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Legendary Southeast Asian Singers – The Top 10
There are few regions to be found as rich as Southeast Asia in terms of culture and diversity. The tapestry of this region is interlaced with many traditions that have evolved both independently and alongside one another, coalescing into a kind of vibrancy unseen anywhere else. It comes as no surprise then that a place of such abundant inspiration would give rise to artists who draw on it, letting it permeate their very beings, and channelling it into works that speak to the soul. In this edition, Top 10 of Asia gathers a star-studded list of Southeast Asia’s finest to ever do it and arranges them here in no particular order for your reading pleasure.
Thongchai McIntyre (Thailand)
Thongchai McIntyre – sometimes known as Bird Thongchai, Phi Bird, or simply Bird – is a Thai singer and actor considered to be perhaps Thailand’s foremost superstar. Having sold more than 25 million albums, he is one of the most successful singers in Thai history. Known for his brand of Thai pop and luk thung music, he is also a prolific screen talent – having acted in a number of films, on television, in musicals, and featuring in commercials. Born in Bangkok as the youngest of nine siblings, he endured a difficult time growing up in the slums but was always surrounded by music courtesy of a music-loving family. Bird has come a long way since those trying times, etching his name deep in the hearts of Thais everywhere.
Siti Nurhaliza (Malaysia)
An accomplished singer-songwriter, actress, and prominent businesswoman, Siti Nurhaliza is a household name locally and has been for decades now. With over 300 awards both local and international, Siti Nurhaliza’s record-shattering career has seen her become one of the most popular artists in the history of the Malay archipelago and Nusantara region. She has over 6 million records sold to date and in 2001, her album sales alone contributed to an astounding 10 percent of Malaysia’s total album sales. Siti Nurhaliza has recorded songs in Malay, Minang, English, and Mandarin – cementing her popularity among a vast and adoring fanbase.
Lay Phyu (Myanmar)
Lay Phyu is a Burmese rock star and guitarist best known as the frontman of the band Iron Cross. One of the most commercially successful artists in Burmese rock history, he has come to embody the scene through his rugged cool and unmatched style. It was during his university days that he became acquainted with fellow Iron Cross member Y Wine, leading to his eventual initiation into the band. His appointment proved to be the catalyst for the band’s forthcoming success, with Lay Phyu the swaggering focal point of Iron Cross’ legacy-defining journey.
Son Tung M-TP (Vietnam)
Nguyen Thanh Tung, better known as Son Tung M-TP, is a Vietnamese singer-songwriter and actor. His family discovered his singing ability when he was just two years old and that set in motion the beginnings of a career that would take off to stratospheric heights. Called the “King of V-pop” for his popularity, Tung has received many accolades throughout his career including an MTV Europe Music Award, a Dedication Music Award, and inclusion on Forbes Vietnam’s 2018 30 Under 30 list. He also showcased his acting chops in the 2014 film Dandelion, in which he starred and picked up the Golden Kite Prize for Young Prominent Actor.
Sarah Geronimo (Philippines)
A singer, performer, and actress, Sara Geronimo is one of the most beloved talents to ever come out of the Philippines. Her list of awards is extensive and her sparkling career has earned her recognition from the likes of Tatler and Forbes Asia. Performing since she was four years old, Sarah’s career ignited after winning the Star for a Night television singing contest at the age of 14 – earning her a contract with Viva Records in the process. She released her debut album Popstar: A Dream Come True in 2003 to widespread acclaim, and it was only onwards and upwards from there.
Alexandra Bounxouei (Laos)
Alexandra Bounxouei is the multitalented Laotian-Bulgarian singer, actress, and model who is not just popular in her homeland – but enjoys widespread adoration in Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia as well. Born into a family of musicians, it seems Alexandra was destined for a life in the performing arts. She is not just the multi-hyphenate superstar that people have come to know her as, she’s a beauty with brains too – holding a PhD in Media Design from Keio University. As if there were not enough reasons to be enamoured with her, Alexandra is also an active participant in social causes – establishing her own foundation to support families with children who have Down syndrome amongst other initiatives.
Stefanie Sun (Singapore)
Stefanie Sun is a Singaporean singer-songwriter that has garnered immense popularity in Greater China and the Chinese-speaking world as a whole. She released her debut album, Yan Zi, in 2001 and picked up the Golden Melody Award for Best New Artist as a result of its success. She would later pick up another Golden Melody Award – this time for Best Mandarin Female Singer – in 2004 after the release of her eighth studio album, Stefanie. The National Parks Board of Singapore even named an orchid after her, Dendrobium Stefanie Sun, in 2006. A measure of the pull she enjoys could be seen in the 240 million-strong audience who tuned in to watch her perform a one-hour virtual concert in May.
MarVi (Timor Leste)
Maria Vitoria Borges is still only 21 but is already a national icon. Better known as MarVi, the young starlet first rose to fame when she appeared on the second edition of the Indonesian television program, D’Academy Asia. She followed up that appearance by winning the sixth season of The Voice Portugal. Doing Timor Leste proud and putting the fledgling island nation on the map, MarVi is also a force for good – being named the first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (UNICEF Youth Advocate) from Timor Leste in 2019. She released her first single, Iluzaun, earlier this year and her burgeoning career is one to watch for sure.
Zul F (Brunei)
Zul Faden, more popularly known as Zul F, is the singing and acting jewel in the crown of Brunei’s entertainment industry. A darling of the local media, he first achieved recognition upon winning P2F, Brunei’s version of the Idol series. He started his music career as a member of the Bruneian band Pneumatic Soulz, with whom he opened for Malaysian artists such as Elite and X-Factor. It was after going solo that he hit superstardom, gaining the patronage of Bruneian ears which mostly only listened to Malaysian artists prior. He starred in Brunei’s second-ever feature film Ada Apa Dengan Rina in 2013 and has since gone on to feature in several local telemovies.
In a country with its fair share of beloved exports, Anggun is perhaps Indonesia’s finest. The Indonesian-born French singer-songwriter and television personality began performing at the age of seven, recording a children’s album two years later. Her first studio album, Dunia Aku Punya, announced her as a force in the Indonesian rock scene. She became better known still upon the release of her single Mimpi, which earned a spot on Rolling Stone’s 150 Greatest Indonesian Songs of All Time. Anggun left Indonesia in 1994 to pursue an international career in what proved to be an inspired move. Today, she enjoys global fame and the honour of being the first Indonesian woman to be immortalized in wax by Madame Tussauds.