Music videos of Korean singers are viewed worldwide on video-sharing websites and receive comments in languages that are quite familiar as well as curiously unfamiliar to Koreans. It is a telling sign that the songs and dances of Korean pop stars are making inroads into not only Asia but the entire global village and have found their place in mainstream popular culture. K-pop’s popularity may not yet be comparable to that of its American and British counterparts, but it is no longer surprising that overseas music lovers search for and listen to K-pop music. In Africa, once a region devoid of K-pop, Egypt and Nigeria are emerging as frontrunners of changing trends.
Nigeria and Egypt each have a K-pop Academy, an institution that was first launched in India in May 2018 and now operated in 25 countries. At the academies in Africa, youth tend to show more interest in dancing than singing, but these students aren’t just copying moves from their favorite music videos. The classes are far from a mere taste of K-pop—they more resemble the real, grueling professional training endured by budding K-pop performers who are preparing to take the stage. This professional-caliber training is the greatest merit of these academies. They usually offer introductory and intermediate courses in six-week sessions and present certificates when trainees complete all classes.
In Africa, there was an interest in K-pop and a demand for K-pop dance even before the academies opened. In 2016, a K-pop dance competition held in Cairo drew the attention of African and Arabic K-pop fans. K-pop continued flowing into the continent via the Internet and social media, and K-pop dance turned out to have a much greater appeal than expected. When the Korean dance music and moves, which had enjoyed fairly limited familiarity in the region, connected with the hearts of Africans, a rare bond was formed through which K-pop is becoming integrated into mainstream culture.
Anyone is welcome to attend classes at the K-pop Academy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The annual Hallyu festival there has become established as one of the top cultural events in the country, and Korean popular culture is no longer unfamiliar to its people. This year, a K-pop cover dance festival will select finalists through online screening, and selection through local preliminaries will put them on stage during a main event to be held in Korea. It is particularly encouraging that African interest in K-pop does not stop at singing and dancing but arouses curiosity about the Korean language and Korean culture as well. It is also noteworthy that K-pop, which was once monopolized by young people in their teens and 20s, is now appealing to more mature audiences, too
Written by Kim Shinyoung