Let KPK Introduce You To…The Use of (Gospel) Choirs

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

The use or application of the (gospel) choir aestethic or sound is a staple in popular Western music, and the artists who have used the imagery or sound go from rock  and pop to rapIn an essay discussing how the African-American creative and cultural tradition of gospel music is preserved or transformed as it moves around the globe, Burnim links the original context of gospel music and its role in the African-American community to its unexpected introduction into American mainstream music (solidified by creative and consumer success markers):

As a genre that came to most strongly define the worship of the vast majority of African Americans regardless of denomination, gospel remained largely in the domain of African American congregants — that is, church folk — until the late 1960’s, when Edwin Hawkins released Let Us Go into The House of the Lord, with its ever-popular single “O Happy Day” unexpectedly hitting the radio airways, claiming unparalleled chart success and subsequent sales in excess of one million copies… (2016, 471)

While gospel music is primarily the vehicle by which African-Americans practiced aspects of their religion, it is also a form of music that has close ties to the continent and cultures of Africa. With those multitudes of cultures come expanded channels of creativity, and you can hear those elements in gospel music, including:

  • call and response
  • syncopation
  • cross-rhythms
  • improvisation (Rucker-Hillsman, 2014)

Noting links to commercial success and the musicality imbued in the gospel choir,  international artists have also incorporated the sound into their music.

Let’s take a look at the gospel choir’s entry into K-pop:

Artist: Jonghyun

Press Play to Hear “할렐루야 ” (Hallelujah)” from Jonghyun’s album Base (released January  12, 2015).

In a 2015 interview, Jonghyun noted that he did not originally intend to have a choir but that his interest in gospel music spurred him to update the arrangement. 

Jonghyun documents choir members recording the background vocals for “Hallelujah.”

Works Cited

Burnim, M. (2016). Tropes of continuity and disjuncture in the globalization of gospel music. In S.A. Riley & J.M. Dueck (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities. Oxford University Press (pp. 469-488).

Rucker-Hillsman, J. (2014). Gospel music: An African-American art form. Victoria, BC, Canada: Freisen Press.

 

만나서 반갑습니다: Let KPK Introduce You To…

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

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BTS is pleased to meet you!

Korean popular music includes many genres – Jazz, Hip-Hop, Rock, Rhythm & Blueseven Ska and Bossa Nova. One of the reasons Kpop is so addictive and has continued its growth globally is because, despite language differences, the music seems so familiar to its listeners, particularly for non-Asian audiences. Fuhr (2015) writes, “K-pop producers strongly follow the formulaic production standards set by Western mainstream pop songs…, but they combine all the well-known elements in a way that audiences in the East and West equally seem to receive as refreshingly new but also familiar.” (pp. 238-239)

Not only do Korean producers strive to mix (and remix) Eastern and Western musical elements, they work closely with Western singer/songwriters and producers or purchase western-based music tracks for use by Korean artists (Note: purchasing tracks is a popular practice in the global music industry. Demo tracks, guide vocals, backing vocals are some terms you can search to learn more).

KPK members have noted that Kpop fans may not be familiar with why many songs sound familiar to them. This realization was crystallized when TVXQ released their strong R&B balladBefore U Go,” (2011) which includes a partial guitar riff from the Isley Brother’s songVoyage to Atlantis(1977) – many people, instead, could only reference Chris Brown’s song “Take You Down” (2008)  – which still echoes the musical composition of the aforementioned Isley Brothers song. Moreover, recognition gaps go beyond music composition to include singing styles, choreography, and song instrumentation or arrangement. Additionally, we’ve found that such oversights are glaring in academic literature, which overwhelmingly focuses on K-pop music as a political tool or economic commodity (Lee 2008, Jang & Paik 2012, and see this bibliography).

The “Let KPK Introduce You To…” blogpost series hopes to help Kpop fans discover links between what they hear in Kpop songs (or see in Kpop promotions) and the recent history of American music and popular culture – from a particular song or a musician’s vocal runs to costuming, training, dancing, or overall presentation.  The primarily audio/visual – and brief – blog posts will open with the K-pop artist song,concept, or performance and then readers will be introduced to the “why it sounds familiar” song, concept, or performance. The entry will end with brief biographical or explanatory text of the “original” artist, sound, idea, or concept. Simple right?

Part lay ethnomusicology and part historiography, the series offers a gateway for music enthusiasts to contextualize the foundation and development of Kpop music, and for critics to move beyond discussions of cultural appropriation in K-pop and toward the more likely premise of global creative collaboration.

If you’ve ever heard or seen a Kpop song, dance, styling, or presentation  and and thought “that sounds like/looks like/feels like/reminds me of…,” this series is for you! Look forward to it.

Sources

Fuhr, Michael. Globalization and popular music in South Korea: Sounding out K-pop. New York: Routledge. (2015).

Jang, Gunjoo & Won K. Paik. Korean wave as tool for Korea’s new cultural diplomacy. Advances in Applied Sociology, 2(3): 196-202. (2012).  http://file.scirp.org/Html/22229.html (16 June 2016).

Lee, Keehyeung. Mapping out the cultural politics of the “Korean Wave” in contemporary South Korea. In C.B. Huat and K. Iwabuchi (Eds.) East Asian Pop Culture: Analyzing the Korean Wave. pp. 175 – 189. Aberdeen: Hong Kong University Press. (2008).

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An Informal Review of Sun Jung’s “Korean Masculinities”: Part 3, Misplaced Chinese Literary Metaphors and the Shower Show

All right, time to talk about Rain and Sun Jung‘s treatment of the Almighty Godfather of Modern Kpop. I will try my best to point out both the good and the bad in this chapter, but unfortunately there is a lot more of the bad than the good. Let’s begin.

Continue reading “An Informal Review of Sun Jung’s “Korean Masculinities”: Part 3, Misplaced Chinese Literary Metaphors and the Shower Show”