P-POP GROUP. SB19 Ken, Pablo, Stell, Justin, and Josh at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles. The quintet met with members of the Filipino community and spoke at the consulate's Talkback Forum on November 15 after the successful L.A. leg of their WYAT Tour last week. (Photo courtesy of SB19 Official Facebook page) 

SEOUL, South Korea – P-Pop (Pinoy popular music) idol groups are on the rise with SB19, BINI, BGYO, MNL48 and ALAMAT, to name a few, paving the way for the game-changing genre in the country.

It is trendy, catchy, and visually appealing to resonate with its relatively young fanbase but beyond that, P-pop tracks hold deeper message with an aim to motivate and empower the listener.

For the Korea Music Content Association (KMCA), this is an ingredient to a recipe of success P-Pop players must value and retain in the long run.

"There are many reasons why K-pop became such great success in the world-- there's great talent or the musical strength of the performers. But I think what is more important is that the Korean groups try to understand and try to share their feelings to their fans, they try to have conversation in a way that even people from other countries could understand," KMCA Secretary General Steve Choi said in a recent sit down interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA). 

P-Pop (Pinoy popular music) idol groups are on the rise with SB19, BINI, BGYO, MNL48 and ALAMAT, to name a few, paving the way for the game-changing genre in the country.

It is trendy, catchy, and visually appealing to resonate with its relatively young fanbase but beyond that, P-pop tracks hold deeper message with an aim to motivate and empower the listener.

For the Korea Music Content Association (KMCA), this is an ingredient to a recipe of success P-Pop players must value and retain in the long run.

"There are many reasons why K-pop became such great success in the world-- there's great talent or the musical strength of the performers. But I think what is more important is that the Korean groups try to understand and try to share their feelings to their fans, they try to have conversation in a way that even people from other countries could understand," said KMCA Secretary General Steve Choi in a recent sit down interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA). 

KMCA Secretary General Steve Choi during an interview with PNA (Photo courtesy of Penta Press/KOCIS - Korean Culture and Information Service)

Like how Korean idols incorporate Korean culture in their music and aesthetics, Choi said P-Pop leaders in Manila should also build their tracks upon "Philippine-specific culture".

"Music should contain common issues so that anyone can understand. But on top of that, it is important to incorporate your national identity so that it can be differentiated," he said.

'A powerful industry' 

In South Korea, the genre is a force that drives the economy, boosting name recall for Korean products and exports endorsed by K-pop groups, among others.

The septet BTS, short for Bangtan Sonyeondan or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, alone contributes more than USD3.6 billion to Korea's economy every year, according to a 2018 Hyundai Research Institute report.

K-pop to overseas fans also is a window to the Asian country, compelling them to travel and see places visited by their idols, and in the process get immersed by South Korea's rich culture.

"If we look at this industry, it's really powerful," Korea Culture & Tourism Institute (KCTI) research fellow Chae Jee-young said.

"Western countries before, when they think about Korea, they just think about the Korean War or see it as an economically growing country but after the success of K-pop, Korea is recognized by them as a country with rich cultural assets. It's really upgrading the national image of Korea and also it positively affects the export of other products," she added.

Like how Korean idols incorporate Korean culture in their music and aesthetics, Choi said P-Pop leaders in Manila should also build their tracks upon "Philippine-specific culture".

"Music should contain common issues so that anyone can understand. But on top of that, it is important to incorporate your national identity so that it can be differentiated," he said.

'A powerful industry'

In South Korea, the genre is a force that drives the economy, boosting name recall for Korean products and exports endorsed by K-pop groups, among others. 

The septet BTS, short for Bangtan Sonyeondan or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, alone contributes more than USD3.6 billion to Korea's economy every year, according to a 2018 Hyundai Research Institute report. 

Moreover, K-pop to overseas fans is a window to the Asian country, compelling them to travel and see places visited by their idols, and in the process get immersed by South Korea's rich culture.

"If we look at this industry, it's really powerful," Korea Culture & Tourism Institute (KCTI) research fellow Chae Jee-young told the PNA.

"Western countries before, when they think about Korea, they just think about the Korean War or see it as an economically growing country but after the success of the Kpop, Korea is recognized by them as a country with rich cultural assets. It's really upgrading the national image of Korea and also it positively affects the export of other products," she added.

Jin, Jungkook, Jimin, V, Suga, J-Hope, and RM during the Butter concept photo shoot. (Courtesy of BIGHIT Music)

The industry, however, had to endure a lot of trial and errors before it achieved the right formula that broke records and catapulted Korean music to world fame.

"We built upon such trials and errors and such experiences that is why we could have this kind of success now," Choi said.

Most K-pop stars who debuted after a rigorous training are backed by private companies. Government support, on the other hand, often comes in for the underground music industry.

Some of the popular K-pop names today in fact started out as underground rappers such as SUGA of BTS, Mino of WINNER, T.O.P. of BIGBANG, and ZICO, among others.

"About 20 to 30 years ago, there was J-pop and nobody knew whether we can possibly surpass them but now we have this great success. Whether it is overground musicians or underground musicians, I think this big success of K-pop was only possible because of the great passion from Korean artists and a lot of support of both private and government sectors," Choi said.

