Buy traffic for your website
Worldwide Appeal of JRock and KPop: Proof of Universality of Music?

As of this writing, Asian groups are hitting the global charts. Korean pop groups and Japanese rock bands are landing in markets and cultures previously dominated by Western music.

Videos of KPop girl bands (that’s Korean pop, for the uninitiated) such as Wonder Girls, are viewed in their millions on YouTube. Their single, “Nobody”, is an international hit. Meanwhile, the pioneers of JRock (ie., Japan rock) and visual kei – XJapan – held concerts in America, with tour dates on various cities of the United States.

Without a doubt, Asian music has achieved mass appeal on a worldwide scale. And their fan following from countries other than Japan and Korea are growing. But KPop and JRock remain to be objects of curiosity.

Although their music is rooted in contemporary Western forms – rap, hip-hop and R&B (rhythm and blues) for KPop, and punk, rock and metal for JRock, their lyrics are mostly in their own national language. Meaning, their non-Korean and non-Japanese fans do not understand the message to the songs! It is as if the global slogan of the present-day youth is “Never mind the message; just dig the music!” They do not comprehend the lyrics of the songs. Yet, they come in droves to hear them in concerts. And even download them legally and are paying for it. Shocking, yet true, the “kids of today” even look and dress like their idols. The Japanese subculture of Cosplay (again costume play, for the uninformed; where fans dress up likes their favorite anime/cartoon characters) is also a global phenomenon.

The question, therefore, are both trends a proof of the so called “universality of music”? Of music being the universal language?

A friend of mine would beg to differ. He says, both are examples of “cultural imperialism”, where a culture from an economically dominant country directly and indirectly influences and subjugates the culture of more backward nations. In simple terms, he views KPop and JRock as the domination of Western music over the cultures of Japan and Korea.

I do not agree. Though I recognize the “pressures” – direct and indirect – of economic questions (such as Western monopoly over the production, distribution and advertising in the global music industry) on cultural issues between nations, his view concentrates only on the issue of “musical form”.

I believe that if we follow his logic, the only pure and true music (and culture in general) would, then, be “ethnic music” (or the ethnic culture) of different nations. Such opinion, I think, is “narrow puritan-ism”.

Music – and culture – is continually evolving inasmuch as people of different backgrounds intermingle and interrelate with each other. National cultures are dissolving a multi-racial and global melting pot, facilitated by the development of the Internet and other means of modern technology. Truly, there is only one race – the human race.

Yet, American dominance in the relationship of nations could not be denied. The influence of Western music over Asian music is a by-product of America’s global economic triumph after World War 2.

But more essential question to me is not the “form” of music but its message or its “substance”. A debate in musical form should be regarded as mere comic pursuits. On a lighter note, my sister and I made a website that pits JRock fans against KPop addicts but only for the mere fun of expressing oneself. But that is another story. Hence, more important than the medium (musical form) is the message.

Sadly, art (and music in particular) are in an industry driven, primarily, by profit. It is in the business not to promote artistic freedom and expression but to make money out of talented (sometimes not-so-talented) people.

But there are a “chosen few”, who may come from different – even contrasting – musical forms but are given the opportunity to truly express themselves, even if such expression is not profitable. To paraphrase guitarist and industry veteran Eric Clapton, he says in his autobiography that the percentages in the music industry are still the same: says, the percentage are still the same: 95% rubbish and 5% pure. And who are we to disagree? “Clapton is God”, says the graffiti in late sixties London. And God can’t be wrong, right? (smiles)

So we go back to the question, is the global appeal of JRock and KPop a manifestation of the universality of music? Yes, but only partly. Because when they use different gimmicks such as having Korean girls wear skimpy short shorts to sell their songs, that is when music takes a backseat and “profit” takes charge over the steering wheel. But still, they are fun to watch, aren’t they? Pervert! (smirks) #

Leave a Reply