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Soulfest Asia 2015: Acts to watch

We break down the much-acclaimed Australian music festival debuting on Malaysian shores

Note: Soulfest Asia has been postponed tentatively to December 2015, due to 'Soulfest International Australia's inability to fulfil its commitments to Soulfest Asia'. As such, headliners Mary J Blige, Jhene Aiko, De La Soul and Talib Kweli will not be coming to KL. More details will be announced in the coming weeks, so watch this space for updates.

Refund details will be available on soulfestasia.com from October 13.

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It’s looking set to be a smooth premiere for Soulfest Asia. Australia’s hip hop and neo-soul festival debuts in Southeast Asia – and by Southeast Asia, we mean KL – this year, bringing down the who’s who of hip hop, R&B and soul: on the bill so far are Mary J Blige, Jhené Aiko, Talib Kweli and De La Soul, with more to be announced. DJs and regional acts including Axel Groove vs Xes Xes Loveseat, Najwa, ShiGGa Shay and Raising The Bar round up the nine-hour line-up.

Mary J Blige
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Mary J Blige

Mary J has been delivering honest truths about her personal turmoils through her songs, all framed within the shiny sound of soul and R&B. But here’s the biggest truth: She’s a diva – a real diva who can be sweet-voiced, gospel-like and slightly gangsta at a change of a musical note. So what if she’s been in the music industry for more than two decades – she keeps herself relevant by getting crunk with Taylor Swift and Sam Smith. She’ll win you over with her vocal intensity and make you bowl over with her formidable attitude – a diva’s gotta do what a diva’s gotta do.

WishlistBe Without You’ and ‘Doubt’ are all stellar but the jammy ‘Family Affair’ is designed for dancing. Plus, with what’s happening now in the country, some reminder of ‘don’t need no hateration’ might do us good.

Jhené Aiko
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Jhené Aiko

Don’t let her sweet, sultry voice fool you – Jhené Aiko has got enough sass and soul to reel you in, as evident from her 2011 debut mixtape ‘.sailing soul(s)’, which featured collaborations with and contributions from Drake, Kanye West and Miguel no less. Her full-length ‘Souled Out’, released last September, is an album for late-night listening for a party of one: feather-light and haunting, the singer-songwriter and single mother has transformed her struggles into her free-flowing, story-telling signature, addressing drug abuse, infidelity and her late brother’s death.

WishlistComfort Inn Ending’; hip hop has long been a genre revolved around storytelling, and the It Girl does it freestyle in this very specific story: ‘Quis found out and then I had to leave him / … / That day I was at your crib when your baby mama just burst in, damn’.

Talib Kweli
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Talib Kweli

Brooklyn-based rap veteran Talib Kweli claims he ‘don’t fuck with politics, [he] don’t even follow it’, but throughout his twenty-year career, he has helped shaped the hip hop narrative on conscious capitalism, literate and intellectual honesty, and political awareness. As one of the most renowned and respected rappers in the scene, his rise to prominence in the hip hop zeitgeist is marked with over a dozen solo and collaboration albums; Jay-Z famously rapped a nod to him on ‘Moment of Clarity’, stating ‘If skills sold, truth be told / I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli’.

Wishlist For when you’re politically angry but can’t find the words, Kweli’s rants do the trick. Fingers crossed for tracks like ‘Ms. Hill’, ‘Fuck the Money’ from his surprise free album this August, and Mary J Blige collaboration ‘I Try’.

De La Soul
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De La Soul

De La Soul has a place in the history of hip hop music, but not as we know it. The Long Island trio – Posdnuos, Pasemaster Mase and Trugoy the Dove – were perceived as a radical alternative to the gangsta, hardcore rap that dominated hip hop in the ’80s. De La Soul’s debut album ‘3 Feet High and Rising’, released in 1989, was a critical and commercial success as well as a call to lighten up, touching on topics such as body odour, first love and peace-not-beef, all delivered with a dose of hippie humour. It’s been 26 years, but the trio’s experimental, free-wheeling forays continue with their Kickstarter-funded album ‘And the Anonymous Nobody’, due for release anytime now.

WishlistSay No Go’ – because it’s a sweet, simple song about saying no to drugs at a time when the crack epidemic was widespread in urban neighbourhoods. It also samples from Hall & Oates’ ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’.

ShiGGa Shay
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ShiGGa Shay

Remember when they said Singapore can’t rap? ShiGGa Shay – also known as Pek Jin Shen – aims to change just that with heaps of swagger as he gleefully raps about ang ku kuih, HDB flats and teh bandung in a mix of English, Malay and Hokkien. Honing his craft since the age of 14, the 22-year old Singaporean has just released his self-titled album earlier this year.

Wishlist We’re hoping hard for ShiGGa’s catchy Hokkien chant ‘LimPeh’ and unofficial Singapore anthem ‘Lion City Kia’ with its infectious drum beats and millennial references (‘You got a face that look like you searching for Wi-Fi’).

Raising The Bar
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Raising The Bar

Every now and then, live hip hop act Adriana aka Al Caponey and Jin Hackman (pictured) of Raising The Bar get an opportunity to curate performance slots at festivals, and they’re doing just that at Soulfest. We hear that Raising The Bar will be performing with nu-soul jazz band, The Bassment Syndicate, alongside more artists.

WishlistBanana’ by Jin Hackman, founder and host of Raising The Bar. The track, featuring Dae Kim, goes out to Malaysian Chinese bananas; you know, yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

Don't miss...

Soulfest x BIG Group Menu

Soulfest x BIG Group Menu

In our humble opinion, we believe the food is almost as important as the music at festivals. How else are we festival-goers going to get sustenance? This year, Soulfest has collaborated with The BIG Group to bring us serious festival fare. No more limp chicken nuggets. Instead, you get fried chicken tenders with mashed potatoes and Sriracha mayo, beef burger, spicy Buffalo wings, jumbo hot dogs with wedges, flatbreads and more. Stay hydrated with mocktails (assam boi, mansirap), water and soft drinks. And that’s for general admission tickets.

The lucky VIP kids get a buffet of salads, pasta, pilaf rice, and even a mini dessert bar consisting of meringue tarts, Earl Grey macarons and the like. Using a RFID cashless system, Soulfest participants will get a wristband which is then topped up with credit for food and drink purchases. There’s more: For every ringgit spent, you get three AirAsia BIG points for redemption.

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