If you are thinking this is about the newly-released Disney movie “Aladdin” then my response is maybe… as I have no idea where this post is headed, yet.
But I have been exploring a whole new world in recent months. I have been taken on a magical ride by a young person; magical because it has led me closer to my roots. Initially I stepped on (the magic carpet?) with hesitation and even reluctance, quite certain that it is not a world for me.
Gradually I have come to see value in this new world but most importantly to experience the process of discovery – initial resistance and disbelief to grudging acknowledgement of skills and talent to accepting difference and being amazed by what it is and could be.
Music is a universal thing with no boundaries, whether you play inside or outside. ~ Andris Nelsons
There is no boundary in music, and the same is probably true among musicians. Though the same can not be said for consumers of music who decide what is good or bad music as if there are universal standards for what is considered good music. There isn’t.
The cultural lens which we apply when we assess good or bad music tell us what we enjoy. Our comfort level from a lifetime of habit and familiarity determines what we reach for when selecting the music we want to listen to.
Well I have no issue with selecting music which suits our ear; each of us have different taste in music. At the same time, it is fascinating to discover new genres of music, particularly that from a different culture.
I have always been a pop music kind of girl, predominantly those originating from the US and UK, plus a little rock n roll 🙂 . Growing up in South-East Asia, I was also exposed to Canto-pop. I listened to a little Mando-pop in the “old days” and J-pop. Then a slight detour to African music but not for long, followed by jazz and soul. Later I was dragged into rap and hip-hop. Of course, classical music featured in my younger days of playing a musical instrument and my interest in ballet. Musical theatre is a thing for me too.
And now, K-pop (that is, Korean pop music). Before you roll your eyes or cringe, just stay with me for a little bit.
Like Aladdin, I was led into a cave filled with gems that I have never seen (or heard). It was intriguing to see where boundaries blur and somehow, a different construct emerges. K-pop sounds to me (and I’m no expert here, merely a consumer) similar to the pop I’ve been listening to, especially those from the US except sung in Korean. Similar but different.
Similar because a lot of their musical influences derived from the West and their songs are written by or in collaboration with artists from many different countries. Different because the cultural values are evident in the lyrics and music videos – to put on my Western lens, the content is relatively conservative whether on topics of love or sex or destruction. It is less aggressive and violent in description, and the language used more respectful. Less angst and less victimhood as a badge of honor. The message is relatively innocent and idealistic, and somewhat true to the culture of the East, it is more about the collective, lifting up and striving.
And the foreign language, one I cannot understand? Well, it doesn’t take away from the musicality nor my enjoyment. We feel music, it goes beyond words. As a recent Harvard study shows, musical characteristics transcend cultural boundaries.
This new world I am journeying with the young person in my life is fascinating; it opens my eyes to Korean culture and stories of history which I would otherwise have paid little attention to.
As for the music, my world certainly could do with less cynicism, more positivity and a little lightheartedness. I am mellowing ;-).
I wonder if the lens I’m applying as I write this are those of the West, East or a combination. I suspect the last because that’s who I am.
As a new fan of K-pop (there, I’ve come out!) and my foray for now 🙂 , here is a small sample of what K-pop is (beyond the boy band, BTS, which some of you may have heard is taking the US and UK by storm).
Alright, here’s BTS 😉
Hope you enjoy!
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