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Essay
My Experience with Korean Pop Culture
Special Contribution
By Shreya Suresh
My first memory of composing music was when I was around three. It was a simple song about a baby in a bassinet, but it was the first time I had expressed myself through music. Since then, whenever my heart is overwhelmed by emotions I articulate my feelings through music. My music.

The notes represent the words I find hard saying, the tremolo is the worry buried in my heart, the crescendo is my anger and the final word I sing is my solace.

I revere composers because they have this ability to turn something abstract, like an emotion, into a symphony. I respect them, idolize them, I want to be them.

And this value I placed on composing turned me into the pickiest listener.

“You have to listen to this artist,” friends would often say.
“Does she write her own music?” would be my automatic response.
“No, but-”

I would never let them finish. I didn’t have an ounce of respect for people who didn’t compose the music they performed.

One afternoon, my friend rushed over and plopped her laptop right in front of me. She told me that I had to watch ‘Monster,’ the latest music video from her favorite K-Pop group, EXO. I obviously had no interest in wasting three minutes of my life on those highly manufactured dancing puppets. But my friend insisted, so with much reluctance I watched it. The music was addictive, and every time my foot started tapping unconsciously, I bit my lip.

And for the rest of the day all I could think about was watching the music video again. I needed to hear their voices again; I had to experience that song again. Four hours and 50 songs later, I had researched, read and watched everything there was about the K-Pop industry. And what I found made me wince. I had called them ‘fake’ musicians for not composing their own songs, but they were more dedicated than I ever was. Training for more than seven years?! Enduring bad schedules for meagre pay?! All of this for the love of music?!

But it wasn’t only the songs that attracted me to K-Pop. It was the effortless vocals, the wonderful dance, the style, the charisma. In short, it was the performance not the melody.

Until then I had only valued composition. The spark or idea that sets the ball rolling. I had failed to recognize the grueling process that comes after.

I found that the value I had attached to the ‘idea’ wasn’t limited to music but spanned over other areas of my life. For my English oral presentation in class, the first time around, once I found the perfect topic, I declared victory. But post the K-Pop revelation, I didn’t just leave it at that. I spent time working on each slide and each line of my presentation. The final product this time was like the song that had changed me, a perfect mix of creative thinking and rigorous execution.

I still value composing, it’s a wondrous talent that I’m trying to build. But I don’t appreciate just the notes anymore, I savor the performance as well. From the interpretation, to the right bass, to the choreography, until the end.

Now, whatever I do, I don’t just create, I also perform.

The above story was written by Shreya Suresh. She can be reached at shreya.suresh1@gmail.com




 

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