Sept 24, 2006

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

KWANGJU _ It was billed as a showcase of Asian music at its best, but the third Asia Song Festival held here Friday ended up being a battle between the two most popular boy bands in the region, Korea’s TVXQ and Japan’s Arashi.

Japanese pop group Arashi

Around 30,000 fans came from all over the country, and some even came from Japan to watch the free concert, which was organized by the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange (KOFICE).

During the concert, KOFICE president Shin Hyun-taek said he hoped the event would boost more cultural exchanges among Asian countries.

Top artists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines performed at the concert. However, it was apparent the most successful pop culture exchange was between Korea and Japan, of which boy bands TVXQ and Arashi have gained popularity in each other’s countries.

Since it was Arashi’s first performance in Korea, their fans went wild when the five member group appeared on stage wearing bright pink suits. Performing their trademark song, “A-RA-SHI,” the group impressed the crowd with their dancing and even included some Korean lyrics. They also sang “Kitto Daijobu” and “Wish,” the theme song from the popular Japanese drama “Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers).”

During a news conference at Damyang Resort on Thursday evening, Arashi member Matsumoto Jun said the group was happy to participate in the festival and have the opportunity to share their music with the rest of Asia.

Arashi member Sakurai Sho said the group was surprised to find they were popular in Korea. Last July 31, around 1,500 fans welcomed Arashi when they held a news conference at the Incheon International Airport.

“Until the airport incident, we never realized that we would be close with Korean fans. That’s why if you ask us about our secret to being famous in Korea, we’d like to ask that ourselves. I was skeptical and can’t believe it myself,” Sakurai said.

Korea’s most popular boy band TVXQ unveiled their new,
more mature image Friday during the third Asia Song
Festival in Kwangju.

Meanwhile, TVXQ’s fans also screamed their loudest at the concert, when the Korean group unveiled a new, more mature image. Wearing somber black suits and new hairstyles, TVXQ performed the ballad “And Holding Back the Tears,” and their new Japanese single, “Sky.” They ended the festival with a fireworks-studded performance of “Rising Sun.”

Aside from the boy bands, the song festival also showed different sides of Asian pop music. There were the sexy divas such as Japan’s Koda Kumi, Hong Kong’s Kelly Chen, Thailand’s Katreeya English and Vietnam’s Ho Quynh Huong.

Koda, who is considered Japan’s Madonna, showed off her provocative dance moves and strong vocals. English, a pretty Thai singer, charmed the crowd as she sang the Thai version of “I think I,” a song from the popular Korean drama “Full House.”

Katreeya English from Thailand sings
during the third Asia Song Festival in Kwangju.

The concert also featured singer-songwriters such as Kitchie Nadal from the Philippines, Tanya Chua from Singapore and Tank from Taiwan. Nadal performed “Wag na wag mong sasabihin (Don’t ever tell me),” a ballad that was used as the theme song of the Korean drama “Lovers in Paris” in the Philippines.

Chua sang an emotional ballad “Beautiful Love,” while Tank performed songs combining elements of Oriental music with hip-hop.

The Asia Song Festival, which was broadcast in 10 major television networks across Asia, ended with an awarding ceremony for the participating artists.

Source: The Korea Times