Radio DJs often stand at the forefront of music culture. They get to experience music audiences firsthand to see who reacts to the music and what could possibly be the “next big thing” on the scene.
We continue our interview with Big B Radio. In Part One of the interview, DJs Emergency, Typo, And, Rexie, Ben, Kagome, and Lizzie introduced themselves, their interests, and their radio audience. In Part Two, they share their thoughts and observations of how Asian music impacts the world and different cultures.
In your country, how big is the Korean Wave, and how much of an influence do you think it’s had on people if any?
And: I can’t speak of the entire United States, but as far as North Carolina is concerned, the Korean Wave is barely a blip on the radar. Yes, everyone has heard of PSY, but other than that, you see no signs of people even being aware of Korean entertainment. Most of us have consumed it unaware: “I Am the Best” playing in the Microsoft commercial or being used during So You Think You Can Dance and the instrumental once during a football game broadcast, or a Korean actor being in a Hollywood film. I only met one person (meaning not met online) that has any experience with K-Pop, and they introduced it to me. Due to this, I don’t think the Korean Wave has even been felt at all.
Ben: Can’t really determine how big the Korean Wave in Canada is right now, but unfortunately we get the short end of the stick compared to the US when it comes to concerts and events from K-Pop artists. “Gangnam Style” might have triggered and exposed many Canadians to K-Pop because it was quite popular that it even played on our own local radio stations. From what I have read and heard from an online source, Toronto might get a KCON in May 2015 if their Kickstarters funding goal becomes a success. This will definitely play a major role in spreading K-Pop to Canada and creates a platform for future K-Pop artists to hold more concerts, events, or tours in Canada. Hopefully this Kickstarter becomes successful.
Typo: For Estonia, K-Pop has a small influence since we are already a small country. But PSY’s “Gangnam Style” was a huge hit here! I know only two people in my country who like K-Pop; the rest who I have told about it don’t think much about it.
Kagome: Korean music is not really that big in the USA. It`s a shame. It has a lot of great groups and artists. Maybe in the bigger cities K-Pop is bigger. Very few artists and groups tour the whole USA, only in LA and NY and maybe some college towns.
Rexie: Here in Puerto Rico, I thought the Korean Wave wasn’t big at all. Boy, I was wrong. I was so surprised to find out there are many fan groups here and that a lot has been done to spread the K-Pop-love on the island to the point that the Korean group Boyfriend held a concert here last year. Just found out they’re opening a small K-Pop store on the island. It’s fun to find out that people of all ages are hooked on K-dramas. I think people are more open to accepting things that are not the norm here.
What are some of the biggest influences Asian music has had on your culture if any? Have there been any negative influences?
Ben: Can’t say it has any major influence on me due to the fact I am Asian (Chinese) myself except for the taste of music. I grew up listening to the 90s and a bit older C-Pop due to my dad karaoking almost every night. *Laughs*Now I can’t get used to the new C-Pop artists out there due to the fact that they are certainly influenced by the styles of Western artists such as rapping, electronic music, dubstep, etc.
Emergency: I’m actually glad you asked this question because I do see a lot of change in people that went from listening to American music to Asian music. Some people don’t want to believe that music influences your everyday lives when it actually does. More people are becoming faithful and respectful to their loved ones which also influences the people around them to change. It may seem like entertainment to you, but deep under all of this is that good message you needed to hear to change your perspective on life completely.
The only negative that comes from it is that a lot of older people don’t understand it and think it’s [dumb] or too happy for them. What they don’t realize is they need to have the happy feeling in their life rather than drown themselves in depressed music. What I say is… If your life is miserable you should first look at what is surrounding you, because what you see with your eyes and hear with your ears effects your mind and soul.
Rexie: In my opinion, I don’t think it’s had a big influence in the culture. Here, people are open to other things but are very protective of what’s our own. Wouldn’t say there’s been negative influence. There’s always going to be those who don’t like K-Pop because it’s different, but what they think doesn’t make a huge impact.
Lizzie: Hmm, I would say that the biggest influences are our communication and interaction with one another. Taking my friends and I for example, we tend to talk about schoolwork only before we got to know about K-Pop. Now, with these Asian music, it brings us more topics to start on and somehow it makes our friendship deepened.
Negative influences may lie on those around us who are not into K-Pop/J-Pop. When a group of friends are talking about K-Pop/J-Pop, the one who is not into these Asian music will be left out. Therefore, when there is a friend of mine like that around me, I will tend to not talk about K-Pop/J-Pop stuffs.
