K-Pop 2012 – Relevant and Changing Music

The world wide web and social media are bringing us easy access to interesting music cultures from around the world. It may be hard to remember, but it wasn’t too many years ago we were limited in our music choices to what they played on MTV, radio, the local music scene, or the record store. But oh how times have changed.

By now most of us have put down our fanzine subscriptions and look to what’s trending online for musical enlightenment. The internet and more importantly the ability to share online through social media have made a big change in how we find and like music.

I mention social media in relation to music discovery because there is currently a Korean music video circling the globe via Youtube. There have been several hundred parodies, multiple bands covering it, and almost half a billion views in just a few short months.

I’m sure you guessed it, but just in case you haven’t heard, the artist is PSY and he has made a very catchy song called “GANGNAM STYLE”. PSY is no stranger to the Korean music scene, but he hasn’t achieved international recognition before his latest song. The music video GANGNAM STYLE by PSY has been hailed as the most viral video ever by many industry experts.

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K-pop and Korean Culture

PSY can be clumped together with a larger group of musical talent coming out of South Korea and making a play on the world stage. This style of music is known as K-pop (K = Korean). Popular music in South Korea blends elements of Japanese Pop and Pop music from the west. It has been gaining international steam in recent years thanks to social media.

In a more general sense South Korea has become a major producer of popular culture in the past decade. It hasn’t always been that way and it wasn’t many years ago that South Korea was a struggling economy.

They worked hard to establish a niche on the world economic stage. Now that niche has been very well established and blossomed into a superpower with household brands like KIA, Samsung, and LG sold throughout the world. The Korean cultural expansion is called the “Korean Wave” and is gaining steam.

My Korean Experience

I first visited Korea in the mid 90s on a family vacation. We would go on annual shopping pilgrimages to the underground markets of Seoul looking for “name brand” knockoffs at very good prices. Full shopping bags would turn into overpacked suit cases carrying purses, clothes, and other precious items back to Japan and ultimately to the States.

One of the memories I have during these underground market excursions was the loud music in these shopping districts. The shopping areas were filled with loud western style pop music of it’s day. It was most likely used to attract Americans seeking cheap merchandise, but it absolutely had an influence on the local kids and how they perceived music.

Korean Pop Music Rise; from a Different Perspective

Americans have been showcasing western style pop culture since the end of the war. The US military has permanent bases in the country and when you find permanent bases you have lots of military kids. The children of the troops sent to serve in the country bring with them their musical culture and introduce it to the locals.

Local kids usually embrace it as something fun and exciting. You see springing up local clubs, bands, and western culture around military bases in foreign countries catering to the west.

If you don’t believe me just walk down Gate 2 street in Okinawa and you will understand how heavily the locals express western musical culture. The culture around the bases spreads and takes on a life of its own. It becomes woven into the culture of the local area and something unique is created. You get K-pop or J-pop for example.

Korea has done what Japan and other nations have done in terms of making their own version of pop culture from the west. They created a version unique to their culture, but is still able to transcend oceans and appeal to the kids in other nations. Now we see PSY blowing up all over the world, including the United States, with a seemingly fresh take on pop music.

PSY and the many other current K-pop musical artists like Tohoshinki, KARA, Big Bang, BoA and others are producing popular music for Korea and the rest of the world. They are achiving success far beyond the borders of the South Korean peninsula.

Korean music is mainstream in many parts of the world, namely Japan. Many acts that have found success in Japan are enjoying chart topping tracks. China, Taiwan, India and other southeast asian countries accept korean music as relevant and mainstream in spite of the deep routed ethic nationalistic attitude of previous generations.

The Korean wave is rather new in the United States, but with Korean dramas, horror films, animation and now pop music busting down the door where will it lead?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Delgado is a freelance writer for iMesh.com, the place to download music for free.

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/coolinsights/8391222959/

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