The next stage in the evolution of Australia's music scene
It’s Saturday night and Alyca Nemer is in full party mode.
The 25-year-old is all glammed-up, clutching a ticket costing hundreds of dollars and heading out the door to watch one of her favourite musicians perform live.
But this is not your typical Pink, Mariah Carey or Elton John music gig.
A new breed of singer is taking a bite out of the Anglo-American dominated music market - and they're flying in from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Pop sensations from Korea, Lebanon and Germany are breaking language barriers to win a place among audiences in the West, and industry heavyweights are now acknowledging foreign talent as legitimate players in the music scene.
While Australian crowds are accustomed to mainstream Western beats, there is an increasing desire among young people for something new.
'Music is a language in itself. You don't need to understand the language to understand a song. Everyone can appreciate the sound.'
– Farid Geagea, Arabic music promoter
Ms Nemer (pictured above), who has a Lebanese background, regularly travels from her home in Wollongong to watch her favourite Arabic-speaking musicians on stage in Sydney.
She recently attended popular Lebanese singer Fares Karam\'s concert at a function centre in Bankstown, in Sydney’s south-west. About 400 people attended the concert, with Alyca’s family and friends each paying $110 for a ticket.
Ms Nemer, a singer herself who attends up to two concerts a month, believes it is important for young people to embrace the cultural arts born from their family\'s heritage.
\"I love listening to Lebanese music,” she said.
“I love listening to music from all different cultures, actually. And I\'m surprised when I mention a singer from Lebanon and my Lebanese friends don\'t know who I\'m talking about.\"
A senior lecturer at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Dr Charles Fairchild, explains the trend: Some young people want to hear music from regions that their families are from while others are keen to explore music from places they may not have a personal connection.
He said that people can often relate to music more readily than other forms of art and music can provide some connection between communities that other forms of art may not.
\"Music can often have a very subtle, but strong impact on relationships between people who may not speak the same language or may have contrasting values or little direct contact,” he said.
Another avid concertgoer is Jennifer Tsui, 15, who is attracted to Korean Pop, also known as K-Pop.
She said it is important in a multicultural country for people to get \"a taste of different cultures\".
\"Music promotes understanding and empathy, and it is important to hear voices of culturally diverse musicians, not only to spread awareness of the culture and its uniqueness, but also to spread a message through music,” said Jennifer.
The teenager, who attends a high school in Sydney’s north, is originally from Hong Kong and developed an interest in K-Pop not only because of the influences and music choices of family and friends, but also because \"it was a growing trend that connected well with my own culture and identity.\"
This year, Jennifer has attended two K-Pop concerts, including the highly-anticipated ‘K-Pop Festival in Sydney’ that featured some of Korea’s biggest names in pop.
She defended the K-Pop phenomenon against criticism that it is \"some meaningless electronic dance pop\", stressing that those who spent time exploring the music would discover “songs that do [convey] a message and do highlight the features of Korea as a country.\"
Now that non-Western international acts are gaining a foothold in Australia’s music scene, a growing band of promoters are organising concerts around the country.
The owner of Arabic Concerts Australia, Farid Geagea, who is based in Sydney, has signed up some of the biggest names from the Middle-East to perform in Australia.
In the past year alone, Mr Geagea has organised two concerts a month featuring popular Arabic singers including Amer Zayan and Toufic Tannoury.
Ticket prices range from $80 to $350 and the concerts can attract up to 800 fans, a majority of whom Mr Geagea estimates are aged between 19 and 35.
Like many other new and emerging businesses, Arabic Concerts Australia relies heavily on social media to promote artists as well as to gauge which artists the community would like to see perform locally.
While music takes on different sounds and social meanings depending on the socio-cultural context, Mr Geagea agrees with the general notion that the language of music is in many ways universal.
Mr Geagea said: \"Music is a language in itself. You don\'t need to understand the language to understand a song. Everyone can appreciate the sound. You can go to a Thai restaurant and enjoy the food. You don\'t know the ingredients, but you can appreciate the taste. Music is the same way.\"
Given the positive cultural impact international musicians have on Australia\'s multicultural community as well as the boost it provides to the local economy, Mr Geagea suggested that an annual government-funded concert for non-English speaking acts could help encourage more overseas musicians to perform in Australia.
With the help of modern technology and social media, music\'s sonorous reach as a celebration of cultural diversity is no longer limited by geography.
It is no wonder then that musicians across different continents are increasingly finding receptive audiences in other parts of the world - generating interest in communities outside the singer\'s own backyard.
Pop sensations from Korea, Lebanon and Germany are breaking language barriers to win a place among audiences in the West