Typo: Most music comes from the USA. Since English is more understandable than any Asian language, then I think it would take lot of time when K-Pop or any other will have any good future here. My hopes for good Asian music here goes out for our local fan!
Influence? I’d say again PSY “Gangnam Style”: Groovy song until fans started to not like since as usually songs get overplayed here. Even schools here made their video of “Gangnam Style” dance.
Kagome: The Lolita and Japanese Street fashion and the music artists like Moon Kana. There have not been any negative influences.
When it comes to acceptance, do you find your country to be more accepting of Hallyu, or is there any type of resistance toward K-Pop—or even J or C-Pop—from anyone in your country? What is this like if you could explain?
And: The US loves a caricature, right? People are fine with PSY entertaining them, but eventually the novelty wears off. I think people, in general, simply don’t care because nothing is happening on a big scale. The most resistance you’ll get is people saying things like “But, the songs aren’t in English.” Nobody probably cares that a small segment of the population is consuming Hallyu, so there’s no acceptance or resistance. It’s more like apathy.
Lizzie: I’m sure Singapore is to be more of the accepting part. We even have K-Pop concerts set in Singapore. And just recently during New Year Eve, Big Bang came for countdown to a new year! Woohoo!
Emergency: Mainly, the older generation doesn’t understand it [J-Pop] and those that are stuck in the rap scene think it’s corny. If only they can see what we see it can change their life completely. I’m actually glad that it’s getting big because we need that influence in our lives to change us to become a better person than what we are. The morals and the lyrics really make you think outside of the box, you know?
Kagome: A lot of people around here don`t care for Asian music, it’s sad they do. They prefer acts like Taylor Swift or the Black Eyed Peas, or Snoop Dogg, etc.
Typo: I do think Hallyu can be accepted here, but since USA music is played everywhere, and Estonian and Russian, then I think it would take some time to be accepted here fully. Unless there will be K-Pop Radio or any other Asian genre radio, then I think [time] will tell.
Rexie: I think Hallyu will be well accepted. I don’t think there will be much resistance. People here love their island and anything that can get our island noticed by other countries is very welcomed. I’ve heard of concerts held from different types of genres and from groups from different parts of the world. They’ve been well accepted as long as they’ve not been disrespectful to our culture.
Ben: Some of the main problems I see in Western countries when analyzing (facing) K-Pop/J-Pop/C-Pop is the language barriers, the “need” for numerous members, bizarre (unique) wardrobe the idols wear, and the “weird”(Not really weird) story plot concepts in music videos. Not being able to understand the song (language) is a major factor in the Western communities since they feel like they need to “understand” what they are saying in order to like the artists. This kind of intertwines with trying to understand the MV’s of certain songs. I realize to a certain extent that people always question the need for large amount members in groups. This may be due to the fact that the Western music industry never really had a large amount of members in a group before and that’s why they aren’t used to it. In conclusion, I suppose people who don’t understand (through lyrics) what the singer is trying to convey through the song makes it harder for them to accept it.
Depending on how long you’ve been listening to J-Pop, do you think it’s changed much since the J-Wave of the early 2000s? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Kagome: Yes, it has changed a lot from the days of Keiko Fuji and Pink Lady. You have acts like Ayumi Hamasaki and Koda Kumi and AKB 48 and Seamo and An Cafe and YUKI and Moon Kana, Diggy Mo… They have taken the music and the videos to the next level and changed the face of J-Pop music.
Emergency: I wasn’t really around for it in the early 2000s because I was still into the hip hop/rap scene listening to 50 Cent, Young Buck, etc… The group that first got me into the Asian scene was 2NE1 with their song “Can’t Nobody” and it was before the English version was released. From there I discovered 4Minute, E.via, Wonder Girls, After School, and more. It just grew on me completely and since then I never turned back.
As for changes hmmm… In my opinion I believe that some of K-Pop has become a bit Americanized than before and the message they put out has changed compared to what it used to be, but that doesn’t go for all groups. As for J-Pop I’m seeing a change as well. Lyrics-wise, it’s pretty much the same J-Pop you hear, but I think some Korean influences are coming about like E-Girls for example. Music is always evolving so who knows what’s going to be in the future.
Typo: Everything changes with time. Their way of singing… Style has lot of changes. Stakes are getting higher and higher which makes it harder to debut for new groups.
In the US, do you feel J-Pop is still just as relevant as it was in the past decade? Furthermore, how much of an influence do you think it’s had on people if any?