'Get inspiration, grow'

Can the Philippines replicate this? The answer is yes and it is by allowing free competition and providing artists an environment to thrive in.

Chae, who is from KCTI's Cultural Industry Research Center, said there is nothing wrong with getting inspiration from other's accomplishments, K-pop for instance, and replicating the formula that made it successful.

The industry, however, had to endure a lot of trial and errors before it achieved the right formula that broke records and catapulted Korean music to world fame. 

"We built upon such trials and errors and such experiences that is why we could have this kind of success now," Choi said.

Most K-pop stars who debuted after a rigorous training are backed by private companies. Government support, on the other hand, often comes in for the underground music industry. Some of the popular K-pop names today in fact started out as underground rappers such as SUGA of BTS, Mino of WINNER, T.O.P. of BIGBANG, and ZICO, among others. 

"About 20 to 30 years ago, there was J-pop and nobody knew whether we can possibly surpass them but now we have this great success. Whether it is overground musicians or underground musicians, I think this big success of K-pop was only possible because of the great passion from Korean artists and a lot of support of both private and government sectors," Choi said.

'Get inspiration, grow'

Can the Philippines replicate this? The answer is yes and it is by allowing free competition and providing artists an environment to thrive in. 

Chae, who is from KCTI's Cultural Industry Research Center, added there is nothing wrong with getting inspiration from other's accomplishments, K-pop for instance, and replicating the formula that made it successful. 

KCTI research fellow Jeeyoung Chae (Photo courtesy of Penta Press/KOCIS)

"In Korea, we have this big K-pop but it's based on a training system but I think the Philippine has great potential since it has a big spectrum in terms of music," he added.

'Spreading values, culture' 

Albeit not the first boy group to make wave locally, five-member SB19-- composed of Pablo, Stell, Josh, Ken, and Justin-- undoubtedly pioneered this generation's P-pop, which draws inspiration from K-pop and J-pop's sweeping success yet still distinctly Filipino through and through.

It has also gone global and successfully held its first world tour WYAT [Where You At] in the United Arab Emirates and the United States, with Singapore as the next stop.

The boys had a rocky start after their debut but perseverance and patience led them to the popularity they enjoy now.

In a previous interview with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the P-Pop group's lead rapper Josh hoped that through their songs, they'll be able to bring Filipino music, values, and culture on the global stage.

"In Korea, when new things are inflowing into our country there's no other way but to accept that," she explained.

"Some people say negative things about K-pop saying whether it is really our traditional culture, that it's only a mixture of Western music and J-pop. However, in this globalized era, I think it's only natural that we get inspiration from others because culture flows around all the time and we can create a culture built upon those, and as time goes by, we can apply our own color or identity to it," she added.

In addition, Choi pointed out that many Filipinos are admired as talented musicians even in South Korea, citing an instance when he heard Filipina singer Morrisette Amon sang at a 2018 music festival in Busan.

"I was really impressed by the singing capability of Filipino singers because at that time we have people from the Philippines, Thailand and other countries as well. And Morisette, I was really shocked when I heard her song," the KMCA executive said.

"In Korea, we have this big K-pop but it's based on a training system but I think the Philippine has great potential since it has a big spectrum in terms of music," he added.

'Spreading values, culture'

Albeit not the first boy group to make wave locally, five-member SB19 -- composed of Pablo, Stell, Josh, Ken, and Justin-- undoubtedly pioneered this generation's P-pop, which draws inspiration from K-pop and J-pop's sweeping success yet still distinctly Filipino through and through.

It has also gone global and successfully held its first world tour WYAT [Where You At] in the United Arab Emirates and the United States, with Singapore as the next stop.

The boys had a rocky start after their debut but perseverance and patience led them to the popularity they enjoy now. 

In a previous interview with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the P-Pop group's lead rapper Josh hoped that through their songs, they'll be able to bring Filipino music, values, and culture on the global stage.  

SB19 members Ken, Pablo, Josh, Stell, and Justin during their WYAT tour in Los Angeles (Courtesy of SB19 Official Facebook page)

A multitude of reaction videos from foreign content creators online praising their tracks alone showed how music could transcend even language.

One perfect example is their song MAPA from the words Ma (mom/mother) and Pa (papa/father), reflecting a Filipino's love and respect to parents-- universal values shared by both local and international fans.

"We are very proud sa song namin na MAPA dahil nagawa niya 'yong dapat niyang gawin, it's a song for our parents and sa lahat ng taong naging gabay namin. Masaya kami na hindi lang kami ang (nadadala sa) mensahe nito, even our international fans talagang nagugulat kami, they memorize the song (We are very proud of our song MAPA because it served its purpose and it's a song dedicated to our parents and those who guided us. We are happy because we're not the only ones who get its message, even our international fans they make effort to memorize it)," SB19's Stell said in a forum at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

"Masasabi ko na sobrang importante ng musika dahil kahit hindi man tayo nagkakaintindihan, musika ang magkokonekta sa atin (I could say that music is really important because even if we don't understand each other, it connects us)," he added. (PNA)