Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Akaraka = Cheering and K-pop delights!

Quick disclaimer - most of the photos shown in this post were NOT taken by me because I stupidly forgot to bring my camera to this event! >.<

This pic was taken me before the celebrities arrived  - most of the attendees are wearing blue and white (including me) which are the official colours of Yonsei. 

I should have blogged about this earlier but for some reason I didn't. Anyway two weeks ago was the highlight of every year at Yonsei - Akaraka, a giant music festival-concert that takes place in Yonsei's amphitheater which boasts a fantastic, star-studded concert for those lucky enough to acquire tickets. Fortunately I was able to count myself among the lucky and enjoyed a fantastic show for a fantastic price, but first some explanation. . .

Every year Korean universities have school festivals which are often highlighted by a concert in which a number of selected famous, and I do mean FAMOUS, Korean singers show up and perform a set to a large, screaming audience of students. Sounds pretty awesome right? I wish they had that stuff in Toronto...

This pic is of Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy at Akaraka and was stolen from another Yonsei exchange student's blog Life of Jayy which can be found at check it out for more pics and another experience!   
Yonsei University, being one of the top schools in the country had an amazing festival week wherein the entire campus was transformed into a giant 'seuljip' or Korean style pub in which student groups and faculties would set up tents and makeshift tables on the university's main road and serve alcohol and food to students and others who just showed up for the festivities. This was all while student led bands, dance groups and clubs played music throughout the day and night! It was awesome! Your's truly was even involved in traditional Korean drumming performance for the festival which I shall talk about later. It was some great stuff.

Anyway, the festival culminated in a concert in Yonsei's amphitheater in which goers, such as myself were treated to performances by Korean hip hop legends Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy, a recently made famous ballad singer The One - that's his name, SNSD (a.k.a.: Girl's Generation - the highlight of the evening for many goers), YB - an awesome rock group, and finally JYP the performer, producer of k-pop, and owner the talent company of the same name, who put on an impressive show.

Seo Hyun from Girl's Generation as seen at Akarak - again I didn't take this.
I have to say it was pretty mind-blowing seeing all these famous people for a measly $10, even if getting tickets proved to be a challenge (although I lucked out when my friend broke it to me that she had an extra ticket) especially considering that seeing any one of these performers at a regular concert would cost an upwards of 60-200+ dollars! Definitely lucked out on this one!

The show started with a number of student performances which included two impressive female singers, signing upbeat and soulful songs about love and stuff, a rock group and a number of dance teams.

The celebrity performances themselves where pretty solid and I'll describe them in order as follows...  

Tiger JK, Yoon Mi Rae and Bizzy took the stage first and Tiger rapped a reprise of Good Life, one of his classic tracks from when he was with DJ Shine in Drunken Tiger and in the middle of the track Bizzy rapped his part from the Leesang produced track From River to Ocean which was sick! (I feel like it would not be presumptuous of me to assume that I was one of the few people in the audience who realized where his bit came from) and the ridiculously talented Yoon Mi Rae, fine Rapper, R&B singer, longtime collaborator and now wife of Tiger JK sang her hit Get It In. The three appeared as a trio to promote their new project/group MFBTY which includes all three rappers, which has recently released a single Sweet Dreams which they also sang. Being a Korean hip hop aficionado of sorts this was really the highlight of my evening. It's almost a shame they went first!   

The next up was The One! Korean ballad music is kind of a sub-genre which I have not explored in great detail aside from the odd Brown Eye'd Soul track. Still he sang very well, and even at one point ran into the audience in the VIP section and sang among the crowd. On his third track he collaborated with an up and coming kpop trio which I can't remember the name of (they were yelling in Korean and most the information I can find about Akaraka in English deals mostly with Girls Generation, not surprisingly) but they were really fun. This particular singer garnered fame for singing a number of prominent OST tracks for Korean dramas and the Korean students all seemed to know who he was. His voice was magnificent though, and that's one thing I've always appreciated about ballad singers, they have to be able to sing really well, which is more than I can say for some K-pop stars (not all mind you).

Speaking of K-pop stars, next up was the EXTREMELY famous SNSD (Seonyeo Shidae), better known in the west as Girls Generation. Though admittedly not a huge fan of K-pop it was pretty wild to see them live! They sang 4 songs, two of which were obviously lip-synced much to the chagrin of a few of my friends. I do have to say though that it was kind of on odd choice as they were the only artists that lip-synced that evening. They performed The Boys, I Got a Boy, another song that I can't remember and Gee which is their most famous song EVER as far as I know. As soon as they took the stage everyone started screaming and pushing up. The young Korean guy behind me was literally shaking with excitement and had to sit down to catch his breath after the performance. Though SNSD is certainly made up of talent and produces fun and catchy music I've always found it strange how people can get THAT fanatical about... well anything really. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of certain things but the scene there was pretty intense! Still seeing them perform was good fun! 

Next up was YB, a group of rockers who ROCKED! They were great, and though I'm woefully unfamiliar with their music, that show alone has made me interested. It was fun to rock out which is something I haven't done in a while. Great vocals, guitar solos and all manner of awesomeness! YB you've made a fan of me. 

JYP as seen at Akaraka - didn't take this one either! ㅜ_ㅜ
And finally was the finale with JYP. Now I have to say that though I know who JYP is I've only really come to know him as that older guy who produced Wonder Girls and the guy with the ridiculous haircut in Itaewon Freedom who sort of resembles a Guerrilla. After I saw him perform however I would go as far as to call him the Michael Jackson of Korea, only he's still alive. JYP treated us to an impressive vocal range, smooth dancing, and some excellent song variety, definitely a triple threat.

After the celebrity performances we had a long cheering session in which we all got together and sang Yonsei anthems in Korean and the lyrics were ran on a screen so we could follow along. We were also encouraged to do dances! It was like a mass Karaoke! During the cheering session there was a spectacular fireworks show which marked the end of the concert. It was truly a spectacle. Note that if any of you are thinking of taking the time to study in Korea just about every university has similar shows, so keep that in mind! 

Still the best experience I had was when Yoon Mi Rae was singing Get It In. I was standing about the same elevation of the stage and not very far from it at all to her left and I was the tallest guy in that part of the crowed and was being very animated, because Yoon Mi Rae is frickin' AWESOME! While she was singing she turned to the right side of the audience, the middle and then finally to the side I was on. While she was looking at my area she fully pointed in my direction (possibly directly at me) just as she was going into the chorus, which I was singing and gesturing along with. When the chorus happened I started 'bouncing' (jumping in the air with my hand up) and she totally started doing it too right after I started doing it while looking in my direction. I cannot be 100% sure that she singled me out, but I was the tallest and most animated person (most the people around me were just sort of bobbing along), and easily recognizable as a foreigner so I'm pretty sure it was me she was pointing at. If that is truly the case, than I shared a moment with who I would argue, is the BEST rapper in Korea! Whoo! Thanks Tasha!                                

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