There were plenty of milestones to landmark for Asian music in the last year or so; most notably where the artists shine their brightest—up on the stage. Understandably, this move has been led by a number of K-pop titans; from J-hope’s night at Lollapalooza 2022 to Blackpink’s upcoming headlining stage at Coachella 2023, making them the first Asian act to do so at a major festival. But yet another industry game-changer is also gearing up for a high-impact moment at the fast-approaching South by Southwest (SXSW) festival slated to hit Austin this March. The group in question? Balming Tiger.
Whilst they’re considerably a recent group on the scene—having been founded only in 2017—it’s their entire ethos that sets them apart from the usual grain of K-pop. To put it simply, Balming Tiger is a self-run music collective or an ‘alternative K-pop band’, so to speak. There is no stipulated genre as each member of the Seoul-based group provides their own creative spirit and input: from Omega Sapien’s psychedelic sound and heavily charged raps to the ferocious visuals of art director Hong Chan-hee and the experimental nature of producer bj wnjn—who was behind last year’s wildly successful collaboration with RM of BTS for ‘Sexy Nukim’.
And they’re all set on making bigger waves at the SXSW festival this year. In collaboration with entertainment company Jaded, they’re spearheading the move for a full-day music event called ‘Tiger Den’, to exclusively feature Asian artists from all over the region. Throughout the day on 15 March, downtown Austin’s Cheer Up Charlies will see 19 different Asian acts from countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore all take the stage. Considering Balming Tiger’s ever-evolving approach to the music that they make, it’s clear that ‘Tiger Den’ only hopes to be a first of many possibilities where a larger variety of Asian voices can be brought into the limelight to showcase their currently veiled potential.
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In line with the curious and fiery spirit of ‘Tiger Den’, it’s only right we delve a little deeper into the chosen line-up of artists set to play come mid-March, especially when some of these artists are our very own. Have a read below, save a few songs, or simply hit the play button. Who knows? You just might be willing yourself to catch them at their next gig.
1 / 5
Whilst sogumm is also a member of Balming Tiger, sogumm or Kwon So-hee, has also been signed to one of South Korea’s biggest hip-hop labels AOMG since 2019, post her glory win on hip-hop survival show SignHere. With her soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics, her music sensibilities find an intersection between electro-pop and R&B, with the occasional swerve to the hip-hop genre. Her starring works include a range of collaborations with distinctive artists as well: from ‘I wonder’ with dress and Jay Park to Balming Tiger’s groovy ‘Just Fun!’ and the addictive favourite, ‘Imagine’ with DJ Wegun and Hoody.
Listen to sogumm here.
2 / 5
For already-fans of Japanese rapper Tohji, his music can simply be described as a breath of fresh air. Enigma floats through his tunes, as he vacillates between dreamy synths, melodic raps and haunting sonic sounds—all wonderfully meshed together. Whilst a track like ‘on my own way’ is created with repetitive refrains that one will love to put on repeat during a drive, ‘oh boy’ is almost manicured to leave you in a trance, wanting more.
Listen to Tohji here.
3 / 5
It’s been a long way from 2016 for Shye-Anne Brown, the Singaporean singer-songwriter who has notably made a name for herself in the electro-pop scene. And it’s not hard to see why, especially when her music carries with it an effervescent sense of nostalgia and extremely personal lyrics that truly sound as experimental as she whims them to be. Find yourself returning to the inimitable bliss of first love with ‘phonecase’ or reliving those teenage hellhole days in ‘NOTGONNALIE’.
Listen to Shye here.
4 / 5
Between the eclectic influences of city pop, jazz and neo-soul, it seems 9m88, also known as Baba, breathes versatility into her hit-making records and catchy tunes. One of the leading names in Taiwan’s homegrown indie scene, her sweet melodies blend together with her self-written lyrics to communicate an unbridled sense of joy to her listeners—just like the poppy mood of ‘Hello Bye Bye’ or the relatable set-up of ‘Friend Zone’.
Listen to 9m88 here.
5 / 5
Having since mesmerised audiences at Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival in 2018 and Urbanscapes in 2019, Lunadira has been on a rocket rise; taking the scene by storm as she transforms the words in her diary into heartfelt love songs. Melding indie sounds with poppy influences into her tunes, her colourful voice shines through her debut single ‘Forever’s Not Our Thing’ and the eclectic atmosphere of ‘Hoodie’, the starring track out of her collaborative EP with Reddi Rocket.
Listen to Lunadira here.