For many fans these days, they’re probably only familiar with the current generations of KPOP, starting from the second generation until the fourth generation. Thus, we’re here to give you a (un)official introduction to Korean trot music and as far as we know, it’s coming back to KPOP
“Teuroteu” or Trot music was born from a mixture of different kinds of music, in which Korean traditional music, Japanese and American music as well as during the Japanese colonial era, thus combined in a melting pot of what’s known as Korean trot. The masses enjoyed this music genre in the 1950s to 1970s.
However, during the 1970s and 1980s, the then authoritarian government under President Park Chung-Hee banned trot songs due to the “Japaneseness” during its anti-Japanese period that was born after the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. The irony was President Park himself embraced trot, in which Lee Mi-Ja's hit, Lady Dongbaek (동백아가씨) was requested to perform at his presidential mansion in private, although the song itself was banned.
During the mid-1970s, trot survived even after the ban being imposed by the government. All thanks to television as it became a medium of the masses’ popular music consumption including trot.
Although it became popular with many South Koreans at the time, trot music’s genre, albeit its uniformity and sometimes its monotony, has a wide range of musical styles under the umbrella, namely bolero-inspired, jazzy, romantic, fast or slow, while also retained its duple rhythm and use of the yonanuki scale.
(Yonanuki scale is the Japanized adaptations of major and minor scales found in Western Music, also known for their lack of fourth and seventh degrees, whereby duple (1, 2) rhythm was borrowed from the American foxtrot).
Check out this article that talks about the evolution of Korean music here
Tracing back to one of the first trot singers/groups were The Kim Sisters, Sook-ja, and Aija, plus their cousin Minja. The Kim Sisters first began singing country songs to U.S troops in 1959, where the troops donated rock and roll records to the group to help them expand their popularity. Eventually, the Kim Sisters left Korea to pursue their music career in Las Vegas, which they, later on, appeared on Ed Sullivan show 20 times and thus introducing Korean music to the mass Americans.
Other notable trot singers were:
Although trot music lost its popularity in the 1980s to 1990s due to the arrival of dance music, trot music eventually became localized through the invention of cassettes. Later on, it helped the invention of the sound of trot medley, which has now become the symbol of contemporary Korean trot music. Joo Hyun-Mi, one of the famous trot singers, rose to fame thanks to this.
Perhaps what sounds like trots are making a comeback is because of the recent success following TV Chosun’s reality singing show, Miss Trot, that aired in 2019. Additionally, because the show has successfully gained high ratings (even beating records of previous Korean broadcasters), Mr. Trot, the sequel to Miss Trot, aired for three months at the beginning of the year.
The show has garnered many generations’ of viewers, particularly in their teens, 20s, and 30s, plus even the middle-aged people tuned in for the show, despite the genre being labeled as old fashioned and only for the elderly. Similarly, the said can be the same for the participants of the show, which many of whom come from wildly different backgrounds such as a soldier, university, and elementary students to professional trots themselves.
All in all, this shows that music in culture will always continue to evolve with time even as new and old trends come and go.