Introduction to K-pop: The coolest thing you never knew.

Imagine a music video with the highest production value, flashiest of outfits, craziest of hairstyles, and a unique, impressive style of music to go with it.

Welcome to the world of Korean pop music, or usually abbreviated to ‘K-pop’: seen as bizarre to many, an addiction to others, and an escape from the overplayed, repetitive music of mainstream radio.

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BTS (also known as Bangtan Boys or Bulletproof Boyscouts), one of the biggest selling K-pop groups of 2016.

With fans spread over the globe constantly fixated on their favorite boy groups and girl groups, let’s look into how a group of Indian students got hooked onto this crazy sensation.

‘Where it all began…’

“I was introduced to K-pop by coming across a suggestion on YouTube, it had Girl’s Generation’s The Boys and that’s where it all began,” says Payal Joshi, a first year BSc Biotechnology student at Manipal University Dubai. Girls Generation – one of the biggest names in K-pop – an 8-member girl group, is a fan-favorite and their concerts bring in over 550,000 spectators. Their music is bubble-gum pop, with bits of EDM-thrown in their hit singles.

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Girls’ Generation during the promotions for their 2014 mini-album, Mr.Mr. (Top left) Taeyeon, Yoona, Hyoyeon, Jessica (ex-member), Tiffany. (Bottom left) Sooyoung, Sunny, Seohyun and Yuri.

Another fan, Divya Devarajan, was introduced to K-pop ‘through Japanese pop music or J-pop’. “I knew kpop existed as I was exposed to it from a very long time ago, says Divya, “but I only began to like it after listening to artists like DBSK and Taeyang from Big Bang.”

DBSK and Big Bang are groups that one could say, built the foundation of the second generation K-pop. Divya, a second year BCOM student believes these artists were more than enough for her to give K-pop a try.

‘Annyeong haseyo!’ (Hello in Korean)

The first thing that comes into any one’s mind when the music is of a different language is, ‘how do you understand what they’re saying?’ 

Second year Media & Communication student, Amala Biju owes all her basic Korean speaking skills to subtitled Korean shows on Youtube. “It’s fun at the end of the day, you’re learning an entirely new language,” she adds, “especially when the people you really admire speak it.”

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(From right) Amala and me with posters of popular K-pop stars, BTS (Bangtan Boys) and of Chinese idol, Kris Wu.

If one were to take any piece of Korean music, it’s highly likely that you’d find bits and pieces of English words thrown around amidst the largely present Korean lyrics. These help the listener to, ‘know what the song is going to be about so it actually helps in connecting with the music even if its a different language,’ states Payal.

‘Formulated to succeed’

With hundreds of groups being debuted on a yearly basis, it’s difficult to not be attached to at least a single group, or not be fascinated by a group of people going bizarro nuts over the catchiest tunes you’d ever hear.

“Its like its formulated to succeed, I think it can be attributed to both – the music videos and the music itself,” says Divya.

Another Media & Communication student, Arjun Krishna Prasad states, “their choreography is the best part about the videos.” K-pop members undergo years of training under huge entertainment companies, to polish their dancing and singing skills. Some even undergo language training in English, Chinese and Japanese to communicate better with fans and so on.

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Big Bang during their promotion for their 2012 hit, Fantastic Baby. (From left) Daesung, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon (leader) and T.O.P

‘Isn’t it weird?’

“My family found it quite weird,” says Payal,  “but then they even think me listening to Caucasians is weird, so I did not pay much attention to that.” She laughs it off. “Most of my friends were already into K-pop, so we usually would discuss our favorite groups and songs.”

“I was called ‘weird’ many times for not listening to music that was considered ‘mainstream’,” recalls Divya.  She remembers being ‘sidelined and left out.’ But things worked out, as she, “found other friends who loved and enjoyed K-pop just as much as I did and it worked out just great.” 
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Divya Devarajan, with her BTS inspired sweatshirt, and EXO’s album.
Despite being seen as an outcast for liking something that was extraordinary and different, students like Payal and Divya were stubborn on their likes of Korean pop music and the variety it offered. Much like the music itself, they stood out and enjoyed the fun it brought along, and the friendships that were born out of it.
Korean pop music is far from any other conventional type of music, and it’s most certainly here to stay.
PS. Click here to watch a video on  Introduction to K-pop: First timers and fans.
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a pair of flats.

a pair of flats.

On a rainy exploration that ended several hours later than originally planned, I was left with the bravest decision to let go of my favorite pair of flats.

I walked around a city, home to a millions of lives, and road gutters. It amazed me to a deep extent how adults, teenagers, a retired old couple, or even a street rat could all coexist happily in one place. Every wall and every path etched with innumerable stories, yet here I was looking up to a cloudy sky and wondering how even a thunderstorm didn’t shake the faith or the lives of these millions.

