The new wave of breakthrough female talent in Southeast Asia

Photo cover by: What The duck.
Written by: Eamonn Forde
Published Mar 05, 2021
4 min read
Female musical talent deserves to be in the spotlight, as it flourishes around the world in an impressive variety of genres and careers. This is the purpose of this series, with a first focus on the female talent across Southeast Asia. Here are seven of the recent standout successes that you should definitely keep an eye on.
Moira Dela Torre (Philippines)

Describing herself as “a Filipino storyteller”, Moira Dela Torre is a pop singer-songwriter who has made the journey from TV talent shows (she was a contestant on the first season of The Voice Of The Philippines) to movies, with her song ‘Malaya’ featuring in independent film Camp Sawi in 2016 as well as performing the title song of Love You To The Stars & Back the following year. She was one of the lead singers on the multi-artist ‘Heal’ charity single in September 2020 which raised money for Filipinos who lost income because of the pandemic. Her profile has steadily grown in recent years where she now has over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify and is one of the most-streamed female artists in the Philippines on the service. 

Morissette (Philippines)

Morissette is known for her powerful voice and incredible range, with TV and film appearances being critical to her career growth. She was runner-up on the Star Factor TV show in 2010 when she was just 14. She made her professional debut in 2012 playing the role of Mitchie Torres in the Philippines production of Disney’s Camp Rock and the following year she competed in the first season of singing competition The Voice Of The Philippines. Already a star in her home country, in December 2020 her song ‘Love You Still’ (the first track that she had co-written and co-produced) made it to number 7 in the Billboard Next Big Sound chart in the US – making her the first female Filipino act to do so. Her single ‘Phoenix’ was released at the end of February 2021 and its lyrics about inner strength chime with the times and with themes of female fortitude. 

Haneri (Singapore)

Hameri was born in Perth, Australia but moved to Singapore when she was eight. Performing initially under her birth name of Daphne Khoo, she first came to the public’s attention on Singapore Idol at the age of 16 and released her debut album in 2007. She moved to the US in 2010 to study songwriting at Berklee College of Music, eventually changing her stage name in 2017 to mark a change in musical direction. “I feel like Haneri is a lot braver than me, a little more out there, and more outspoken than Daphne,” she told Time Out. Her four-track Milliona EP came in 2020 and she featured on ‘Brighter Side’ in 2021, a single by Vietnamese producer and DJ Hoaprox, marking a move into dance and electronica.  

Talitha (Malaysia)

Talitha is a true success story: she started making music when she was 15, posting cover versions on her YouTube channel in 2011, including songs by Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera. The release of ‘Okay’ in May 2016 was a significant jump forward and has had over half a million streams on YouTube. She has an image of being sporty and adventurous, derived in part from her enthusiasm for parkour and fitness training. She has also a strong personality where she speaks openly about a range of topics and this refusal to be silenced is also reflected in the lyrics she writes. “I can guarantee you that I am very serious about my music and that I plan to pursue it with every bit of my heart,” she told the Malaysian magazine Discover KL. “I love what I do, and I am passionate.” 

Isyana Sarasvati (Indonesia)

Having studied at both the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore and the Royal College Of Music, in London, the Indonesion singer-songwriter merges music and art with an international perspective. She has won two awards from Mnet Asian Music Awards (Best Asian Artist Indonesia in 2016 and Best Composer Of The Year in 2017). In April 2020, she was included in the Entertainment & Sports category of the 30 Under 30 Forbes Asia 2020 list. Her song ‘Heaven’ established her in her home country, having almost 30 million plays on Spotify to date. She is currently in the next phase of her development, with high hopes for her career and her future releases.

Bowkylion (Thailand)

Known for her heartbreak ballads, Bowkylion is a Thai singer-songwriter as well as a contemporary artist who knows how to combine those two worlds. She began in music by performing covers on YouTube and studied voice at Mahidol University's College of Music in Salaya (in Thailand). She was the lead singer in five-piece band SKIPIT between 2011 and 2015 and competed in the fourth series of The release of his album ‘Coeur de Lion’ in 2020 was accompanied by an art exhibition reflecting the music from the album. This melding of music and art across everything she does has helped to project her personality and also to reinforce the depth of her work. 

Valentina Ploy (Thailand)

Valentina Ploy was a former contestant on The Voice Thailand as well as being a runner-up in Miss Universe Thailand 2018, using these platforms to build her music career as a singer and a song-writer. She was also a featured artist on the ‘Heal’ charity single in 2020. ‘See You In Life’, the lead track from her Satellite EP in 2020, has been enormously successful, crossing 14 million plays on Spotify alone. Interestingly, her biggest market for streaming is neither of her home countries but rather is the Philippines (where her music has featured in a number of key Filipino playlists), followed by Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore. She is a very modern kind of artist who can easily cross multiple borders.