July 4, 2022

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“It’s like oxygen – it’s everywhere!” Why is Korea famous for canter, the coolest pop music imaginable | K-pop

aIn the latest lifting of COVID restrictions, music is up in the air once again in Seoul. But in 2022, it’s not only K-pop And Western songs provide the soundtrack to the capital of South Korea. There is another sound lurking around every corner.

It resounds from the portable stereos of merchants in fruit and vegetable markets, and is sung in noraebang (Karaoke) booths in Nagun-dong. I hear it in second-hand music stores in Euljiro, where it piles up floor-to-ceiling in bumper-sized CD and cassette bundles. When I turn on the TV, it’s there again – presented in variety shows and catchy talent competitions. Stars of the genre light up backstreets and skyscrapers on tattered digital posters and billboards. “It’s like oxygen,” says the 250 dance producer. The beats, cheap keyboard sounds, and emotional vocal performances I hear wherever I go.. “It’s everywhere.”

This is it ppongjjak Revival of the century-old K-pop genre also known as trot. Until recently, it was popular only among the elderly, who listen to it on mountain hikes and during intercity bus tours (as shown in last scene “Mother 2009” directed by “Parasite” Bong Joon Ho). Now it finds a place again in the underground and in the mainstream. This unexpected resurgence seems to baffle many locals: one pub-goer uses the word “embarrassing” to describe the ridiculous mixture of this kind of somber poems and ecstatic rhythms in European dance style. But young artists are incorporating these questionable voices into their tracks, and the revival is now threatening to break Korea’s borders.

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Fans of South Korean trot singer Lim Young Woong
The audience… Fans of South Korean trot singer Lim Young Woong. Photograph: Reuters/Al-Alamy

The name comes from a simple rhythm that supports the music: ppongjjak It is an onomatopoeia that simulates repeated beats from one to two, with the first syllable denoting a powerful blow, and the second syllable denoting a flickering ambush. He wears live beats that make it easy to sing and dance, with higher vocal tones delivered with a technique known as kkeokk ki (Which means to bendAnd the or break the sound). Meanwhile, emotional lyrics and happy and sad melodies embody an emotion HanA term describing a feeling of shared sadness or lamentation. Local music video producer Kim Kyuseo of Spire Productions casts trot traits and our present ppongjjak In Shakespeare’s terms: “It’s like tragedy and comedy,” he says, emphasizing the emotive vocal performances of the former, and the insane rhythms of the latter. “They dance from their pain.”

Neither experts nor hobbyists can agree on whether they are, in fact, the same thing or just different threads of one kind – but either way, roots ppongjjak It can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when Japan occupied an undivided Korea. Trout is derived from foxtrot, says Alex Taek Gwang Lee, a professor of cultural studies at Kyung Hee University. The two-beat dance style was introduced to Korea by Japan as part of a “jazz-age-influenced cultural phenomenon in America” ​​in the 1920s. When the ruling class opened up large ballrooms across the country (inspired in part by those in Blackpool and other British cities, Lee says), indigenous Koreans combined it with the traditional music of the working people—and the trot was born.

This literary genre has gone through a complex history since then. She was responsible for the first K-pop artists, including Nam Jin And the na hoon a, during the genre’s heyday in the 1970s. famous jogger Singer Sim So Bong, was even present in the assassination of President Park Chung-hee in 1979; She had sung for the military dictator at the banquet that evening. But it has also been condemned on multiple occasions since the late 1960s, as various governments attempted to eliminate Japanese influences from society. Debate continues over whether the trot’s melancholy – exemplified by the themes of popular songs like Yi Hae-yeon Heartbreaking Mary Hill and sleep in soo Busan farewell station – Makes it Korean in nature, or whether the style is derived from Japanese Inca (Perhaps the most familiar type to Westerners of its use in kill Bill Audio recording).

By the 1990s, young Koreans were feeling increasingly optimistic and there was little room for the sad music associated with the older generation. .’s new sound K-pop – Influenced by dance, R&B and hip-hop on the outside – he broke into the zeitgeist. But the trot It never went away, and in late 2010, an unexpected revival was catalyzed by the debut of the X Factor-style TV talent show in which the contestants perform in a traditional emotional style – one of its episodes viewed by more than a third of the total Korean TV audience.

