By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Celebrating its 5th anniversary Saturday, the Asia Song Festival concert proved to be bigger than ever with performances from 20 top singers and groups from 12 Asian countries.
Organizers estimated around 35,000 people attended the concert, including several thousand fans from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.
It was a night of pop music, whether it was from boy bands, sexy divas, R&B singers and rockers. The concert opened with international popera singer Rose Jang belting out ''All That Jazz.''
Korean boyband SS501 treated the crowd to two energetic dance numbers, followed by Hong Kong R&B diva Karen Mok's performance.
''It's great to be back in Korea,'' Mok, who performed in the musical ''Rent" in Seoul in 2006, told the crowd.
Chinese singer Anson Hu serenaded the crowd with a ballad. ''It's my first time in Korea. I'm very happy to see all of you,'' he said.
Rising pop group SHINee elicited cheers from the crowd, as they performed their hit song, ''You're So Pretty.'' SHINee and Japanese girl group Berryz Kobo received awards for Best New Artist at the festival.
While the concert was dominated by pop singers and groups, Rivermaya from the Philippines and Japanese singer Anna Tsuchiya injected a much-needed dose of rock music to the festival.
Rivermaya, a popular Filipino rock band, performed two songs ''Nice To'' and ''You'll Be Safe Here,'' both of which were warmly received by the audience. Tsuchiya, who starred in the popular Japanese film ''Kamikaze Girls,'' gave a wildly energetic performance of her hit song ''Rose.''
Korea's top ballad singer Shin Seung-hun performed ''I Believe,'' a song from the popular Korean film ''My Sassy Girl.'' Agnes Monica, described as the Britney Spears of Indonesia, also attracted attention for her sizzling dance number.
Expectedly, the night's biggest cheers were reserved for popular male groups, Fahrenheit from Taiwan, w-inds from Japan and TVXQ from Korea.
Fahrenheit showed off their strong dance moves, as they performed three songs, including the cheerful ''New Home.'' The group's popularity recently soared around Asia after two of its members, Wu Chun and Jiro Wang starred in ''Hana Kimi, a Taiwanese drama.
W-inds, a three-member R&B group, impressed their fans with their powerful singing and dancing. W-inds, who recently released their album ''Seventh Ave.," also performed their latest single for the first time in Korea.
The crowd became even more excited when TVXQ came out to perform songs from their new album ''Mirotic,'' including the title track and ''Hey! (Don't Bring Me Down).''
With the slogan ''Asia is One,'' the Asia Song Festival has always been aimed at increasing cultural exchanges among Asian countries and promoting Asian music.
''The Asia Song Festival marks its 5th anniversary this year, having grown to become one of the biggest music festivals in Asia. The festival brings together artists from different countries, and creates a solid foundation for artists to become stars around Asia,'' said Shin Hyun-taek, director of Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE), which organized the festival.
Many of the Asian artists were participating in the festival for the first time, but hope to come back to perform for Korean fans again.
''We just had our tour in Hong Kong. We are just so honored to be here performing in this festival. All the fans here are so lovely and nice to us. We really hope one day we can have our own solo concert here and meet all the fans here,'' Calvin Chen, a member of Fahrenheit, said during a press conference Friday.
The Asia Song Festival started in 2004 with only nine artists from seven countries, but has now become one of Asia's biggest music festivals. Aside from Saturday's main concert, there was also a free concert featuring young new pop artists from Asia on Friday, as well as the Asia Music Industry Leaders' Forum.