Emergency: I will tell you that both J-Pop and K-Pop have become more popular in the states and it will continue to grow daily. This year, we had many J-Pop artists come over from overseas and their tickets sold out almost every show. The same is going on with K-Pop and a matter of fact, if you think about it, they are out selling the local artists here which I believe is a good thing. American music needs to change completely before it can make a com back, but for now it’s a sinking ship that keeps drowning. I know some American artists are taking cues from Asian fashion, but it’s not changing the music itself. AMERICA WE NEED CHANGE! BRING US CHANGE PLEEEAAASSEEE!! LOL!
[Emergency], your bio hints at you being a J-Pop enthusiast. With K-Pop taking over, interest in J-Pop seems to have gone down since the early 2000s. What makes you like J-Pop, and what do you think music fans are missing by not giving it a chance?
Emergency: Well, I was originally into K-Pop and kinda still am, but for the past year or two I’ve been getting into J-Pop with artists like Perfume, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, LiSA, and more.
As for K-Pop taking over I think in some aspects it is and it isn’t. There is always room to listen to both as they each progress and change as time goes on. I for sure think American music is pretty much dying. People are getting tired of listening to music that encourages them to cheat on their loved ones or go to the club for a fling which is barely ever found in Asian music. There’s more of a positive influence and I believe people should really tune in and see what’s going on rather than push it away, because it’s in a different language. The whole argument of which is better (J-Pop vs K-Pop) is really irrelevant because both have their own unique style to it.
When you look at Korean music culture, do you see any similarities between it and your music culture? What about with J-Pop and C-Pop? What similarities and differences do you see, and how do you think this impacts music consumption in your country?
And: There are some definite similarities with fans. Western music has a long history of roadies, stalkers, and rabid fans. K-Pop is no different.
However, I think the importance of social media is greater for K-Pop. We live on the Internet as K-Pop fans, because that’s the only way to continuingly consume the genre. For Western music, we can simply go to the store to pick up an album, or turn on the radio. We don’t have that option with K-pop – at least not to a great, commonplace extent. Therefore, K-pop is more about streaming, tweeting, commenting, and blogging, than about attending concerts and buying posters at the local mall.
Kagome: I think that it’s way better than the Western music. I see differences. Western music is the same; with every artist, it’s all the same. Cookie cutter formula. K-Pop, C-Pop, and J-Pop artists always reinvent themselves with every release, and it is always fresh and new.
Rexie: To be honest, I don’t see much similarity between the Korean music culture and the Puerto Rican music culture. I think because Asian music, in general, is different. It makes it appealing– the culture– but the impact is slowly growing.
Lizzie: Singapore is a multiracial country which makes us have different kinds of music like Chinese, Malay, and Indian. To point out a similarities in it is kind of hard for me. Haha! Since I’m a Chinese, I’ll talk about the similarities about C-Pop and K-Pop then. The answer is, English. K-Pop and C-Pop music, 9 out of 10 will have at least some English words inside it. Can this count as a similarity?
Typo: I think there are very less similarities in our music and their music. Just that music comes from their soul, when they sing. Overall, I think I see huge gap since Estonian music is different and has low standards. I could compare Estonian music to C-Pop.
Ben: I can say about 50 percent of the Korean Music Industry have some sort of western influence involved because they aim to be global and in order to become global, they first need to be able to sell “music” that is acceptable on a Westernized standard. If the public likes the “music,” then K-Pop can break the borders and thrive globally and not only in the Asia. An example would be Wonder Girls [who were] sent by JYP to try and break into the American industry, but they simply could not gain enough popularity to rival domestic artists (such Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry) even when releasing Westernized songs like “Like Money” and “The DJ is Mine” (Did like both songs though).
C-Pop is similar to K-Pop, but they don’t strive to go global as much I believe. J-Pop (Japanese music in general) doesn’t seem to be influenced too much by Western styles, but rather seclude themselves in their own format. Maybe I worded that wrongly, but what I am trying to say is that they are more focused domestically rather than globally or internationally. By adjusting to the standards of Western countries, consumption will probably go up, but that also lowers the quality (uniqueness) they previously had before the adjustments. Although, I hope these artists would not change too much to accommodate to westerners tastes and stick to their original flavor too.
In your opinion, what should the Chinese music market do to expand into the global market?
Rexie: In my opinion, I think they should start bringing their artists to other parts of the world. They should try appealing to radio station outside of Asia. I think that can be a start.
For the Asian music scene to attract more of an audience, what do you think the companies and artists need to do to improve their reach?
