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Beyond K-Pop: Korean music to broaden your playlists

Although many international fans of K-pop have already broadened their music tastes more than the average person, Korea’s vast music culture branches beyond the shining world of K-pop that many have come to love.

People all around the world, even those who aren’t fans of K-pop, acknowledge South Korean artists for both their musical abilities, as well as their impact on both the genre and contemporary culture.

We owe thanks to icons like Seo Taiji and H.O.T., who were among the artists that contributed to the genesis of K-pop, while veteran idols like Rain, BigBang, Wonder Girls, Super Junior and Girls’ Generation drew unparalleled international interest to the K-pop genre. Their combined efforts consequently paved the way for worldwide sensations like BTS, EXO and Twice, who would go on to blow the doors open to the K-pop world.

But there’s still much to be discovered within Korea’s music scene – both new and old – which we share with you in the following playlists curated by Inspire Me Korea.

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트로트(Trot), also known as 뽕짝 (Ppongjjak), is an important historical genre of Korean music. After 1953, Trot rose in popularity and became a staple of Korean music, though it lost some popularity with the rise of K-pop in the 90s.

These days, however, Trot is making a comeback with classic artists such as Lee Su-jin, Kim Mi-hwa, Oh Seung-geun and the beloved ‘Queen of Trot’ Kim Soo-hee, and a younger generation of artists like ‘Trot Princess’ Hong Jin-young, Super Junior-T and the duo WINK.

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During the 90s, Korean groups began making their presence known in the hip-hop and pop world, with acts such as Seo Taiji and Boys, S.E.S., DEUX, Sechskies, Fin.K.L and many more. Some of these artists, like S.E.S and Sechskies even made a comeback in recent years to greet old and new fans, but it’s always good to start with their earlier work to see where they’ve come from musically.

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The early-2000s may have been two decades ago, but that doesn’t stop avid K-pop listeners from exploring the ripples that became the enormous Hallyu Wave we know today.

In Korea, pop artists like BoA, 1TYM, g.o.d and Baby VOX helped establish the Korean popular music scene with their unique styles and sounds. In 2004, soloist Rain became one of the first Korean singers to reach international stardom, leading the way for more recent acts that are now popular overseas.

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Korea’s diverse independent music scene dates all the way back to the 90s with acts like indie-rocker Jaurim, to the 2000s where groups and artists like adult Child, Zitten and Jannabi experiment with ballads while artists like Flash Flood Darlings and Jeebanoff explore electro-beat soundscapes.

Some unmentioned must-listens include Busker Busker, Tearliner, Savina and Drones, Donguy, Mad Clown, Cavalier, Rad Museum and The Black Skirts.

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Rock is said to have made its way to Korea in the mid-50s. Since then, it’s grown to encompass punk, heavy metal and classic rock. The following playlist highlights the artists in Korea’s indie-rock, post-punk and modern-rock scene, with old favourites like the aforementioned Jaurim and Seo Taiji, newer artists such as NELL and girl-group Dreamcatcher, as well as a track from the rock-music themed K-drama 닥치고 꽃미남 밴드 (Shut Up Flower Boy Band).

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In Korea, karaoke is more than just light entertainment – it’s become a way for people of all backgrounds and walks of life to de-stress and regain whatever strength they may have lost during the week, whether at work, school or home. Karaoke is a popular activity for friends, coworkers and couples; everyone, no matter their singing ability, can enjoy a round or two of karaoke.

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Feature Image Source: ©️No Music No Life by Simon Noh, 15.01.2020, unsplash.com/@creativesimonn

Claudia Deborah 이보라

Book-dealer by day, writer and illustrator by night—Instagram: @kikitsa.draws. Instant coffee and trot music get me through the day. My life is simple but I’m greatful for it. 나의 인생은 조금 심심하고 단순하지만, 이런 내 삶도 나에게 주어진 삶이 기 때문에 감사함을 느끼고 있습니다.

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