BIG – the South Korean boy band who love to per­form in Ara­bic

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Eve­lyn Lau

Korean boy band BIG (short for Boys in Groove) made their Mid­dle East de­but at the Cul­tural Foun­da­tion in Abu Dhabi on Thurs­day to close out this year’s Korea Fes­ti­val. How­ever, un­like other acts of the pop­u­lar K-pop genre, they brought some­thing a lit­tle un­usual: the abil­ity to sing in Ara­bic.

Head­ing to the UAE, where K-pop has a loyal fan base, the band were thrilled to at last have a chance to meet their fans in per­son. “We were cu­ri­ous about what the cul­ture would be like here and what kind of re­ac­tions there would be. Dur­ing the con­cert, we re­ally felt the love and sup­port – they re­ally screamed our names and gave us so much en­ergy that we were blown away by the re­cep­tion here,” says band mem­ber Benji, who also serves as a trans­la­tor for the group.

The band also re­call one of the mo­ments be­fore the sold-out con­cert when they re­alised how deeply rooted their fans’ in­ter­est was. Tak­ing to the stage prior to performing, the five mem­bers greeted the crowd by wav­ing and say­ing a sim­ple “hello”, and rather than the ex­pected tone down “oh, hi Big” re­sponse, they were sur­prised to see and hear fans hys­ter­i­cally scream­ing their names.

“That was one of the open­ing signs for us,” says Benji. “I was like ‘Oh, K-pop has re­ally made it this far’ and re­gard­less of a lan­guage bar­rier when it comes to com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the fact that mu­sic is still there, and that it needs no trans­la­tion, is some­thing that re­ally struck us as pow­er­ful.”

The group de­buted in 2014 with the song Hello un­der GH En­ter­tain­ment and fea­tured five mem­bers – J-Hoon, Benji, Gun­min, Min­pyo, and Heedo. J-Hoon en­listed in the manda­tory mil­i­tary ser­vice in Novem­ber last year, and so an­other mem­ber, Jin­seok, joined the group in Jan­uary.

Stag­ing a come­back, rather than re­turn­ing with an­other Korean sin­gle, the band sur­prised fans with cov­ers of pop­u­lar Ara­bic songs as part of their Global Cover Project. They’ve taken on hits such as La Bez­zaf by for­mer Arab boy band The5, Lm3allem by Saad Lam­jarred and Hus­sain Al Jassmi’s Boshret Kheir.

So how did the group come up with the idea to sing these cover songs? “We first got in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing Ara­bic songs when we went to one of the ra­dio chan­nels as guests,” says Gun­min. “It was an Ara­bic pro­gramme, so we thought of cov­er­ing Ara­bic songs for the Arab fans who have been sup­port­ing us since our de­but.”

But the group don’t only sing in Ara­bic. They have also taken the time to learn the lan­guage prop­erly through lessons. They’ve been tak­ing them for the past six months and can read, al­beit slowly, and can say ba­sic greet­ings such as “hello” and, maybe not so sur­pris­ingly, “you’re cute”.

“It is great fun but a new chal­lenge at the same time,” Benji ad­mits. “When we first started, pro­nun­ci­a­tion was a lot more dif­fi­cult than I thought. Try­ing pro­nun­ci­a­tions that do not ex­ist in Korean made my tongue twist, but it’s get­ting faster and faster to learn new things in Ara­bic.” By learn­ing to sing songs in the lan­guage, the group have picked up some new fans. They grabbed the at­ten­tion of The5, who took to so­cial me­dia to say: “BIG’s cover video is great. It’s an hon­our how a K-pop boy band cov­ered our song.” It seems the ad­mi­ra­tion is mu­tual, be­cause The5’s top hit also hap­pens to be one of BIG’s favourite songs.

“I love singing La Bez­zaf be­cause it’s the first Ara­bic song that we cov­ered and the mu­sic it­self is my kind of mu­sic,” Jin­seok says. “I also like 3daqat – the more you lis­ten to it, the more it gets ad­dic­tive, and the melody is quite easy for every­one to sing along.”

“I lis­ten to the lat­est Arab songs a lot. As BIG is a boy band, I like The5, who I re­late to in a way. I es­pe­cially like lis­ten­ing to one of their songs,

Han­nini, these days,” Heedo adds. And while The5 have dis­banded, BIG, who have been to­gether for five years, have no in­ten­tion of fol­low­ing. They’ve re­cently re­leased their new sin­gle, Il­lu­sion, which has two ver­sions – a Korean and an Ara­bic one.

So what do the group en­vi­sion for the next five years? “We would like to ex­pand our stage through­out the world fur­ther than we did in the past five years,” says Gun­min. “Of course, we will con­tinue to be ac­tive in Korea, and hope­fully also in Arab coun­tries. BIG’s goal is to come and show our per­for­mance to our sup­port­ive fans any­where in the world, no mat­ter how far away.”

The band say their Global Cover Project isn’t over yet, so there’s a chance for more Ara­bic mu­sic on the way. De­spite spend­ing only a few days in the UAE, they were im­pressed with the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Please wait for us,” is Gun­min’s part­ing mes­sage to fans. “We’ll come back as soon as pos­si­ble with some great things so hope­fully we will be able to see you guys soon again.”

Korean Cul­tural Cen­tre

BIG performing at the Cul­tural Foun­da­tion in Abu Dhabi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.