Jules Does

Archive for the ‘Jules Does K-Pop Academy’ Category

So you might have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog for several weeks. This is for a few reasons, but mostly the reason is that I didn’t want to write it all down as though it were well and truly over, which it is, of course. I suppose I just didn’t want to admit it to myself! The first K-Pop-free Saturday felt strangely empty and quiet – it was odd not spending the majority of my day getting to and from London to spend time with all of these delightful maniacs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On to the day!

The first thing that happened when we walked through the door was that we were tackled by the incredibly organized Sofia, who had thought of and bought all of the presents for the people who had made this such a wonder 12 weeks to be alive. She also had personalised cards made that we all signed with personal greetings and words of thanks.

Lyndsy signing the cards.

It was a bit chaotic, especially since people had brought guests to watch them graduate (I brought my mother and my husband, neither of whom care for K-Pop at all – in retrospect it might have been wiser to invite no one and spend the time talking to my fellow students rather than worrying about whether my guests were having a good time, but it was still nice that they could see what I had been up to for so long).

Brian!

We also saw some familiar faces – Caroline from Loko was there, as well as Brig. Brian Parritt from our study week on the Korean War. The actual, real life Ambassador from South Korea was there too, which I was really surprised about.

Ambassador Lim.

The Ambassador gave a speech to start our ceremony, and then we watched the video that had been made of all of our adventures over the past 12 weeks. It was strange seeing how small and scared we all looked in the beginning, so unsure of ourselves (and a bit weird, let’s be honest) and knowing how far we had come and how close we had all become.

Brigadier Parritt also gave a short speech about the importance of UK-Korean relations and handed out roses to the organisers. He also gave me a rose because I had organised a collection for the British Korean Veterans Association around Remembrance Day – it was sweet of him to acknowledge me like that, and the rose lived quite happy for ages in a vase in our house.

After the speeches were done, we got to make presentations of our own. Abbi did a lovely synopsis of what he had been doing during the course, and Noradila had made a beautiful ‘family tree’ as a gift for the organisers.

The students are the top of the tree, and the organisers are the trunk.

My presentation was a little different – I did a jokey PPT about my time spent living among the K-Pop fans and the major conclusions I had reached about this rarely observed species. People laughed (phew) and seemed to find it quite funny, so I was relieved. I also got the chance at the end of my presentation to deliver the big news I had been hiding from them for the entire length of the course: my husband and I are expecting a baby! It was a relief to be able to tell everyone at last after keeping it under wraps for so long.

Me and my presentation.

After the presentations we had a short break, then re-convened for more performances. Nella and Daniel made a hilarious video and wrote a poem about our time together, which was truly adorable and heartfelt. When they were finished, the presents to the organisers were handed out.

The lovely Ruby with her gift.

Then we had more performances! Kae and Nikki did an amazing performance of CL’s ‘MTBD’ and totally killed it! I was really impressed with their abilities to rap in Korean and be so confident in every phrase. Then Annabelle, Hamed, Sofia and Briggitte did a great dance to a K-Pop medley, including Exo’s ‘Overdose’, Crayon Pop’s ‘Jumping’ and 2PM’s ‘Go Crazy’. It was amazing that they had managed to do all this in just a week – maybe one day I’ll be good at dancing too…

Our star rappers.

Briggitte, Annabelle and Sofia owning the dancefloor.

When all of the performances were finished, we proceeded to the graduation. We were called up in alphabetical order by first name and given our graduation certificate, then went to a table to receive our leaving gifts – a beautiful desktop calendar of Korea’s World Heritage Sites and our K-Pop Academy hoodie.

Graduating!

Then… the moment we had all been waiting for: the announcement of who was going to win the return flight to Korea. They really built up the suspense before announcing that the winner was… Briggitte! We all cheered as she went to collect her prize, and some of us went up to hug her – she was so overwhelmed that she cried!

Well done, Brigitte!

A note: if you are here from one of the future K-Pop academies looking for tips as to whom they choose to win the trip and why (I know I trawled the old blogs trying to find helpful tips!), all I can say is – I have no idea! Briggitte worked hard and was a good and enthusiastic student, indeed the best student, but I think she would agree that it was quite unexpected given the calibre of some of the other students. So to you, future K-Pop fan, I would say that you should try hard and do your best, but honestly, just being at the academy was so much fun and so rewarding on its own that you shouldn’t think too much about winning anything. Just enjoy it like Briggitte did and you’ll be on your way!

After the presentation we were treated to a delicious Korean meal in the library, which all of us heartily enjoyed.

OM NOM NOM.

There is a picture of me, my husband and my mother enjoying our Korean meal, but my mother looks horrible in it and would kill me, so I’ll post this nice one instead:

Much better.

So, in conclusion (nooo, conclusions!), this was an absolutely grand time for me and, I hope, for everyone else in the group. I’ve made some really adorable friends and, importantly, gained an outlet where I can talk about all of my K-Pop interests with like-minded peopel. I’ve already met up with one of my fellow students for tea, and this coming weekend we’re going on a big KPA tour of New Malden, followed by dinner and possibly noraebang! It should be awesome, because all of these people are awesome.

To summarise: if you’re thinking about applying to the 7th K-Pop Academy, DO IT. DO IT NOW. You’ll never regret it.

