Free Press Journal

K-Pop Music: From Seoul to the world

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Khushnuma Jabulee does an in-depth exploration of the world of K-Pop.

‘Music’ is a simple word with a powerful meaning. One would hardly find a person who doesn’t like music. With all its multiple genres, and mostly Western artists taking the world by storm, there is one particular country which brings its own spin on your typical popular music and parcels it off in a very beautiful visual medium. A brand of music called K-Pop.

South Korea is the Mecca of K-Pop. Seoul, its capital city, is the land that makes all the dreams come true for aspiring K-Pop idols. As a genre it was confined only in South Korea, but became a mega-hit phenomenon in the 90’s. Korean musicians started experimenting with American styles of music like R&B, Hip Hop, Rock and incorporated those to the already present Pop music, and voila, first generation of K-Pop was born.


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Bangtan Boys

Today, K-Pop is on its third generation of artists that have kept the traits of the previous styles, but have also incorporated the newly popular genres of music. Over the past decade, K-Pop’s popularity has skyrocketed not just in the Asian countries, but also in North America, Europe and Australia. India, though, is still fairly new to this phenomenon.

SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment are the holy trinity when it comes to the labels that produce some of the biggest K-Pop artists in the industry. Their brand value ropes in millions of fans. Some of the biggest artists of today are from these agencies – Super Junior, TVXQ, EXO, Girls’ Generation, BIGBANG, 2NE1, 2PM, GOT7 and more. Though there are other agencies who have really talented and popular artists like Bangtan Boys (Big Hit Entertainment), Infinite (Woollim Entertainment), B2ST (Cube Entertainment), Apink (Plan A Entertainment), Sistar (Starship Entertainment) etc.

As a part of Exciting India, a four episode Korean variety show (also uploaded on YouTube), saw five K-Pop artists, Kyuhyun (Super Junior), Minho (SHINee), Jonghyun (CNBlue), Sunggyu (Infinite) and Suho (EXO), from different bands travelling all the way from Seoul to Mumbai in February 2015. They were here, not to perform, but to figure out how open the Indian music market is for something like K-Pop.

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Big Bang

These five idols visited several famous Mumbai spots, like the Gateway of India, Rhythm House, Phoenix Mills, and spoke to Mumbaikars whether they knew of the existence of K-Pop and how willing were they to accept it. The boys even managed to speak to a marketing official at YRF and an officer at the Korean Consulate who knew the gist of K-Pop, but hadn’t really watched any. Their visit also comprised of a stopover at Maratha Mandir to watch the iconic ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ in order to experience a Bollywood film, albeit they didn’t understand a word of Hindi, but found it amusing when the crowd clapped, whistled and cheered.

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From everything they collected over the few days, they concluded that Bollywood was the main staple of India, and mostly everything else was secondary… including the Indian independent artists who try making their own albums aloof from Bollywood. They recognized that the younger urban audience was ready to give K-Pop a try, but to get into the Indian music circuit anytime soon would be nearly impossible.

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Exciting India

Therefore, being a huge K-Pop fan myself, I spoke to a few Indian fans to get their opinions. Amjad Khan, a 29 year old Merchandise Manager from Delhi, when asked about how he got into K-Pop, he said, “Back in 2012, I was in China for a year in a multi-cultural Chinese language university. There was a culture fest where a group of Japanese boys danced to BIGBANG’s Fantastic Baby. There was no looking back after that.”

What makes K-Pop different than your usual Western or Bollywood music apart from the obvious difference that K-Pop is sung mainly in Hangul (Korean language)? Anushree Kadam, a 26 year old student from Pune elaborated, “After giving some artists a try, I found out that many artists out there have really soulful music. You can’t help but appreciate their work, be it their songs, choreography or aesthetically made MVs. Fandom of different groups have unique names, as well as light sticks. Being part of a fandom provides fans interaction with people all around the world and it brings people together. K-Pop made me realize that music truly has no language.”

Most people have their favourite musical artists. Says Amjad, “I have my current favourites and favourites from different time periods, but one band that I always go back to is BIGBANG.”

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EXO

Anushree immediately responded saying, “Infinite is the only group I have supported. They have a distinct style of music. They’re not from a big company, yet they gained stardom due to sheer determination and hard work. Infinite inspires me to try my best.”

When asked whether she sees K-Pop entering the Indian market, Kiron Abraham, a 29 year old Copy Editor from Mumbai said, “I don’t think K-Pop will get much bigger here for the time being but there’s still some hope where the younger urban audience is concerned. Korean artists will need to make themselves more relatable by producing more English language songs with better pronunciation. Let’s hope Indians are as open as international audiences to broadening their horizons.”

10 K-Pop groups to listen to

1. Infinite Woollim Entertainment
2. Bangtan Boys (BTS) BigHit Entertainment
3. EXO SM Entertainment
4. GOT7 YG Entertainment
5. VIXX Jellyfish Entertainment
6. Winner YG Entertainment
7. BIGBANG YG Entertainment
8. B.A.P TS Entertainment
9. NCT SM Entertainment
10. Monsta X Starship Entertainment