By: Alia Khan
What I really wanted to title this post: I Went to the Ottawa K-Pop World Festival Preliminaries and It Was Amazing. But I thought that might be a mouthful. Seriously though, it was a lot of fun and I had a great time watching competitors perform from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Before we get into it, I have to be honest about two things. First, when I got the tickets for this show, I thought it was some sort of collaboration between dance groups, that wanted to celebrate their love of k-pop music and also show their moves. Second, I also don’t listen to k-pop and I’m not really familiar with any bands. I do, however, frequently binge watch Korean dramas and just last May, I went on a trip to South Korea. So, not totally out of my depth.
Let me start by telling you my most awkward interaction from that night: I’m walking towards the theatre doors, where the show is being held when a girl comes up to me and says, “Hey! Are you here for the K-Pop show?”
And I said, “Yeah I am! I hope it’s good.”
“Me too,” she replied, clearly very excited. “Who’s your favourite K-Pop group?”
When I told her I didn’t have any and that I don’t know anything about K-Pop, we immediately had nothing in common. Everyone at the show was interested in Korean culture, specifically K-Pop groups, and they even seemed to know the cover bands performing at the show. It seems that my friends and I were the odds ones out. So first things first, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
What is K-Pop?
K-pop is short for “Korean pop” that originates from South Korea. Although the genre has different subsets of music, ranging from pop, R&B and rock. Although it started in South Korea, since the early 90s, it has since then become something internationally recognised. Mostly popular with teenage girls and young adults, k-pop can be recognised by their catchy tunes, choreographed dance moves and seriously dressed up guys and girls. Think One Direction but like, hundreds of them. And also girl versions.
K-Pop World Festival
With the rise in popularity, comes the World Festival. Organised by the Korean Broadcasting Company, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the World Festival has grown from hosting in 16 countries to over 70 countries. Fans of k-pop join together to create ‘cover groups’ to compete in their host countries, this is called the ‘preliminaries’. They perform in their home countries, covering songs from popular k-pop groups in front of a live audience and several judges. The winners of those preliminaries are then invited to perform on stage in Changwon, South Korea.
Canada happens to be one of those host countries, and it turns out the k-pop show I attended is actually a pretty big deal. The Ambassador from South Korea, Shin Maeng-ho, officially started the competition with his opening remarks, which included expressing his happiness that Korean culture was making such an impact internationally. With 15 cover groups performing, some of them coming from different cities, specifically for this event, I’d say it’s definitely making an impression.
There were several all girls or boys cover groups, a few co-ed ones, and three singers. The opening act was B-Ware, a cover group from Montreal. They performed a mix of the songs Hush and Give it to Me. To be honest, I felt the performance was a little shaky. It was clear that some of the members were better prepared than others, and even the enthusiasm for the show seemed divided. It made their choreograph seem off balance and unrehearsed. Watching their music videos on their youtube channel, I think it might be about adjusting to a live performance. In the future, I could see them doing really well, so I hope they choose to compete in next years World Festival as well.
The group that made the best impression on me was Salja, a cover group from Ottawa. They have been performing since 2012, and from the brief introduction the MC gave us, it seems they’ve gone through a lot in the years since. They’ve gone through member changes and it sounds like, for a time, they weren’t even performing. But their hard work definitely paid off because their dance choreography was a definite highlight for me. Seriously, there was a part that literally gave me chills. I even managed to get the first two minutes of their performance on video!
After an amazing collaboration show, which included a performance that involved EVERY group that competed that day and the MC of the night, they announced the winners. It was seriously nerve wracking – you’re sitting there, watching these groups perform, and you definitely find your favourites. And once you have your lineup, you just want to hear that they’re going to win. As a crowd, we had a pretty intense drum roll going on.
Third Place: DAAM, with their cover of As If Its Your Last by BLACKPINK, going home with a cash prize of 300$.
First Place: Bibimbappers, with their cover of Limitless by NCT 127, going home with a cash prize of 1000$.
It was a really great show, and I loved how much effort every group put in. I especially loved the enthusiasm of the crowd, and how everybody seemed to be really into not only k-pop but Korean culture in general. It was a great introduction to the world of K-Pop and I think I’m definitely going to be listening to it a lot more in the future. If you’re looking to get into the K-pop scene but don’t know where to start, check out Julia’s blog post.
BONUS: Here’s a pic of me and my friends getting our five seconds of fame.