Ben: Apart from trying to copy or imitate the Western format, I believe that companies and artists should stick to being original (being themselves) and steadily break that global barrier instead of rushing in. As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day” so continue to progress until you have gained the experience and skill that will not go unnoticed by others.
Rexie: Companies need to reach out to other countries, especially to the radio stations. They should do more shows/concerts out of Asia. People all around the world love Asian music especially K-Pop and J-Pop.
Emergency: Create a mainstream radio station based on J-Pop and K-Pop or even better just get the music played on the radio AS IS. What makes their American albums fail is they try to do it in English and try to please the American industry. They should just release the music and get it on the radio no matter what language it is. People will catch on to it in no time. Look at some of the music that became popular in the past that was in a language other than English. It caught on so why can’t they do the same with J-Pop and K-Pop?
Kagome: I think that the record/music labels need to support their Asian artists here in America. There is a big market for Asian music, but the major labels don`t want to cut into the market of their Western artists here. They do push and promote their Western artists in Asia.
And: Let’s face it; the music industry in the US is incredibly superficial (not to mention inherently racist), just as in Korea. So, companies can’t do much to improve. They already have the pretty and hot part down pat. Companies being able to break the racial barrier or sexual barrier will be almost impossible. People will fetishize and stereotype. I have no doubt, also, that people will revolt against some cultural aspects, especially male skinship, due to them seeing the acts as fitting in Western ideas of homoerotism. Right now, all they can hope for is word-of-mouth and massive social media presence continues – and that popular Western artists do some marketing for them. It’s sad, but a reality.
Lizzie: Basically, people always look at their style. How they are dressed and how their hairs are styled. Oh! And most importantly, their makeup. That plays a big part in music scene, from my opinion.
Typo: With time, everything changes, so yes, every company needs to finds ways to reach even bigger audiences. Some less, some more. And companies need to respect their singers!
Looking at C-Pop, J-Pop, K-Pop and even Thai-Pop and Viet-Pop, if Hallyu bubble ever bursts, what do you think will be the next music sensation out of Asia and why?
Lizzie: In my opinion, K-Pop will still be my bias if its bubble bursts. It is a really difficult question for me to answer as I wish that Hallyu will continue standing strong for generations. But if I have to choose, maybe C-Pop? As for the reason… mainly because C-Pop has a lot of similarity to K-Pop: The clothing, dance moves, etc.
Typo: I would be between on J-Pop and K-Pop. I think both of them have lot of worldwide fans and growing with time. Just a matter of time…
Kagome: That will be hard to say. Music taste changes faster than the wind. I would say C-Pop will be the next big thing. I doubt that Viet or Thai pop will be the big. There is a lot of big and new up and coming C-Pop artists and groups coming out of China right now.
Rexie: To be honest, I haven’t given any thought to that. I probably think this Hallyu Wave will be around for a long time.
Emergency: I’m not too sure about the next big thing, but I do know that Asian music will continue to grow as long as they keep doing what they’re doing and not try to please the American industry. If they could look at it in a way that the American industry is failing and is no longer the top dog they should have nothing to worry about. Cater to your people and it will cater to us just like don’t change for us, but change for your own people. That’s how I see it.
Ben: I haven’t even thought that far into the future yet, but that does really get me thinking. Even when I keep thinking, nothing seems to pop up. I guess that is the fun part to not knowing the future because the future is full of interesting possibilities. If the Hallyu bubble does pop during my lifetime, I wonder what would come next.
And: I think one of K-Pop’s biggest beneficial factors is that it’s similar to Western music – same goes for C-Pop. I’m not sure about other Asian countries, so if anybody is going to take over, it’ll be a country that has music that also matches up well with Western trends.
Thank you so much for your time! Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Emergency: Yes! Tune into Big B Radio for the hottest Asian music out there! Shout out to all the DJs at Big B Radio, DJ Amaya, ApieceofOnion, K-BitCRUSH, Xulikken, i5cream, DJ SE7EN, Areia, Pianosalmon, DJ Shenny, Kelly Hilltone, and many more. If I forgot to mention your name, I apologize!
Big B Radio is always looking for a broader audience. Take the time to check out the crew and their music any time at www.bigbradio.com. Also, if you want to keep the music going and you like what you hear, the station runs on donations, so check out their YouCaring page at “Keep Big B Radio Alive 2014/2015.”
DJ Emergency has a SoundCloud dedicated to his remixes. You can check them out at https://soundcloud.com/djemergency!
Thank you, Big B DJs, for your time and patience!