K-Pop rises in Bengaluru

Till last year, Blackpink was the highest-charting female K-Pop act on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200.

PSY’s Gangnam Style introduced Korean pop to the rest of the world. The artistes, known as ‘idols’, went on to conquer the world and now India, and namma Bengaluru, are the latest targets of the Korean or Hallyu wave.

Bengaluru is joining Delhi, Mumbai and the Northeast in terms of a growing fanbase and is seeing numerous online communities that promote their love for K-Pop music and K-Dramas. The biggest fanbase here is for BTS, Blackpink and EXO.

What makes K-Pop different?

Despite the language barrier, the K-pop culture has captured the hearts of young adults and teenagers in the city. Aesthetically pleasing music videos, unique concepts and interwoven storylines, intense and well-coordinated choreography, catchy tunes and good looking actors seem to be major attractions.

“There is a deeper personal connect because of the messages they try to convey. A lot of hard work goes into it and that’s inspiring,” says Sanjani Girirajan, college student and K-pop fan.

Social media and frequent fan interactions have served to keep the audience hooked. “I was into K-Pop from 2013; it started as a regional trend which has now grown globally,” says EXO fan and local EXO-related event organiser, Nidhi Nanda.

K-Pop performances include a large amount of fan interaction; the structure of each song allows incorporation of organised chanting, which is often the name of idols, name of fan clubs, and other band-specific phrases. There are also phrases like ‘I/We love you’ and ‘We’ll be together forever’.

They also have a unique concept of using lightsticks. These lightsticks have become fan favourites and their designs are unique to each band. BTS’ light sticks are called Army Bombs, Big Bang’s are called Bang Sticks, EXO’s are Eribong and so on.

However, the increasing popularity notwithstanding, K-Pop still faces a lot of prejudice in India and fans usually have to put up with nasty comments about their musical choices. “A lot of people in my college think of K-Pop fans and artistes in racist terms; others feel its all girly looks and no talent,” says Sanjani. 

Dev, 25-year-old K-Popper and software engineer, says he was among the first few K-Pop fans but the community has grown exponentially now. “People do look down on us and say hurtful things but I don’t let it bother me anymore because of the positivity I get from the bands and other fans.”

BTS

Some call them The Beatles of the 21st century. K-Pop boy band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan or Beyond The Scene) has taken the whole world by storm. Winning their first BBMA in 2017 was just the beginning of their rise to international fame. They were the first Korean band to hit the No.1 spot on the US Billboard Charts with their studio album ‘Love Yourself :Tear’.

This boy band has a huge impact in Bengaluru. “We’ll do anything for our boys,” says city BTS event organiser Maanya Sogali. “Bangtan India itself was started in Bengaluru; later a college kid called Anagha made a Fb page for the same which has thousands of members now.” The group is very active and regularly organises events like concert screenings and flashmobs which draws crowds in large numbers. They have a flash mob scheduled for the first week of June.

Blackpink 

Till last year, Blackpink was the highest-charting female K-Pop act on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200, peaking at number 55 with ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’. Their breakthrough single ‘Boombayah’ was their first international hit, entering the Billboard World Digital Chart at No.1.

Blackpink India fanclub admin, Ganesh Karekad equates the group with K-Pop in Bengaluru. “I was smitten by them. Their musicality is right up my alley and no matter how many times I listen to them, I don’t grow tired of it.” Their fanbase might be still growing but Ganesh says their newest single and recent Coachella performance has helped make them more popular.

EXO

South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO has been frequently called ‘Kings of K-Pop’. EXO’s first album XOXO in 2013, containing their breakthrough single ‘Growl’, was a critical and commercial success. Their subsequent EPs and albums have all been critically acclaimed and have sold over million copies, both within and outside South Korea. With the release of ‘Don’t mess up my tempo’ in 2018, EXO made their way to the Billboard 200.

Nidhi Nanda, EXO event organiser, remembers the time almost 300 persons attended an EXO concert screening on September 30, 2018. “It was a K-Pop fest called Shim-mi-Jang.”

 

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