The Impact of African-American Musicianship on South Korean Popular Music: Adoption, Appropriation, Hybridization, Integration, or Other?
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CitationGardner, Hyniea. 2019. The Impact of African-American Musicianship on South Korean Popular Music: Adoption, Appropriation, Hybridization, Integration, or Other?. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractIn 2016 the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) reported that the Korean music industry saw an overseas revenue of ₩5.3 trillion ($4.7 billion) in concert tickets, streaming music, compact discs (CDs), and related services and merchandise such as fan meetings and purchases of music artist apparel and accessories (Kim 2017 and Erudite Risk Business Intelligence 2017). Korean popular music (K-Pop) is a billion-dollar industry. Known for its energetic beats, synchronized choreography, and a sound that can be an amalgamation of electronica, blues, hip-hop, rock, and R&B all mixed together to create something that fans argue is “uniquely K-Pop.” However, further examination reveals that producers and songwriters – both Korean and the American and European specialists contracted by agencies – tend to base the foundation of the K-Pop sound in hip-hop and R&B, which has strong ties to African-American musical traditions.
This thesis explores the degree in which African-American music has influenced South Korean popular music; specifically, Korean R&B and hip-hop. It studies South Korean artists and their adoption, appropriation, and/or “genre incorporation” of traditionally and/or nominally identified aspects of colloquially termed and grouped “Black music” into their own musical styles. The term Black music is inclusive of sounds attributed to African-American artists as well as artists from across the African Diaspora.
As art forms, music, especially hip-hop and R&B are “‘vehicle[s] for global youth affiliation and tool[s] for reworking local identity all over the world’; and, as universally recognized popular genre[s], also draw our attention to local specificities” (Um 2013: 52). When South Korean artists incorporate musical genres with roots and traditional or universal recognition as being part of another culture’s art form, questions of the Korean artist’s authenticity within the genre may arise, as well as if these artists give proper attribution. This thesis investigates the sources of inspiration of Korean music practitioners, defined as (but not limited to) artists, writers, choreographers, producers, etc. as well as the awareness of the general public (i.e. Korean community) of the cultural roots and implications of Korean hip-hop and R&B. It explores whether the Korean music industry is building collective communities in hip-hop and R&B cultures or if these genres are primarily being commodified for financial gain.
The overall conclusion of this research is that both of the above are true: segments of the Korean music industry are building collective communities within hip-hop and R&B, while the bulk of the industry appropriates Black hip-hop and R&B culture for profit. Some artists, producers, fans, etc. do their due diligence in learning about the history of these music forms within the U.S. and aim to create music that is a fusion of Korean and African-American sounds that is respectful of Black culture while also highlighting the “Koreanness” of these genres. Such efforts exemplify the idea of cultural hybridization, understood to have “a cultural focus and emphasize cultural interplay where ‘traces of other cultures exist in every culture’ [and the idea of culture is linked to] ‘the mobilization of group identities’ allowing for a wide range of identity conceptions” (Hare and Baker 2017: 2-3).
Conversely, a vast majority continue to remain heavily dependent on what I have termed Black constructs of genres – how African-American artists have cultivated and exemplified hip-hop and R&B – which impacts the claims of originality, integration, and creation of a “local, traditional [music] culture” (Jin 2016: 130) made by Korean artists. By relying on these constructs, the effectiveness of showing the “Koreanness” of the hip-hop and R&B performed is diluted and incidents of appropriation – willful or accidental – and the exemplification of racial stereotypes of the Black community and Black culture continue. There are several avenues noted in this research that the Korean music industry can take to divorce itself of this over-dependence and to have greater agency over the style, sound, and development of its music that is culturally appreciative, respectful, and truly – “uniquely K-Pop.”
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004187