I took one last look at my flats, drenched from an entire day of walking around in puddles of joy. As the night fell, I asked myself.

“Should I take you back with me?”

My flats seemed to look 50 shades darker than grey. It seemed tired.

“I kept you company for quite a while, it’s time to cut me some slack, Salma.”

“Alright, flats. You’ve been a good friend.” I sighed.

As I bid a bittersweet farewell to this heavily stormy city, I realized I was jealous. My flats that had been part of my life from the frequent trips to McDonald’s or even to my regular classes, was back in a land of mystery and fairytales. A land where a cow and people would cross the street at the same time, and no one seemed worried about it. A land where millions would arrive to find ‘inner peace’.

Not soon after my vigorous thought process regarding the feelings of my now-old pair of flats, my dad seemed worried.

“Are you sure you’re okay with these?” he asked me.

I nodded.

“We’ve got stories to write”, I told my shiny flats.

 

 

Who is she?

She loved the attention, she loved the glares. She made them all, stop and stare. Her heels tapped to the rhythm of their hearts. The control of their minds, somewhere in her smile. Blinded by her light, they never bothered to know, what her favorite book was, or how she wished to learn about the universe when only 10.

Days passed and the love continued to flow. From her locks of hair, to the way she danced to the radio. Her heart never on her sleeve, the chase went on for a while.

Every day repeated like the other, and they never seemed to grasp. The trick of the game she played, the victims those whose hearts got swayed.

Her virtual life was filled with requests. Desperate hearts, desperate measures, she thought to herself. It was quite the task to figure out, who ‘liked’ her, and who didn’t.

She was more than her beauty. She was more than her long locks of hair. She was more than her ‘on point’ makeup. She was more than her beauty.

Blinded by her light, they never bothered to know, how much Greek philosophy, or long walks at the beach meant to her. The songs on the radio never sang about her personality. They sang of girls used as nothing more than an epitome of beauty. Surely, does a human hold no other value other than their big brown eyes, or the size of her chest? She scoffed at the way things turned out to be.

But if she wasn’t the songs on the radio, her weight, or her love life, then what was she?

She is a combination of her thoughts and actions. Her habits, both good and bad. Her mistakes, both past and present.

She is a potion created from her experiences, her memories, her inspiration, her fears, her dreams, her guilty pleasures.

She is the voice of her generation. A speaker for herself, most of all. They’d try to shut her down. Just try, and that was all.

They chased her again, in search of a lonely heart. It was a game she played, with curiosity and wonder. The lipstick, the heels, all part of the trick. The victims still swayed by the way she danced to the radio.

Her heart hidden beneath layers of tales, it would take a lot more than pretty words, to make her smile.

#soulfulsundays – hope.

“I don’t deserve this”.

Many who walk this earth, casually throw this phrase around when faced with the obstacles in life. True, nobody asks for bad things to happen to them, but when it does we’re all suddenly new borns, who’ve never sinned, and never had a single bad thought in their life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve constantly been faced with problems, ranging from social anxiety, to teen angst. And every now and then, it does get me down. I go back to where I came from and tell myself that I deserve none of this.

But then again, if your mistakes and experiences don’t shape you the person that you are, then what does? We depend on each other, and are in the constant process of growing. The journey is so tough, but the warm feeling that’s deep inside all of us is what really keeps us going. If we’re so against facing such problems, how would we ever evolve? Change is said to be, “constant”, but with such a mindset, it’ll just prove to be myth.

Like the first drop of rain which reveals the start of winter, I hope that you find it within yourself to ignite the flame of hope. No matter how dark times claim to be.

#soulfulsundays – pencil and eraser.

I’m your pencil and you’re my eraser. Let me write new memories for you to lose sleep over at 4am, please help me erase the past of all the wrong lips I’ve kissed and words I’ve trusted. Let me write you new beginnings so when it’s all over you can smile about it and move on, please help me erase my doubts so I can feel whole again.

Let me write you a story, where I’m your pencil, where mistakes can be erased and I can be forgiven.

#soulfulsundays – happily ever after.

When I was 5, I found out that there were good and bad people. It wasn’t due to circumstances, they were who they were. My bed time stories revolved around these characters. Monsters were killed, evil was extinguished. And no matter what, the story with end with a happily ever after.When I was 15, I found out that there were both good and bad in people. They became bad due to circumstances. My life has revolved around them since. Monsters appeared, evil lurked inside each of us. Deep down under, there still remained burnt ashes of happily ever afters.

#soulfulsundays – biggest fear.

If you asked me what scares me the most I’d say spiders, needles and failure. But now, it’s like none of that matters – why so? Time has become my biggest fear. If time were to be a person, it would have the past of someone naive, gullible and went through terrible experiences in life. People walked in, and out of their life, so quickly. And now it seemed to have lost all trust, and now time waits for no one anymore. Time knows when to let go.