Header image courtesy of Tony Pham (via Unsplash)
While Asia may not be synonymous with muddy fields and stadium-sized crowds, it is developing a growing music scene, strengthened by the number of quality music festivals taking place each year around the region. Whether you’re looking for chart-topping tunes, under-the-radar indie bands, or an all-night electronic experience, there are plenty of music festivals in Asia to appeal to every type of music lover.
For those looking to get away from it all, the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysian Borneo offers just that. The festival usually takes place in mid-July and showcases artists, musicians, and performers from a wide range of disciplines in a unique festival that celebrates all things creative. The site also boasts a crafts bazaar, with artisanal handmade goods to take home as mementoes from your festival experience. The festival site lies just 40 minutes from Kuching, with three resorts and an 18-hole golf course just a short distance away.
Though Fuji Rock might be better known around the world, Summer Sonic offers a consistently strong and varied line-up for those interested in a weekend of music, but looking to forego the muddy fields and sodden tents. It’s going on nearly two decades strong and is usually held around mid-August. It’s also ambitious—held across both Tokyo and Osaka simultaneously, with artists across a wide variety of genres performing in both cities on alternating days. Previous performers include James Bay, Radiohead, Noel Gallagher, and Fergie.
The holy grail of outdoor music festivals in the region, Fuji Rock Festival is Asia’s answer to Glastonbury, and has become near-synonymous with big-named bands. Hosted annually around late summer at the Naeba Ski Resort, the festival grounds are accessible from Tokyo via a 90-minute ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train), followed by a 40-minute complimentary shuttle to the campsite. With views of the surrounding countryside and past performers including the likes of Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, and Oasis, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to attend. Fuji Rock is infamous for its inclement weather, so if you’re looking to camp out for the weekend, make sure to come well-prepared with wellies and raincoats.
With its roots in India’s party heartland, Goa, the Sunburn Festival has found itself a new home at the Oxford Golf Resort in Pune, Maharashtra, for a new decade of partying. Humble beginnings could not stop this celebration of all things EDM from becoming one of the largest music festivals in Asia. Drawing local and international visitors, Sunburn Festival offers outdoor sporting events, yoga sessions, film screenings, and performances from some of the world’s largest names in electronic music, with Armin van Buuren and DJ Snake among the names featured in previous line-ups.
From a singular festival in Miami, Ultra has expanded to a network of 24 festivals around the world, counting New Delhi, Cape Town, and (nearly) everywhere in-between as some of its destinations. Bringing its unique festival experience to all corners of Asia, Road to Ultra’s host cities have included Hong Kong, Seoul, Manila, and Taiwan. Previous performers at the single-stage festival include Afrojack, Avicii, Galantis, David Guetta, and Snoop Dogg.
Hong Kong’s very own homegrown music and arts festival has hosted everyone from funk legend George Clinton and electronic music icons The Prodigy to indie rockers The Libertines and American rapper A$AP Rocky. Each year in November, Clockenflap boasts a strong showing from international and local musicians, performing and street artists, as well as vendors representing some of the city’s favourite food and drink outlets. The iconic Victoria Harbour skyline provides the perfect backdrop to the three-day festivities.
The eponymous festival takes place on the world wonder just outside of Beijing and offers festival-goers access to a mixture of emerging and established names in electronic music. The Great Wall Festival allows ravers to experience over 30 hours of techno across three stages, with afterparties galore. Music aside, the festival includes a 5K run, if you’re into that kind of thing. Be warned—this isn’t for the faint-hearted. The festival is located next to the Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort and is held from day to night. Accommodation options range from chalet stays to camping under the stars.
With a focus on sustainability and environmental preservation, Wonderfruit is an eco-festival unlike any other. Set in the Fields at Siam Country Club in Pattaya, live arts projects, installations, and workshops take place throughout the four-day festival, which also features a diverse line-up of musicians and performers. Boasting local, organic produce, a self-sufficient water supply, and a community-led initiative that has seen the planting of more than 10,000 mangrove trees, eco-conscious travellers will find no better place to party.
Bangkok’s first international independent music festival Maho Rasop may be new to Asia’s music festival scene, but it has quickly made a name for itself as a festival for indieheads in Asia and beyond. For 12 hours on two days in November, jam out to renowned indie rock outfits like The Vaccines and eclectic electronic sets by Cosmo’s Midnight across 3 live stages. The festival also features brilliant Asia-based talents that you might not have even heard of, so you’ll definitely leave with an expanded music library.
Can’t make it to Liverpool for the biggest dance music event in the UK? No worries—Creamfields has hosted their extravagant festivities in Hong Kong, Myanmar, and Taiwan as well. Put on your dancing shoes and prepare to lose your mind to some of the hottest names in EDM, with Diplo, Zeds Dead, The Chainsmokers, and Marshmello amongst the glittering line-ups.
Songkran is the Thai New Year’s national holiday, also known as the world’s largest water fight. Taking place in Bangkok, Taiwan, and Tokyo, S2O is the world’s largest Songkran celebration. Each festival is an extravagant production to rival Tomorrowland, complete with pyrotechnics, massive water guns, laser and lights show, and a sound system so loud, you can hear the main stage performers from every corner of the grounds. Witness electronic legends like Fatboy Slim, Tiesto, Steve Aoki, and R3HAB get just as wet as the audience.
Sónar was launched in faraway Barcelona back in 1994 and has gone on to be recognised with the DJ Award for Outstanding Contributions to the world EDM stage. It debuted right here in Hong Kong in 2017, finding its home at the Science Park—a fitting venue, as Sónar focuses on linking music, creativity, and technology. Festival-goers can find workshops, talks, new media exhibitions, and a marketplace of international creative tech prototypes alongside the extensive lineup of legendary and pioneering electronic artists from Hong Kong and beyond.
Since its first iteration in 2016, local boutique festival Shi Fu Miz has grown to become an innovative, intimate, and inclusive event on Cheung Chau’s idyllic Sai Yuen farm. Though it may be little, its sustainability practices rival Wonderfruit, aiming to become completely zero-waste and hosting eco-workshops throughout the duration of the festivities. The bi-annual musical programme is curated by local creative agency FuFu and French music collective La Mamie’s and centres around house and techno that may be obscure to most, but full of gems to discover and groove out to.
By far the most comprehensive festival in this round-up, Epizode is an 11-day beach bonanza on Pho Quoc, Vietnam’s biggest and most beautiful island. Performances by over 100 international and regional DJs go on for 24 hours a day over four stages, so you’ll never be without bouncing beats on your island getaway. There are also heaps of activities you can get involved in while you’re partying, like paint fights, beach sports, and arts and crafts. What better way to ring in the New Year?
It’s The Ship will make all your Crazy Rich Asians dreams come true... because it’s a festival on a cruise liner! This three-day event is the ultimate party holiday. Departing from Singapore, the cruise ship is fully equipped with a waterslide park, a zipline, a bowling alley, 3D movie theatre, and a mini-golf course, so there’s plenty to keep you busy as you party alongside your cruise family over the ship’s 18 decks. It’s The Ship is a true #EatSleepRaveRepeat escapade, as the partying continues all day and night with themed after parties and non-stop fun.
Originally published on December 19, 2018 by Amanda Sheppard. Updated on August 14, 2019 by Inés Fung.