“Perhaps there is nowhere else in the world where conditions are more varied for the existing forms of media and entertainment to thrive in than in Southeast Asia”

However, despite differences in political, social and religious settings, ASEAN member countries have surprisingly found common ground in the forms of entertainment that are patronized by the majority.


Siti Nurhaliza, a Malaysian pop singer

Siti Nurhaliza, a Malaysian pop singer

In Southeast Asia today, the young generation equally favors Western and Asian influences when it comes to their musical preferences. There was a time when Southeast Asian pop culture borrowed largely from Western influences. But the popularity of pop groups from Korea which launched the subculture of K-Pop to unbelievable heights has served to somewhat regionalize pop culture.

South Korean boy bands and girl bands have strongly influenced the choices and preferences of Southeast Asian audiences. K-pop dominates not just the airwaves but the fashion scene as well. The rather unregulated exchanges that continuously happen online via social media platforms are further fueling the trend.


Singapore has a small music scene but there are several bands, individual performers and metal rock groups that have garnered interest outside of Singapore. Take for example violinist Vanessa-Mae, Sophie Koh, Dawn Xianah Moon and conductor Darrell Ang. Malaysian pop singer Siti Nurhaliza is popular not only in Malaysia but also in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. Malaysian legendary rock band Search has greatly influenced the rock music scene in Indonesia.

The Indonesian music scene is very much alive and home-grown talents are increasing, with their popularity spreading to neighboring Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore. Pop music in Indonesia was previously influenced by Hollywood and Bollywood but their pop music still retains much of the local sentiments. MTV Asia has featured several Indonesian pop groups and they all have been actively touring the region. Acts include Nidji, D’Masiv, Sheila on 7, Dewa 19, Gigi, Radja and Peterpan. Japanese and South Korean pop groups have also  influenced the formation of local Indonesia pop acts. In rock, the most notable are Jamrud, /rif, Netral and Slank.

Likewise, Filipino solo acts and groups have been creating waves in the music scene. Filipino balladeer Christian Bautista is a big hit in Indonesia. Rock group Slapshock, started Project E.A.R. (East Asian Revolution), a super group composed of Slapshock, Ahli Fiqik of Singapore, Saint Loco of Indonesia and Thaitanium and Silksounds from Thailand in 2008, debuting at MTV Asia Awards held in Malaysia. Urbandub, another rock group had impressed Asean music lovers with their recent Singapore tour.


Korean dramas do not have the sole monopoly of ASEAN television viewing these days. In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, the streets are emptied at 12 noon, much like what happens in the Philippines during every single match of boxing champion and local hero Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. Cambodians have caught the “teleserye” (tele for television and serye for series) fever that pervades the Philippines. Now, Cambodians have learned to follow Filipino television shows in a local channel called CTN-MyTV, aside from their Korean and Chinese favorites.

Cambodia’s CTN-MyTV has exclusive rights to Filipino programs and the deputy manager calls the imports “fabulous,” referring to the production, plots, as well as the attractiveness of the actors and actresses. The network has presented more than 10 Filipino television dramas and all were huge hits, even the ones that have not been aired in the Philippines for many years such as “Pangako Sa ‘Yo” (My Promise to You) and the Filipino adaptation of the Mexican hit series “Marimar.” The network has also collaborated with a local production company to adapt two Filipino series for Cambodia. The move proved successful and there are plans to do more as Cambodians producers strengthen their linkage with the Filipino networks that create and air hit drama series, one after another.


Audiences, both young and old are intrigued by Filipino culture and tradition manifested in these shows especially since they find similarities to their own. In Cambodia, Filipino dramas appeal to older audiences who could relate more to the culture of the Philippines than to American or European shows available on cable.

For instance, the fantasy TV series, “Amaya,” is now a hit with audiences of every age in Cambodia. “Amaya” refers to the name of the protagonist tribal princess in this fantasy TV drama series that also features historical elements of a 16th century kingdom in pre-colonial Philippines. The title role is played by award-winning actress Marian Rivera, a “mestiza,” or of mixed Spanish and Filipino descent. The  strikingly beautiful Filipina actress also played the title role of “Marimar.”


Eat Bulaga IndonesiaAside from drama “teleseryes,” the Philippine entertainment industry is starting to spread its influence to its ASEAN neighbors in the realm of noontime variety programs. In 2013, “Eat Bulaga Indonesia” celebrated its one-year anniversary. “Eat Bulaga” (Lunchtime Surprise!) is a two and half-hour noontime Filipino variety show that has been on air since July 30, 1979. The show has the distinction of being the first show of its kind in the Philippines to be franchised by a foreign country. It has only been one year, but the Indonesian version dominates the ratings in its time slot. Eat Bulaga Indonesia’s maiden episode was aired on July 16, 2012 and it even features a Filipino host, Leo Consul. There are 14 hosts in Eat Bulaga Indonesia, led by Uya Kuya and Rian Ibram. The format and the segments are very similar but the Indonesian show is scheduled in the afternoon while the original Filipino show hits television screens at noon. This is to allow for Salat or prayer time in Indonesia, since majority of the citizens practice Islam.


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