All Around This World loves music that appears in places one may not expect. Why did a particular genre of music traverse the globe and lodge in a new land? What in it resonates with people far away? How does it blend it with local styles to create something new? What tale does this new music tell?
For example, the Argentine tango may not seem to be a great fit for the markedly less spicy Finland, but tango has been all the rage in Finland since traveling musicians brought it there in 1913. FINtango is based on the ballroom tango, with minor key melodies and lyrics based on Finnish folk culture, especially laments about rural life long lost.
In the same spirit, rumor has it that an American exchange student brought the “Bunny Hop” to Finland in the 1960s. It merged with Finnish Jenkka music and is now a staple of every Finnish party.
In class we actually start our lesson in South Korea, where three musical strains fused in the late 1940’s to form the first Koran Pop music (K-Pop). While Japan occupied Korea from 1910 until 1945, the end of World War II, ENKA — a genre of Japanese songs with traditional poetic lyrics and vocal styles, often called the “Japanese blues” — fused with Korean folk. One may not be surprised that these local genres would mingle. Less likely is their fusion with a music from the other side of the world — American big band jazz, specifically the 1-2, 1-2 rhythm of the FOX TROT. Korean musicians, eager to connect with the world beyond their shores, layered Japanese-inspired Korean-language vocals onto their version of Western music; the form became known as TEUORTEU or “TROT.” After the Korean War (1950-1953) Allied soldiers that remained in the peninsula shared even more American big band, BOOGIE WOOGIE and, eventually, rock and roll with Korean musicians, Westernizing Trot even further.In the decades since, Trot’s popularity has ebbed and flowed, but the music still undergoes revivals, reminding South Koreans how their international past formed their nation today.