If someone asks you what K-pop is, what will you answer? Maybe you’ll talk about the synchronized dance, fancy costumes, or ‘Gangnam style’. That’s what many people are aware of, but is just a small part of what it is. Now it’s time to look back what K-pop is actually about.
Popular Korean music, typically referred to as K-pop in English, or ‘gayo’ in Korean, is a highly commercial industry throughout Asia. The Korean Wave, or Hallyu, is the word used to discuss the influence of K-pop culture on the rest of Asia, and the rest of the world. K-pop is dominated by dance groups called ‘idols’ featuring young entertainers with the latest looks and dance skills. Some of the most famous K-pop groups include Bigbang, Seventeen, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, Girlfriend, Block-B, BTS and EXO.
There are numerous genres in k-pop. Firstly, is Trot (pronounced as “teuroteu”), the oldest form of Korean pop music. Due to its distinctive background rhythm, sometimes trot is called “ppongjjak”. It was developed around the early 1900s and Tae Jin Ah and Song Dae Gwan are the famous interpreters of this genre.
Secondly, is rock. After the Korean War, rock music is said to have spread to Korea from the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) bases. Shin Jung hyeon, frequently referred to as the “Godfather of Korean Rock”, developed his own style of psychedelic rock in the ’60s and ’70s. In the 1980s, musical tastes had moved away from rock music. The scene was dominated by heavy metal music, in particular Boohwal, Baekdoosan, and Sinawe, collectively known as the Big 3.
Then comes hip-hop. In South Korea, hip hop spread into a cultural phenomenon in Seoul, Busan and Daegu. It has been growing since the mid 90s, especially after the success of Seo Taiji and Boys’ smash hit “I know,”(Nan arayo) and has been gaining attention internationally, as Koreans have won various championships since the early 2000s. In 2004, Rain became one of the first international stars outside of South Korea, with his “It’s Raining” album.
Lastly is Hybrid music. This genre includes rap, reggae, R&B, and hip hop in the early twenty first century. There are lots of TV shows like ‘Show Me The Money”, “I’m a Singer” and “Unpretty Rapstar” which introduces musicians through competitive format. It primarily changed from ballad to western music styles and mixing English in the lyrics of K- pop is another important change in contemporary K- pop music culture.