K-pop history in one night



Busan Asiad Main Stadium/

Last Saturday

Korean pop history class was in the making at last Saturday night's opening concert of the inaugural Busan One Asia Festival - a massive K-culture affair spanning Korean pop, food and beauty events taking place across Busan this month.

Held at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium, the two-hour-long music extravaganza featured pop acts from the 1990s to present day, interwoven with pre-recorded videos chronicling the Korean wave.

The K-pop 101 theme was befitting of the festival, which is riding on the Hallyu, or Korean wave, in hope of drawing visitors to the nation's second largest city. The opening show is the first in a series of concerts to be held over the next three weeks as part of the festival.

However, the K-pop acts last Saturday would have been better served if they did not have to perform rapidly one after another, as if providing new fans with a crash course in K-pop 101. Each act performed one to three songs, giving the idols hardly any time to interact with fans.

The 1990s era was represented by boy band Sechs Kies, who made a comeback this year after disbanding in 2000. Five of the original six members are active in show business and performed nostalgia- tinged tunes from their heyday, such as the banger Com'back and the breezy Couple.

The five men in their 30s proved that old was gold. Well, almost gold. When they performed, their fans wearing yellow raincoats, which made up a sizeable portion of the 35,000-strong crowd, held illuminated balloons to form an impressive glittering sea of yellow, the band's official colour.

Save for the 1990s vibe in Sechs Kies' tunes, the uninitiated would not have guessed the quintet launched their careers two decades ago.

Wearing trendy outfits and sporting loud hair colours, the singers pulled off dance moves in sync while working the 360-degree stage with the energy and enthusiasm of any teenaged K-popster.

The next wave of acts that took the stage included girl groups I.O.I and Apink and boy bands Infinite and B.A.P.

However, one of the Noughties' biggest names was K-pop queens Girls' Generation, who debuted in 2007 and reign to this day.

The leggy octet caught the eye in sparkly blue rompers, performing two songs spanning their career - break-out dance hit Gee and their latest album's titular soul-pop tune, Lion Heart.

Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS, entered the scene three years ago and already could give the reigning K-pop queens and kings a run for their money.

One could feel the heat emanating from the stage as the six guys executed high-powered moves in tune with the thumping beats of dance hit Fire, surrounded by plumes of fire. A seventh member of the group, Rap Monster, sat out the performance due to health issues.

The screams of their fans were deafening and thousands retweeted posts about BTS' performance.

While pop music performed by same-gender groups inevitably dominated the night's programme - a reflection of K-pop fare popular worldwide - the concert organiser shrewdly included a smattering of alternative acts, such as hop-hop trio MFBTY, whose name stands for My Fans Are Better Than Yours.

Comprising Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy, they presented rapid-fire rap in the tune, Bang Diggy Bang Bang, and also showcased soulful singing in Angel.

Solo singer Lyn belted out the wistful theme ballad, My Destiny, from megahit K-drama My Love From The Star (2013), with famous scenes from the show playing on the jumbo screen above the stage.

Closing the televised portion of the concert, Psy - a maverick in the K-pop world because of his sheer difference from the plastic-fantastic lookers of the scene - easily brought the house down with the infectious energy that powered his 2012 hit, Gangnam Style, to worldwide ubiquity.

No matter one's opinion of what is undeniably a wacky dance ditty, it was a no-brainer to use it to telegraph K-pop's plan to win the world's attention by any means necessary.

If one had to gallop like a horse, then gallop away.Indeed, Gangnam Style's atypical K-pop success served as a timely reminder to the industry to spice up its exports with variety.

Watch the Busan One Asia Festival concerts, within 24 hours of the concert taking place, on Korean entertainment streaming site Viu (www.viu.com). It is also available on the Viu app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


This article was first published on October 3, 2016.
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