This time, I’m focusing on being an African American woman who happens to like Kpop and Jpop or other genres, shows and dramas from Korea and Japan (could never get into Cpop for some reason).
Late 2007 was a tough time for me. A close family member was going through cancer treatment and surgery and I was struggling in my classes mainly due to being pre-occupied with family, moving, and life in general. It was during this time period I came across, DBSK’s* Japanese single, “Begin”. I remember thinking it was a nice song and even showing my mom the music video. She liked them. I became focused on working on my bachelor’s and forgot them. But, luckily for me, my mom didn’t.
The hilarious part? She was motivated to bring them back up to me after seeing DBSK in a, er, rather interesting short film (certain members of the group being hinted at being paired together). She thought it was cute and showed me. I rediscovered DBSK and that was my introduction to Kpop. Before then, I was actually a Jpop fan. I used to be ridiculously obsessed with Ayumi Hamasaki. You have NO idea. Utada Hikaru was another fave.
As for the music, I feel like it’s bubble gum pop in its purest form these days: Mindless feel-good music where no one gets shot or stabbed. Well, most of the time. And I don’t have to worry about hearing the B-word every five minutes. A lot of it is fun and surprisingly sex-less. Again, most of the time.
My enthusiasm carried over into a lot of the popular dramas and shows I watched religiously during the 2008-2010** period. I thought the Japanese “Hana Yori Dango” drama to be superior to the Korean version, “Boys Before Flowers”. I think T-ara’s “Roly-Roly” is far less annoying than SNSD’s “Gee” (I actually preferred “Oh!”) and the Wonder Girl’s “Tell Me” in terms of songs that were just inescapable when they were most popular.
I also enjoyed watching game and variety shows like Star King, which featured African American songwriter and Kpop enthusiast, “Pumashock” on their show. She was invited after her rendition of SNSD’s Gee went viral. My favorite episode featured a blind girl named Yoo Ye Eun who was a self-taught pianist (Warning: You may UGLY cry….). It was just nice to see something comparatively innocent when compared with a lot of what passes for music and television stateside. Well……most of the time.
It’s been brought up before that South Korea and Japan have a serious racism problem. South Korea is, I’m fairly sure, the most internet-connected country on Earth. Yet it still has to have people in the international community call the country to task over things like black face and “The Bubble Sisters”. Japan wasn’t far from one-upping their neighbors with this mess. If it isn’t SNSD’s TaeYeon referring to Alicia Keys as “pretty for a black person”, it’s Big Bang’s Seung Ri (and poor man’s Justin Timberlake) joking that he was glad their driver in America wasn’t black due to a fear of “being shot”. Oy Vey.
And racism is merely just scratching the surface: I have gleaned that the happy smiling faces in videos cannot detract from the disturbingly high suicide rate (South Korea), body image issues, colorism, rape and child exploitation, etc. that goes on. That rabbit hole goes deep when you really start looking and paying attention. I remember reading where one American reporter was asking questions of a corrupt member Japanese music insider. He noted that the person seemed dismayed that he couldn’t be “intimidated” into changing the topic or not asking questions like reporters in his native homeland. Long story short: The Asian pop music industry is shady as HELL.
I “might be crazy” because either something bothers me or it doesn’t, and I do not seek anyone’s approval or permission to tell me how that works. I side-eye the crap out of persons, but that doesn’t require I run away from all Asian music ever. Some might; I personally don’t see the point. I’ve made a lot of friends, and yes some of them are indeed young black women, that I wouldn’t have made otherwise if I’d never gotten into Kpop. Even with all the bad, I don’t regret giving the music genres a chance.
So…..Any other black of Asian music, dramas, and pop culture? What are your experiences? Got a favorite artist?
*Dong Bang Skin Ki; they’re also known as Tohoshinki or Tong Vfang Xien Qi, which is abbreviated TVXQ
** About midway through 2010, I discovered football and had the equivalent of a religious experience. This resulted in other non-essential interests becoming secondary.