At the ASEAN-India Music Festival, Bayang Barrios Is Showered with Applause and Love

Philippines represent.

New Delhi—Filipino musician Bayang Barrios had the honor of opening the third and final day of the ASEAN-India music festival at the historic Purana Qila in the Indian capital on Sunday (November 20). The three-day festival celebrates the special relationship between the 10-nation bloc and India through a diverse lineup of artists from each country performing live in front of enthusiastic music fans in this city. 

Barrios, who was accompanied by her band Ang Nilayagan, stepped onto the stage at exactly 6 p.m. dressed in a flowing red dress robe accentuated by elements of her Manobo tribe heritage. Immediately she was greeted by warm applause from the audience. The artist and her band performed four songs all in Tagalog with a sprinkling of Bisaya and tribal language from Barrios’s own province of Agusan Del Sur.


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Proving once again music’s power to bring people together despite the language barrier, audiences showered Barrios with loud expressions of admiration and support even if they couldn’t understand what she was singing about. But her graceful dance moves in time with the beat elicited appreciative whoops of approval. During the song “Biyaya,” the crowd gamely sang the lyric back to Barrios.

Bayang Barrios performs at the ASEAN-India music festival in New Delhi

Photo by PJ Cana.

“Akala ko puro Pilipino yung audience,” the artist told me half in jest backstage after the show. “Music ay universal. Kahit anong lenggwahe mo jan, ang sasabihin or kakantahin mo, kahit sa beat man lang, masasakyan mo. Lalo na kung lagyan mo ng konting spiels.”

("I thought everyone in the audience was Filipino. Music is universal. Whatever language you use, what you say or sing, people can feel it through the beats. And then you add a few spiels."). 

A seasoned and award-winning performer, Barrios was chosen as the Philippine representative to the second edition of the music festival.

“It's always a dream for an artist like me to be in a festival like this,” she said. “Ibat-ibang countries, ibat ibang kultura. Salamat ako ang naisip ng NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) and CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines).

“Ang galing din ng ginawa ng India,” she added. “Sana mas maraming ganito.”

 ("Different countries, different cultures. I'm grateful I was chose by the NCCA and the CCP. India did a really great thing. I hope there will be more festivals like this"). 

Meenakshi Lekhi, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, with representatives of the different diplomatic missions of ASEAN countries

Photo by PJ Cana.

The ASEAN-India Music Festival is a project of the India’s Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with Seher, a cultural organization that works closely with the government. The aim is “to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the music and artistic traditions as well as promote cultural exchange between the Southeast Asian region and India.”

“Let’s bring the people of the world closer together,” said Sanjeev Bhargava, founder director of Seher. “And over here, my mandate is very clear. People in India have always been drawn towards the West. They want us to go to university in London or Canada or the U.S. Nobody tells us to go to Vietnam. Nobody tells me that there’s a beautiful culture in Cambodia.”

Sanjeev Bhargava, founder director of festival organizer Seher, embraces Barrios backstage

Photo by PJ Cana.

Bhargava added that events like the festival allow Indians to see cultures from other parts of the world, so they’re not just exposed to the West.

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“You give them bands from England, or from France, I say, very good. I love them,” he said. “But look East. How beautiful it is. We’re not saying that one is bad or that one is good. We’re here to say that this is also good.”

Backstage, Bhargava also heaped praise on Barrios, complimenting her set and saying he was going to follow her music on social media. Barrios, in turn, offered Bhargava a copy of her CD.

In addition to Barrios, one musical act from each country in ASEAN as well as several top acts from India performed at the festival. From ASEAN, performers included Empty Wallet from Brunei Darussalam, RizerXSuffer from Cambodia, Riau Rhythm from Indonesia, Lao Traditional Music Troupe from Lao-PDR, Instamuzika from Malaysia, MRTV Modern Music band from Myanmar, Lin Ying from Singapore, Makaohang from Thailand, and Tri Minh’s Quartet from Vietnam.

Meanwhile, India was represented by five of its top homegrown acts: Faridkot and Amar Jalal, Jonita Gandhi, Papon, Raghav Meattle, and Sukhbir.

Indian superstar Sukhbir closes the show

Photo by PJ Cana.

This year’s celebration is doubly significant as ASEAN and India are celebrating 30 years of diplomatic ties. 

“ASEAN and India’s relationship (stretches back) since time immemorial,” said Meenakshi Lekhi, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, onstage prior to the final act of the festival. “We are all ancient civilizations. Maritime roots from India always went to those areas. And together we have common civilizational bonds. We have always worked together. And that is the friendship that is being celebrated here.”

The festival culminated with representatives of the different diplomatic missions from the ASEAN countries joining Bhargava and Lekhi onstage, and a release of balloons representing all of the participating countries. Afterwards, Indian superstar Sukhbir led a gigantic dance party with his signature rap music. 

“Sana mas marami pang ganito (festivals celebrating traditional music),” Barrios said. “Sana meron ding ganito sa Pilipinas.”

("I wish we could have more festivals like this. I hope we have something like this in the Philippines.").

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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