Published: 09th November 2020
These five girls are making K-Pop cool IN Chennai. This is how
Five Chennai girls have been chosen by the Consulate General of Korea to spread awareness about Korean culture through song and dance. We speak to them
Over the last decade, Korean Pop (or K-Pop as it is popularly called) has taken the world by storm. Names like BTS and Blackpink have invaded the popular vocabulary and hordes of teens, tweens and even adults have taken to the music scene. Chennai is no exception to the phenomenon — the city has K-Pop fans a thousand strong who have been participating in cultural events involving the very specific song and dance styles. A group called K-Wave has over a thousand members that include all kinds of fans of Korean culture, including those who watch Korean drama series.
However, even though it is quite popular, there are several still who aren't familiar with the music genre. In a bid to popularise it further, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chennai has decided to take to social media and has launched Dream K-Pop on YouTube and Instagram. For it, the Consulate has also selected five girls from the city who will be creating promotional content for the channels — dance tutorials and videos, covers of popular K-Pop songs and so on. These girls include students, recent graduates and even those who have a full-fledged career. They will be uploading multiple videos over the next few weeks to promote Korean culture.
Among them is 24-year-old Sruthi Ram, a recent post-graduate of Business Economics from Ethiraj College for Women. Speaking about how she got into K-Pop and when she started listening to it, Sruthi says, "I started listening to K-Pop in 2014 after accidentally stumbling upon it online. Since then, I have been exploring the culture, watching Korean dramas as well." Sruthi, who is a trained Carnatic singer, will be making cover videos of K-Pop hits.
Narrating her tale of learning Indian classical music, Sruthi tells us, "My mother is a teacher of Indian classical music and I have been listening to her taking classes at home since my childhood. Over the last seven years, I have taken an active interest in Carnatic music and have started learning it from my mother." Sruthi also believes that there are stark similarities between the two opposing genres of music. "Some of the tunes and methods they use in their songs is quite similar to some ragas I've learnt. I have been using the tips and tricks I picked up from classical training in my K-Pop songs," adds Sruthi.
To enhance her understanding of Korean, Sruthi started learning the language online. "Later, I also did a language course at the InKo Centre. I have been performing in programmes and competitions organised by the Consulate for a long time. That is probably why they chose me to promote K-Pop on social media," says Sruthi. Her favourite K-Pop singers are EXO and Ailee.
It was in 2008 that Sindhoo Dhana first stumbled upon K-Pop. An avid anime fan, Sindhoo would watch videos on YouTube and it is through YouTube suggestions that she came across her first K-Pop hit. "Back then, I'd listen to several first generation K-Pop bands. I really liked the band members as they seemed more accessible and real than their Western counterparts. A number of reality shows were made on their lives," says Sindhoo, who believes that her love for K-Pop and its singers stems from this reality.
Classically trained in singing, Sindhoo would always love to sing Hindi and Tamil karaoke. Eventually, she even began to sing her favourite K-Pop hits. "I started learning the language online, through YouTube videos. At that time, I was one of the very few people who were into K-Pop," says Sindhoo. She appeared for a Korean language exam recently, which she aced. "My love for the culture took me to South Korea in 2019. I could speak the language quite fluently and could converse with the locals easily," adds Sindhoo, who studied Engineering and has been working as a Business Analyst.
Sindhoo will be posting videos of her crooning several K-Pop hits over the next few weeks as part of the Dream K-Pop project. "I have been participating in K-Pop events for the Consulate for a long time. In 2014, I managed to win the state-level singing competition and qualified for the national-level K-Pop singing contest. However, I couldn't manage to make it to Korea for the international levels," recalls Sindhoo. The 29-year-old's love for K-Pop hasn't diminished the slightest even after all these years.
When she was at school, Subiksha Priyal's friend made her watch a video on YouTube. The video was a popular K-Pop music video, which fascinated a young Subiksha. "I got hooked to the video and started watching other such videos as well. However, I didn't realise that it was called K-Pop. It was only when I heard PSY's Gangnam Style that I learnt that it's a separate genre," says Subiksha.
Over the next few weeks, Subiksha will be creating dance cover videos on K-Pop songs. K-Pop videos are characterised by brilliantly choreographed dance steps. "My friend, who knows Korean, told me what the songs mean. Eventually, I also joined the K-Wave fan club that has over thousands of K-Pop fans. Currently, I am learning Korean, the person who started the fan club is teaching me," says the 19-year-old.
Subiskha is a first-year Fashion Design student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai. "Right now, we'll be just uploading dance tutorials online. If it is received well by the audience, we'd like to host online dance classes," says Subiksha. She has never been trained in dance, but Subiksha now plans to pursue dancing professionally and even joined dance classes in January. However, due to the pandemic, she couldn't continue with her classes.
In 2017, when Rhea Rajkumar was preparing for her NEET exams, she had sworn to stay off social media. However, between study breaks, she'd take some time to watch videos on YouTube. "I saw a K-Pop parody video by American comedian Ryan Higa. That intrigued me a lot and after researching K-Pop online, I came across a music video by BTS called Dope. I was impressed by the dance moves and the complex choreography. Dance has always been a passion," says Rhea.
Today, Rhea is a third-year medical student at Madras Medical College and has been into dance since her childhood. A self-taught dancer, Rhea claims she got back into dancing due to K-Pop, after having to forego it in favour of studies. "I saw a lot of people uploading dance covers to hit K-Pop songs. But none of these were from India. That is when I decided to form a dance group called LDC in 2018. Over the years, we have participated in various events, including the regional and national-level K-Pop dance competitions," says Rhea. Her meeting with the South Korean first lady Kim Jung-sook at the national-level dance competition remains one of her highlights.
With Dream K-Pop, Rhea plans to upload her dance covers and tutorials. This shouldn't be too tough for Rhea as she has already been running two YouTube channels — one for herself and another for her dance team — over the last few years alongside her medical studies. "All the members in the Dream K-Pop team know each other through the K-Wave fan club. Sruthi and I had been doing programmes with the Consulate for a while now. They approached us and we wanted Sindhoo, Subiksha and Jeson on board as well," says the 22-year-old.
Hailing from Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, Jeson Dagam is a third-year medical student at Sree Balaji Medical College in Chennai and has been part of the city's K-Pop scene ever since she came down south. "I've been a fan of Korean dramas since 2012. A particular show, Dream High 2, which was based on K-Pop, really fascinated me with its music. That's when I started listening to K-Pop and have been into it ever since," says Jeson, who spoke to us from her hometown.
After arriving in Chennai, Jeson began participating in the various K-Pop events and even became an active member of the fan club. Although she's not trained professionally, dance has always been a passion for the 20-year-old. "I will be uploading dance tutorials on YouTube as part of the Dream K-Pop event. The goal is to reach the maximum amount of people and spread awareness about the music genre," concludes Jeson.