NOVEMBER 17 — So, I set sail the other day. It wasn’t your average voyage. (Let’s be honest, my average voyage is the ferry to Batam or Bintan.)
This time I was on a cruise ship and not just any cruise ship — a party boat. It goes by the name of It’s The Ship and its mission is to provide a good time for the more serious party-goers of our region.
Not my usual locale. I am getting on in years for such rambunctiousness.
In fact, on my second night — I struck up a conversation with some other party-goers and as the conversation turned to the next party they were going to attend, I expressed admiration for their energy level.
And they sweetly pointed out, “It is because we are young.” Brutal but true.
Try everything once, I guess; even 48 hours of party stages and alcohol-related activities on a boat.
Okay, I spent a lot of time lounging in my room but I did get out between naps and I am glad I did.
I learned a lot from this floating festival. Firstly, there are a lot of young people in the region who want to party.
This might seem obvious but filling a boat with thousands of people during the week requires a lot of people to have disposable incomes and time to spare.
And there were people so Asean economies are clearly generating wealth.
Importantly there were also enough Asian acts, tattoo artists, dancers, acrobats etc to allow a large-scale festival to take place with largely regional talent.
The keyword here is regional.
No single country in Asean can provide the people or talent to fill up the ship. So, the organizers had to work to bring together people from across the region and major proximate economies like China, Japan and Korea.
Basically, a sort of Asean ++.
These festivals are a microcosm for the region and its economies. What no individual market can achieve works when leveraging on resources from multiple nations.
There was a Malaysian ship with lots of Singaporean artists, dancers from China and Thailand and participants from everywhere; rappers like Yung Raja, comedians like Joanne Kam or even local DJs (including Altra — a line-up of Asian female DJs which is a double win).
This is important because partying and nightlife is serious business. It is estimated that over 30 million people worldwide attended a music festival in 2018.
While the “live” music industry generates over US$20 billion (RM83 billion) a year, a single major festival like Coachella can generate US$100 million.
More than simply money, these festivals and events become iconic. Not everyone has been to Burning Man, Glastonbury or Coachella but everyone of a certain age has heard of them and many aspire to go.
That is intangible cultural strength — or soft power. This sort of power is much needed in Asia and Asean.
Stronger brands for night life, big name DJs, desirable alcohol brands — all of this does need to happen locally, or we’ll be feeding western value chains forever.
It’s The Ship, along with Wonderfruit and ZoukOut, prove that world-class Asian festivals are possible and I look forward to seeing many more such events launching in the region.
The opportunity and the demand is there to begin building an expanding and thriving ecosystem of Asean or Asian festivals.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.