Thursday, November 25, 2010

Trot Rock!

I remember the first time I heard trot music: riding home in a taxi after having been in Korea for only a short while (2 or 3 weeks, I think), when the taxi driver suddenly cranked the volume on the radio and started belting out the lyrics to the song in the most beautiful baritone, complete with vibrato reminiscent of the great Jewish cantors of old. I had not yet heard this music, though it immediately caught my ear, especially the sound of the accordion.

For years, I didn't know the name or the style of this music, though I could immediately identify its distinctive 2/4 beat when I heard it. To me, there is something in the melodies and the chord progressions that reminds me of klezmer, though I know these genres are not at all related. Indeed, after poking around a bit on the Internet, I discovered this music was called trot (트로트), after the foxtrot, and was hugely popular in Korea pre-1960s. It gradually declined in popularity throughout the following decades, though it has become more popular again in the past few years, especially due to modern K-pop artists who are getting back to an earlier sound. Check out Ask a Korean for much more info on this music.

A few videos to introduce you to the phenomenon of trot...

The video below is a song by Lee Meeja, and the song is called Lady Camellia (동백아가씨) – ostensibly one of the more popular trot songs. Thanks again to Ask a Korean for this one.

Jang Yun-Jeong, a young "semi-trot" artist, had another popular trot hit a few years ago, called 어머나! ("Oh my goodness!"). She is interesting because her music has succeeded in introducing a younger generation to this music, which is generally more popular among an older demographic.

And finally, a post on K-pop could never be considered complete without mention of Super Junior. Here is "Rokuko," from their 2008 Japanese release (the single was released the year before in Korea). The one below features the Japanese comedy duo, Moeyan. Other than that, I have absolutely no idea what's going on here.

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