the artists told, it was clear from strart to finish that Asia Rising Forever was about heart as much as it was about music. Sab of No Vacation opened up about the expectations that come with growing up Asian and finding a community within the music industry. Alextbh, Malaysia’s first openly queer pop star, read through a bucket of fortune cookies—but not without laying down the story of how he kept his music a secret from his parents, “essentially homeless” for a year until he found success.


Other enjoyable performances include: multi-intstrumentalist Luna Li, half-Japanese artist and meditation queen UMI and 9M88, in whose discography I will bask for the next few weeks. Also on the list is the Philippines’ own Iñigo Pascual, who I admit I may have judged too early on. I won’t lie: I wasn’t a fan when he was trying to make it as a pop star locally. But now that he’s being presented as more than just one-half of a love team and as a talented musician set on going global, it’s clear to see that there’s more he hasn’t shown the public just yet. Our only gripe? Ahead of his performance, the singer shared, “My main goal as an artist is honestly to just be able to bring OPM, which is original Filipino music, to the world stage.” Leaves us wondering why he chose not to utilize a platform with a global audience to perform any songs from the Philippines (or in Filipino, like Alextbh who sang portions of a Cigarettes After Sex track in his native language). Instead, Pascual delivered covers of Post Malone and The Fugees. An opportunity missed, but okay, I'm listening. I'm looking forward to seeing how he propels the richness of OPM to the rest of the world in the future.



RELATED: Keeping up with South Korean “Commercial Indie” Band ADOY


Asia Rising Forever stretched beyond four hours in total, but I’m thrilled that I carved out half the workday to tune in. Perhaps it’s cliche, but maybe live performances, stories and the internet are all we really need to remind us that no matter how fucking tough it can get, our music and our heritage is worth celebrating.


Relive the magic of Asia Rising Forever through our real-time Twitter thread here. Alternatively, experience it in its full, unadulterated glory below.




Art Matthew Fetalver

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