Yes! I had to do another presentation in Korean class, and this time I did my secret obsession–Korean trot music!
So, instead of making you guess what these videos were about (which I was seriously considering doing), I’ll translate and expand upon my class presentation. My expansions will include 1. videos I discovered in my research for this presentation but didn’t feel were necessary (I had to speak Korean, so I was motivated to keep it short), and 2. responses from both my classmates and my teacher.
A quick note on my teacher: She is a 50-something (DON’T ASK) woman who hails from Busan. She was strongly interested in linguistics, so she very carefully learned the Seoul dialect (yes, of course, she learned it far more carefully than the average Seoulite), but she considers herself definitely a gyopo. Part of her gyopo-ness is that she’s a little old-fashioned–terms like daebak annoy the fuck out of her, but what really annoys her is that These Koreans Nowadays feel like it’s OK to refer to their parents using banmal. (It is NOT OK. Also, you should get off her lawn.)
Funny bit: When I told my teacher I would be doing my presentation on trot music, she thought I said “trout music.”
On to the presentation!!!
If you didn’t know: Korean trot was developed in the early 20th century, and it is considered the first K-Pop. Trot is generally considered to consist of two element: A simple, 1-2 beat, and a distinctive singing style.
(Ooooh! First significant expansion! What non-Koreans usually notice with trot singing is that they use a lot of vibrato–and it’s true, they do. But, according to my Korean teacher, what Korean regard as distinctive about trot singing is its use of 꺽임 (kkeok-im)–vocal slides.)
The 1-2 beat and the name “trot” comes from the American dance foxtrot.
Lucky you, here you get to watch professionals do it. In class, I did it. (Classmate reaction: Utter shock. Some may have died.)
Anyway, you’ll notice that foxtrot follows a 1-2 beat–step, step, step-step (which you have to get in quick before beat #2 arrives). Foxtrot was SUPER popular in the United States at the turn of the century because 1. not dancing back then was like not using social media these days–how, exactly, did you plan on making friends or finding a spouse?–and 2. it was an easy dance. Really, really easy.
To make it even easier, foxtrot music had a clear and simple 1-2 beat. Here’s an American foxtrot song!
Just say, hanna, dul. I can’t do it for you.
Around about the same time in Japan, a musical style called enka became popular. (No, I didn’t get into the occupation–remember how I had to do this all in Korean?)
Pretty much foxtrot beat + enka singing style = Korean trot.
There are fast and lively Korean trot songs as well. (This song was both wildly popular and wildly parodied. When I played it, my Korean teacher burst out laughing.)
So, the whole Tragic Decline of Trot I didn’t get much into in class, but rest assured, in the 1990s trot was NOT a hip genre. For a while there, the most successful trot performer was this guy–yes, all of his songs sound like this, plus he usually sang nonsense.
The person generally credited with saving trot from complete camp obscurity was Jang Yoon Jeong. She was young and cute, and she managed to prove that you didn’t have to be an old lady in a long sparkly dress to sing trot. (I know she doesn’t really do trot vocals in this clip, but she does with slower songs.)
(Sounds like polka, right? A lot of music we would consider to be from different genres just kind of gets absorbed into the trot scene in Korea.)
Now we’re getting into a lot of stuff I really didn’t want to get into during the (in Korean!!!) presentation. These days trot is no longer this obscure genre. (OK, I did pretty much say that.)
There is pure trot (plus trot purists) on Korean television.
And camp trot is alive and well.
But what I find interesting (and what made it into my presentation) is trot fusion. Here’s a trot-dance song.
Trot-rap also exists. Apropos of nothing, barring people from embedding videos is really obnoxious, especially when they have class presentations to do, but here’s U-Kwon doing Country Kko Kko’s “Oh Happy!” (the original exists, but the quality is shit).
And here’s FT Island doing a trot-rock song (which really excited my teacher for some reason–I think she’s in the Rock Is So Cool! generation).
And that was that!