K-pop musicians ready to rock global festivals

March 8, 2016

The Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) will send out thirteen headlining names in K-pop and rock music, including Zion.T and Mamamoo, to the world this year. (Newsis)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Few have clear answers to the question, “What is hallyu?” This not because the meaning of hallyu, or the global boom of Korean pop culture, is too hard to grasp, but because hallyu itself is under constant change.

To the twelve groups of hallyu musicians, who will perform in South By Southwest (SXSW), The Great Escape Festival (TGE) and Marche International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale (MIDEM) — the world’s big three music festivals — this year, “hallyu music” is simply what the Korean artists show to the world.

“This is my first time to perform in Texas, but frankly, I haven’t been anxious about the reception of my music in my stages, here or overseas,” said Korean hip hop artist Zion. T, in a press conference for “K-Pop Night Out,” an event hosted by Korea Creative Content Agency to promote Korean musicians in global music festivals, in central Seoul on Tuesday.

Zion. T is one of the six Korean artists to showcase in this year’s South by Southwest, or SXSW, a festival of film, music and executive conferences, set to run March 15-20 in Austin, Texas, U.S. Launched in 1987, the annual global event runs in March, run by company South by Southwest Inc. Five other Korean bands, Victim mentality, Love X Stereo, Bye Bye Badman, Haihim and MAMAMOO, are slated to rock SXSW.

“What I do is what I’ve been doing all the time. All I do is let them check out my music, or what I’ve been doing every day, and only then I get to talk about my communication with the crowd and good experience (in the global stage),” the 27-year-old singer said.

K-pop girl group MAMAMOO, another Korean act to perform at SXSW, also had much to say about K-pop girl groups and boy bands in the global pop realm. The quartet has not been abroad much, but was more than willing to show that K-pop girl groups aren’t all cut from the same cloth.

“We’ve been told that the foreign fans love the group dances of K-pop girl and boy bands, but on top of that, we want them to know how we enjoy our spree on the stage,” said Solar, leader of the four-member act.

“I was told that Hollywood actress Chloe Moretz, who recently visited Korea, said she loved our song, ‘Taller Than You.’ So we are expecting to see more global fans who love that song,” she said.

Victim Mentality, Korea’s glam heavy metal band, also showed confidence in the metal genre’s strength and opportunities in the global music market.

When asked about the gloomy outlook of the heavy metal market here and globally, band leader Crocodile contended, “That’s something that heavy metal artists have heard for the past 30 years.”

“Some wonder if the metal genre will die out. But that is as good as saying, no company can be successful in a bad economy. Even when the economy is gloomy, outgoing businesses continue to be successful. Here we are the only metal band here, and globally, I dare say that there are only 1,000 heavy meal bands to compete. Being 1 percent of that (1,000) will be enough to make our ends meet.”

At the press conference were two groups, retro harmony trio The Barberettes and rock band Danpyunsun and the Sailors, to spread hallyu in TGE, the largest music festival in the U.K., from May 19-21. TGE is an annual three-day music festival held in Brighton and Hove in May. Run by MAMA & Company, the festival showcases new music from a variety of genres.

“We don’t want the ‘genre’ of our music to define or limit our music. Any music that sounds great is great, no matter how retro or modern it may be,” said An Shin-ae of The Barberettes, a doo-wop group known for its 1940s-1960s style.

“By accumulating experience on the foreign stages makes (Korean musicians) confident. We are from a country with a small music market, but we will be confident and triumphant when we return (from the world stage),” she said.

Four Korean bands–Guckkasten, IDIOTAPE, Eluphant and Ego Function Error–will rock the K-pop Night Out in MIDEM in the French city of Cannes from June 3-6. MIDEM, first held in 1967, is the oldest music festival of the three global music festivals and one of the most prestigeous international business event for the industry.

Among them, Korean hip hop duo Eluphant did not waver about concerns that Korean rap music can be unimpressive in the Western music market, where the genre originated from.

Rather, Eluphant was ready to showcase the linguistic fun of the Korean tongue.

“Language is an essential part of the hip hop genre. We want to show them the fun of the sound of Korean language. We can’t wait to introduce the audial art of Korean rap to the global ears,” said Minos of Eluphant.

Novelty and exoticism are not the only tools that can flag Korean music in the global markets, according to rock band Guckkasten.

“We recently returned from a concert in Japan. We could tell that they liked our music, maybe because our music has a tint of enka (a genre of traditional Japanese music), ” the Korean rock band said, adding its music received favorable reviews from the Japanese personnel involved in the concert.

The fostering and proliferation of hallyu has been one of the key initiatives of the South Korean government, as part of the creative economy agenda of President Park Geun-hye.

Under the wings of the government’s support, Korean musicians have created and elevated the realm of Korean music, gearing up to beam in the global music markets.

At the press conference, Kim Young-chul, the vice president of KOCCA, the host of the media event, praised the 12 groups as “the award-winning national representatives of Korean music, selected by experts and directors of world-class music industries.”

“We will offer our support to help them stage great performances and challenge the global music market,” Kim added.


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