For the Love of Trot (트로트) Music.

Monday, 17 November 2014

My first encounter with Korean trot Music~트로트 was last summer. I attended the language class at the Korean Cultural Centre in Nigeria, where I took part in the Sejong institute speech contest. At the event, my classmates and I performed Arirang and a trot song by Jang Yun-Jeong, (You might Know her from the reality show, The Return of Superman), called '어머나~Eomona' which translates to 'Oh My', an expression generally used by females kinda like 'Oh my goodness'. I remember clearly the day (short form for teacher)  played the song for the first time and told us about performing. She acted out the song for us and I thought 와우...재미있어 (Wow, it looks fun). 

The tempo was upbeat, the rhythm was nice and we were all bobbing our heads to it. We were all excited to perform it except for maybe the one male person in our class because it is perceived as a feminine song. mentioned that Koreans have a soft spot for this song and it has been a popular choice at noraebangs for years. I made it a point to ask some Koreans I met afterwards and they all agreed, with some even singing the song with me.

Trot  is gotten from the word 'foxtrot' and it is arguably the first version of Kpop to be in existence. It consists of a two-beat rhythm, traditional seven-five syllabic stanzas, and unique vocal style called Gagok. Gagok is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. There's a preconception that trot music is old-fashioned which to a certain extent it is, because it is an old genre but also that it is music for the older generation but I disagree. Artists such as Jung Yun-Jeong (The singer of Eomona) and Hong Jin-Young have shown us that you can add a bit of youth to it which in turn appeals to the younger generation.

It is my belief that unlike Kpop which generally caters to a specific audience with the odd outliers, trot has the power to entice anyone of any age group. This was further showcased with the release of the drama Trot lovers. A lot of fans were intrigued by the music the character Choon-hee, played by Jung Eun-ji (From the popular drama and one of my favourites, Reply 1997), sang because it was unlike the OSTs we have heard in K-Dramas. In the plot of the drama, Choon-hee struggled to break the "old-fashioned" stereotype associated with trot which she successfully does.

However, this was not limited to just in the drama, because the audience particularly the international audience, who didn't know trot were suddenly interested. I noticed from the recent comments in some of the trot videos on Youtube that a lot of people viewing the videos liked the drama and it made them fall in love with Trot music as well. I was also further intrigued and so my love for trot was cemented. With the help of YouTube I was able to find old records of singers in the trot era and also younger trot singers. Some popular ones being Daesung from Bigbang and the group Super Junior.

Back in the day, Koreans used trot to express dreams and sorrows, It was like music from the heart. I think that is what appealed to me the most. The genre has a bit of everything from classic, dance, retro and everything in between. One thing that is consistent with good trot performances is the voice of the singer, It has a certain rhythmic bass that not everyone can achieve, the deeper the better. I have listened to a few covers of trot songs by non-trot singers and I find it doesn't always hold the same kind of appeal.

Trot is usually fun and it has this certain bewitching power to it that uplifts your mood even if you can't really tell what they are saying. It does have some cheesy quality to it with the shiny costumes and disco lights but I think that is it's charm. The lyrics, when I do find the english translation, are interesting and sometimes cheesy as well but it still depicts human emotions in a unique way. One of my favourite trot songs is One-sided love by Ju Hyun Mi, the video below is her performing it with Girl's Generation, it is endearing to see the fusion of the different generation of singers making music together. I do hope the genre continue to last for generations to come.

I have a playlist of some trot songs I like below, I recommend you listen to it, There's a variety on there and this is a growing collection. You could also find more on Youtube. Some household names aside from the ones mentioned above are 태진아 ~ Tae Jin Ah, 이미자 ~ Lee Mi Jah and  Song Dae-Gwan ~ 송대관.

Do you know Korean Trot music? What do you think of it?

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