The first all-female rock competition in Asia kicks off
Bangkok’s Hard Rock Cafe is packed for the launch of Girls Rock Asia. I snag a tiny table sandwiched between regular diners on the top floor overlooking the stage. It’s a customer’s birthday and the staff comes with cake and clanging instruments to enhance their celebration. I’m beginning to have serious misgivings. Then Earthcollide, the first performer (and organizer) of Girls Rock Asia is announced. The nondescript shuffling sound within the restaurant is instantly killed by the first hard twang of the electric guitar. By the time Earth—for whom the band is named—gets to her near perfect Janis Joplin cover, the well-heeled women in the first row are on their feet, head banging and heedless of who’s around.
“Take another lil’ piece of my heart now, baby!” Earth belts out, guitar in hand, tattoos on display, basking in the well-deserved limelight, while men and women alike whoop, cheer, clap, and stomp. It sure feels good to be reminded that women rock. Which is precisely the premise of Girls Rock Asia—to fete female rockers and give them a platform they’re sorely missing in this part of the world. Now in its second year, this “battle of the bands” is open to women from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. Bands from each participating country will compete in online competitions in order to qualify for the public head-to-head final battle to be held in Thailand in November. And the winner receives $10,000 in prize money, along with continued support to release original music and land gigs.
Having spent many years in the music business, Earth knows how rough it is for female performers to try and make it.
“Unless you’re picked up by a huge record label, the opportunities are limited. And even if you’re talented, you have to overcome the stigma of what you’re expected to look like and play,” she says. “To many, a woman rocker means skimpy clothes and sexy looks and not that she is a musician in her own right who can kill it on the mic or hold her own on the drums.
“I myself started from scratch, singing in Thai in local bars. Seven years ago, I taught myself English so I could play better venues,” she recalls, following which she became the first Thai singer to perform at the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore in 2011. Earth wasn’t aware of how big the event was until she showed up in shorts and a T-shirt and realized the other acts were Shakira and Linkin’ Park. “I was absolutely clueless!” she laughs now, “But the experience and others since taught me confidence and helped me build a network that supports my career. That’s what I want to share with upcoming female musicians. Talent and passion are the beginning but you need a village to take it to the next level.”
Yet Earth’s biggest hurdle right now is finding bands to compete. “Because we’re starting out and fairly unknown, musicians think that it’s a scam and they’ll get taken for a ride,” she says. Last year’s winners, Thai band The Grumps, feature four girls on vocals, guitar, bass and drums, the youngest of whom is just 17 years old. And since winning, they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves, and attribute much of that to getting their start through Girls Rock Asia.
Earth has made it her mission to expand the lineup, bring more bands on board, and showcase the musical talent of women in the region because for her and her team, it’s more than music; it’s a movement. To which we say, rock on!
For voting details, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.girlsrockasia.com.
By Rianka Mohan