Arts and Culture

K-pop: a taste of Korean music flavour

I first stumbled upon Korean culture on YouTube. All thanks to the then-trending song: Gangnam Style.

Gangnam Style is a K-pop song by South Korean rapper Psy, who is admittedly quite energetic. On account of the recognition the song received globally, I think I wasn’t alone in my journey of sampling Korean cultural offerings.

In September 2012, Psy’s Gangnam Style hit was recognised by Guinness World Records as the first YouTube video to attract one billion views globally, pushing Korea front and centre in defining global culture. It subsequently won Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards held that year.

Despite his physique, PSy seems to have a great mastery of those wacky, energy-sapping dance moves that can leave you catching a health break.

The track’s unique dance style was attempted by political leaders such as then British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who hailed the composition as a force for world peace.

On May 7, 2013, during a meeting between South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye at the White House, US President Barack Obama—an avid music lover and every year shares his personalised summer playlist—cited the roaring success of Gangnam Style as an example of how people across the world are being “swept up” by a strong wave Korean culture.

I later came to learn that Gangnam Style is a South Korean reference to a lifestyle that is associated with the Gangnam region of the capital city area Seoul where people are trendy, hip, and exude a certain supposed class.

But I have to admit, although I could not understand what the song was about, I found it very catchy and deeply moving. It is sad that just sums up my experience with K-pop.

But that was not the same case with Sash. That was just what she needed to spark her interest in exploring this genre of entertainment. Surprisingly, the language barrier was not a factor that could stop her ever-growing interest and obsession with K-pop.

As the artists sang in Korean, she found herself following their dance styles and every move in sync with the rhythm of their songs. The beats are also catchy and the music visuals are fascinating.

Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube among other social media platforms played a huge role in introducing this genre to Sash, and millions of Kenyans. The trends that come along with it influence more uptake of K-pop.

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On YouTube, a South Korean boy band formed in 2010, Bulletproof Boy Scouts or Bangtan Boys (BTS), have garnered jaw-dropping 1.6 billion views and those subscribed to their channel are roughly 74.9 million and counting.

On their TikTok page, the Grammy-nominated group have 59.9 million followers with each of their videos having at least tens of millions of views. On Instagram, the band spearheaded a global K-pop craze have managed to draw a following of 73.5 million people.

Other than social media platforms, there are music platforms such as Spotify. This platform unites fans from all social media platforms. So much so that Kenya was on Spotify’s Wrapped top three list of African countries that consume K-pop music.

Apart from social media and music platforms, k-dramas deserve credit. K-dramas are largely based on webcomics, a form of storytelling that is very similar to comics tracing its origin in South Korea. Pay-TV platforms such as Netflix have become the go-to spot to K-drama lovers.

It is during this Korean drama craze shows that one also gets to interact with K-pop. Nowadays there is a whole section dedicated to k-dramas on these popular movie streaming platforms. Globally, the number of those watching K-dramas has increased by over 72 percent.

Across the border in Tanzania, Korean dramas such as Jumong, Jewel in the Palace, The Wind of the Palace, and City Hunter are some of the entertainment pieces that have enjoyed great success in the country.

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