October 29, 2010 13:40
A four-member group of Asian rappers including two Korean Americans called FM (Far East Movement) topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. last weekend, and the K-pop group Girls' Generation rose to the top of Japan's Oricon weekly charts.
The Korean-American members of FM -- Prohgress, J-Splif -- moved to the U.S. when they were eight months and seven years old. They grew up in the Los Angeles' Koreatown, where they met other Asian rappers and searched for their own flavor of music that fused hip-hop with jazz, dance and rock.
Prohgress and J-Splif put their law degrees and secure office jobs aside and jumped into the world of music, overturning preconceived notions that Asians are no good at hip-hop by uploading their videos on the Internet and refraining from playing up their ethnic backgrounds. By tapping into their eclectic musical backgrounds and explosive creativity characteristic of the Internet generation, they created music that critics have praised as being accessible to all ages.
Girls' Generation drew more than 20,000 fans since their first performance in Japan in August. Their fans are mostly girls in the teens and 20s who are drawn by the voices, dancing skills and glamorous looks of the band. The Japanese press reported the core audience of the so-called Korean Wave is shifting from women in their 40s and 50s to those in their 20s. By honing their music to fit the tastes of Japanese audiences, Girls' Generation demonstrated that Korean pop music is capable of competing with Japanese pop music.
Young people these days are not only proactive but capable of connecting in real time with the global community. FM and Girls' Generation achieved unprecedented success in the U.S. and Japan by demonstrating this ability. That shows that talented youngsters who devote themselves to their passions and fuse their styles with the Internet culture can succeed on a global scale.
Until now, the Korean Wave was driven by popular soap operas and that meant it would inevitably ebb once people got tired of them. But FM and Girls' Generation have taken the Korean Wave to a new level. Let's hope that the success of the two groups, which are not held back by language and cultural barriers and freely traverse national boundaries, will lead the way in enabling popular Korean culture to appeal to global audiences.
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