Last night I found myself explaining exactly what it was I’ve been doing on Saturdays to a person who kept asking “Well, ok, but what is K-pop? Like, what does it sound like? What’s distinctive about it?”

Obviously the most honest and straightforward way of describing it is to call it pop music from South Korea. It sounds much like the pop music elsewhere (some bands share writers with other groups like One Direction) but it has a distinctly Korean identity that is somehow bigger than just the language barrier. Eventually I concluded that he’d just have to watch some to see what it is, but there’s a difference between understanding what something is and why people like it.

To that end, I wanted to post this video by one of my fellow K-Pop academy students, Annabelle, on why K-pop appeals to her. Many of her reasons are the same as mine, but she has a way of putting things that I think you’ll enjoy.

Mr A, if you’re reading this, I hope things are a little clearer now!

I can’t believe that this Saturday was our very last class at K-Pop Academy! It seems like the time has gone so quickly. I’ve made so many good friends and met so many sweet people, I can’t imagine not seeing them every Saturday.

To round off our study of Korean culture, we played an adapted version of a Korean board game called yutnori. As we moved around the board, we had to do different challenges that were also traditional Korean games. It was much harder than it initially appeared!

Ruby gave us a brief presentation on certain popular games, as well as their origins and information about when they are traditionally played. Here in England we don’t tend to play specific games at certain times of the year (unless you count the Charades that everyone plays when they’re with their family at Christmas and can’t escape), but in South Korea this is not the case. Certain games are played at specific times of the year, usually festivals such as the Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Thanksgiving), where people are spending time with their families.

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All of the homework options this week were so much fun, I could hardly choose between them. In the end, I went with picking 10 of my favourite K-Pop songs to take with me to a desert island. I’ve seen several other lists by my fellow students – it’s always interesting to see what people would take if they’re only allowed a few things.

Watch the slideshow below to find out my picks! Make it full screen for greatest effect.

If you’d like to check out any of these tracks (and you should, because they’re awesome), here are the YouTube links:

2NE1 – I am the Best

Super Junior M – Swing

Exo – Overdose

D.O. & Baekhyun – What Is Love

Infinite – Last Romeo

TVXQ – Something

GI – Beatles

Super Junior – This is Love

BTS – Danger

Big Bang – Fantastic Baby

Bigbang Fantastic Baby Gif 10 by SMoran

What tracks would you take?

 

Ahhh, only one more session to go before graduation! How has the time gone so quickly?

Team 4!

This week’s class was much more informal than the previous ones, in that we didn’t have a guest lecturer or go anywhere in particular or learn how to make anything. Instead we had an awesome time singing K-Pop songs like we were born to do.

The table of pain.

Of course there was a challenge element involved. We were divided into teams of 6 or 7 people to sing a song, Orange Caramel’s ‘Catallena’. Each of us would sing one section of the song in turn. In Korean. Without notes. If someone on the team made a mistake, we would be punished by the other teams, who had spray bottles full of water.  The team would then have to begin the song again from the beginning – you had three chances to get it right. If you wanted you could pick a Chance card, which would allow you to swap a member of your team for a member of staff or watch the video again. The winning team would receive signed copies of Super Junior’s latest album, so the stakes were HIGH.

As you can see, the song is *not* especially slow or easy. There’s very little English to cling to, meaning we were kind of adrift in a sea of Korean. I felt so sorry for the KCC staff – nearly thirty young people butchering their language!

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The 2010 Arirang Festival in North Korea. The large Korean words in yellow spell ‘Arirang’.

 

Today, I’m really excited to be writing about ‘Arirang’, perhaps the most famous Korean folk song ever, because in discussing it I can also talk about a great number of aspects of Korean traditional music but also Korean life more broadly. In the years following the Korean War, Arirang has become something of an unofficial national anthem for South Korea. The word itself is also everywhere – there’s the Arirang TV network, Arirang rice, and the Arirang games in North Korea (see above), to name just a few. It’s also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list for Intangible Cultural Properties.

On its surface, Arirang is a fairly straightforward folk song about the loss of a lover. The singer wishes that the lost lover will not be able to walk very far before their feet start to hurt. That’s the content of the chorus; the verses deal with largely unrelated observations and metaphors about flowers blooming in the winter on Mount Baekdu (which is currently located in North Korea). The verses and the tune vary from region to region, which might seem odd for an unofficial national anthem, but I think it preserves the regional feeling of the people of Korea while also being part of a nation-wide identity.  Various translations of the words can be found on the very detailed Wikipedia page for the song, so I won’t post them here. The song is not nationalist in itself, which might help to explain why it has transcended political divisions to unite Koreans everywhere, including in the North.

The word ‘Arirang’ doesn’t mean anything exactly, although in the context of the song it could refer to a particular mountain pass (indeed a pass in the vicinity of Seoul was re-named ‘Arirang Pass’ in the 1920s after the film Arirang).

But enough talk! Listen to one version of the song here:

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This week, we had an interesting glimpse into the world of Korean traditional music, specifically samulnori. Samulnori literally means ‘play of four things’ and is performed on four instruments: two drums and two gongs.

Our instructor this week was Nami Morris, a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS and long-time player of the changgo, one of the drums used in samulnori. She was very patient with us and showed us lots of cool rhythms even though we couldn’t actually make that much noise – turns out that loud percussion instruments and interviews with famous actors do not mix so well!

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