Fans of South Korean trot singer Lim Young Woong

“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 no longer just K-pop and Western songs that provide the soundtrack to the South Korean capital. 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 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 with the elderly, who listen to it on mountain hikes and during intercity bus tours (as depicted in the final scene of the 2009 movie Mother’s, by Parasite director 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 “awkward” to describe the kind’s absurd mixture of somber songs 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.

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 he isA 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 Na Hoon-a, during the genre’s heyday in the 1970s. famous jogger The singer, Sim So-bong, was even present at 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—the themes of popular songs such as Yi Hae-yeon Heartbreaking Miari Hill and Nam In-su’s Busan Station of Farewell—make it inherently Korean, or whether the style is derived from Japanese. Inca (This genre is perhaps more popular with Westerners than its use in the Kill Bill soundtrack.)

By the 1990s, young Koreans were feeling increasingly optimistic and there was little room for the sad music associated with the older generation. K-pop’s new sound – influenced by dance, R&B and hip-hop on the outside – has broken through 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

When listening to Trot winner Lim Young-woong’s massive single My Starry Love, I can’t help but remember Gareth Gates’ song on Unchained 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-story video billboard in the booming university district of Hongdae, 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. She released trot, Not an Easy Girl, as her debut single in 2015, telling MBN Star that year, “Idol music didn’t last long…I thought trot 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 Epaksa’s pioneering ’90s techno-trot, a.k.a. Dr. Lee, who was blown up against the side of a wall in the bustling neighborhood of Euljiro – a former industrial district of Mecca that is now home to late-night beer bars and fried chicken For customers sitting 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 heard a track that sounded suspiciously similar to his Monkey Magic sounding off 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 250 is best known for creating beats for BTS and producing Korean hip-hop icon E Sens. But on his first solo album, Ppong (which playfully sticks 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 from Italian Song 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. Ipaxa’s hilarious music video for the 2000’s fantasy space track was watched in front of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and even the Pyramids of Giza. The KTO’s impressive Feel the Rhythm spot – which was repeated at the London East Asian Film Festival in 2021 and garnered nearly 50 million views on YouTube – highlights a musical performance by Korean band Leenalchi. The song combines alternative rock and traditional Korean music 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 trotting trot A singer of any language to perform the most, and while the now and then overpowering solo beats recall the sultry sounds of happy diehards, the rich, colorful melodies on tracks like Bang Bus and Rear Window can’t help but remind me of the Ben Todd Terry deal, or British indie stars electronic Metronomy The Yellow Magic Orchestra, or the Japanese electronic music titans.

Two months after the album’s release, 250 debuted its first show on respected London radio station NTS Radio – and it’s full of rafters 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 stands await.

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