Lim Young Woong performing in January
Everywhere… Lim Young Woong. Photo: Chung Seung-joon/Getty Images

Listen to a single My starry love By winner Mr. Trout Lim Young Woong, I can’t help but remember the attitude of Gareth Gates Unrestricted melody From the first series of Pop Idol. But Lim’s popularity is undeniable: he has more than 1.3 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, his face currently occupies a 10-storey video billboard in Hongdae’s thriving university district, and he’s as ubiquitous as BTS at souvenir stalls in the market area. Insa-dong.

You see some corners of the press this revival of the trot Interest as just part of the “newtro” trend (a combination of the words “new” and “retro”): a youth culture phenomenon characterized by vintage costumes, graphic and interior designs, and the popularity of Korean dramas such as The Master of Sunshine. But the trotting industry has also become attractive to singers and musicians with big career ambitions.

He explains to me that the “idol” industry for mainstream K-pop stars “is very restrictive. You have to have a good look, be good at dancing, you have to take care of the audience and for marketing – it’s like being a model or a goddess.” On the other hand, more specialty trotting or ppongjjak The market (Lee uses the terms interchangeably) “is a place where people who just want to be good singers or good musicians can focus on art.” It’s a point confirmed by K-pop stars like Lizzie, who previously worked in the K-pop girl group After School. released a trot song, Not an easy girlAs her first single in 2015, she told MBN Star that year, “Idol music didn’t last long…I thought trot music would stay longer in the music market.”

It’s not just reality TV stars and major entertainers who will be attending the revival. I came across the face of a techno-trout pioneer in the 90s epaxaLee, also known as Dr. Lee, was blown up against the side of a wall in the bustling neighborhood of Euljiro – a former industrial city now home to late-night bars serving beer and fried chicken to patrons seated on plastic chairs. He is one of the senior statesmen who benefited from ppongjjak Rebirth, with new shows and an album in the pipeline; I hear a track that sounds suspiciously similar to it monkey magic Noisy from a portable stereo the same day.

Epaksa has also appeared as a guest on the album of one of the country’s hottest young dance producers. The Seoul-based label 250 is known for creating beats for BTS and producing Korean hip-hop icon E Sens. But on his debut solo album, Ppong (who hilariously sticks to stereotyped poses found in trotting CD covers), he created a combination of forward-thinking ppongjjak Which captures the sadness or melancholy inherent in the genre while incorporating elements of modern dance music.

Bongjak Often the music is really fast, almost like a drum,” he says, likening the untethered dance styles of the ’90s to the dance styles of ppongjjak experts. He checks Italian canzon And the French chanson As relatives of this species through their melancholy and nostalgic voices. She shares themes with American country music: “They miss home.” And in its tacky bass lines and “cheap and tacky” sounds, it offers parallels to Italian disco in the ’70s and ’80s: “Chasing Giorgio Moroder,” 250 says, “straight ppongjjak. “ He’s right: the pulsating double beat, the soulful melodies, the dated sounds – it’s all there.

Can a Korean cultural oddity like ppongjjak Ever sowed in the West? It has already happened, albeit in small ways. Epaksa’s ridiculous music video for the track 2000 space fantasy He saw him demonstrating in front of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and even the Pyramids of Giza. The Korea Tourism Organization is impressive feel the rhythm Spot – which aired frequently at the London East Asian Film Festival in 2021, and garnered nearly 50 million views on YouTube – highlights the musical performance of Korean band Leenalchi. The song blends rock and Korean traditions Pansori (folk) sings at an unmistakable discount ppongjjak get over.

But in 2022, 250 people may have the greatest chance – some would say a risk – of taking the genre globally. To a large extent, the Ppong looks as if it was designed to serve as a support for the trot of the fold singers of any language to perform more, and while the overpowered tones of one to two sometimes recall the sultry voices of happy purists, the rich and colorful melodies on tracks like blast bus And the rear window It can’t help but remind me of the Ben Todd Terry deal, the stars of British indie electronic music Metronomy, or the Japanese electronic music giants Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Two months after the album’s release, 250 debuted on its first show on a respected London radio station Radio NTS – It is full of wooden beams with a trot And the ppongjjak Voices, including pieces from Nam Jin and Na Hoon-a. With K-pop culture showing no sign of slowing down, who’s to say Pongjak – Or, at least, some new lunatic hybrid of it—wouldn’t it be Korea’s next big export trend? In London, karaoke booths await.