Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, special issue on popular music

The latest issue of the journal, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, features “Popular music in Asia.” Of course, many of our members wrote for this issue. Here is what it looks like (Actually I’m not sure if this is the actual cover of this specific issue, but…):


Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 10 Issue 4 2009
Popular Music

Editorial introduction
Inter-Asia popular music studies: cultural studies of popular music in Asia
Hyunjoon Shin
Pages 471 – 473
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166077

J-pop: from the ideology of creativity to DiY music culture
Yoshitaka Mōri
Pages 474 – 488
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166093

The paper examines the development of J-pop under the post-Fordist condition and its ideological formation over the last two decades. J-pop, invented as a fashionable sub-genre by a FM radio station in the late 1980s, expanded its category throughout the 1990s and covers virtually all musical genres for young people in Japan. However, due to the lasting economic recession, the development of digital technology and the transformation of young people’s lifestyle, the record industry faced a serious crisis during the 2000s. The paper explores ideological formations between the success of J-pop and the emergence of freeters’ (young part-time workers) culture in Japan, by focusing on their nationalist sentiment and the idea of creativity, and tries to find a new way of reclaiming ‘creativity’ in DiY (Do it Yourself) music culture today.
Keywords: J-pop; freeter; post-Fordism; nationalism; creativity; DiY culture

Contesting the digital economy and culture: digital technologies and the transformation of popular music in Korea
Jung-yup Lee
Pages 489 – 506
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166143

This paper examines the changes brought by digital technologies in the cultural economy of music in Korea. First, I look at how digital technologies forced the reorganization of the music industry. The dominant technological mediation of the ‘idol star system’ in the late 1990s gave way to industrial reorganization toward concentration and integration across the information and communications technologies (ICTs) industries and the media/entertainment industries. Second, I discuss how digital technologies impact on the way we experience music. I suggest that digital technologies accelerate personal and social uses of music and contribute to a diversified music culture. Finally, I discuss how the digital culture of music is framed by, and is linked with the industrial rearrangement. I suggest that the ongoing digitalization radically transforms how we conceive the music industry, and renders the nature of music redefined and contested.
Keywords: digital economy and culture; popular music; Korean music industry; intermediation; social networking services; media technology

Have you ever seen the Rain? And who’ll stop the Rain?: the globalizing project of Korean pop (K-pop)
Hyunjoon Shin
Pages 507 – 523
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166150

This paper explores the globalizing project of Korean pop, focusing on the case of pop star Rain, who attempted to make inroads into the US market around the mid- to late 2000s. As the background of the project, the ‘system’ (or ‘cultures of production’) of the Korean music industry will be examined, including why and how it transforms itself into multi-purpose star management and how it has been making de-nationalized transnational stars. Then, the different reactions from the media and fans to Korean pop stars who crossed the border into a different geocultural market are critically assessed. By doing so, this paper tries to engage in debates about the interrelations between globalization and regionalization in the case of recent Asian popular music.
Keywords: K-pop; Korean Wave; Asian pop; globalization; regionalization

‘Democratic entertainment’ commodity and unpaid labor of reality TV: a preliminary analysis of China’s Supergirl
Miaoju Jian; Chang-de Liu
Pages 524 – 543
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166382

China’s Supergirl, a popular reality talent show, is fairly similar to American Idol in the sense that it created new forms of media commodities as well as new forms of labor. Because of this, the entertainment industry has been able to generate profits in China’s growing broadcasting and, up to now underdeveloped, music markets. By analyzing both the production and consumption of Supergirl, this paper describes the economic development of reality TV in China. We also analyze how this talent show produced a flexible and localized commodity. This paper suggests that a different perspective is needed in order to understand the ways in which the organizers steer and manipulate the audience participation. Volunteer and unpaid labor is created by promoting the ‘TV Cinderella myth’. Fans and participants are symbolically paid in a form of ‘dream-fulfillment’. People, otherwise accustomed to a Communist regime, are now charmed by a certain amount of apparent democracy that is displayed during the singing contests. This paper coins the above mentioned process as being a specific commodity of ‘democratic entertainment’ in China.
Keywords: reality TV; unpaid labor; democratic entertainment; Supergirl

Me and the dragon: a lyrical engagement with the politics of Chineseness
Yiu Fai Chow
Pages 544 – 564
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166390

Nationalistic songs are not rare in the pop music tradition of Hong Kong: from the anthemic, heroic-sounding songs as well as sentimental, folkish ballads, generally known as ‘ minzu gequ’, in the 1970s and 1980s, to what I would call the neo-minzu gequ reinvented in trendier R&B or rap numbers during the turn of the century. For me, a cultural studies student and a cultural producer (lyric writer), the power of minzu gequ lies precisely in its tendency to privilege a particular performance of Chineseness by the tactic of excluding the marginal, be they foreign (mostly imperialistic) enemies or domestic dissidents, as well as the possibility of cultural resistance it offers. In 1980 I sang one; in 2005 I penned one. This essay is an inquiry of how ‘I’ have been dealing with issues of Chineseness through the pop lyrics I have created during the ‘re-nationalization’ process of Hong Kong. Employing the tactics of writing against the grain and writing with a twist, I try to trouble dominant narratives on Chineseness. A central theme of this essay is to resist simplicity, to resist certain political or ideological attempts to simplify and nullify complexity into certain dominant narratives – by mobilizing the autobiographical ‘I’, in this case, embodied in the duality of cultural studies student-cum-producer. An autobiographical approach is adopted as a response to two major issues of cultural studies: the danger of theoreticism and the question ‘What do cultural studies do’. This essay is a chronicle of how I, a lyrical writer, try to write what I have read from cultural studies into a cultural product. It is also an occasion to interpellate me, a cultural studies student, to read the product back into cultural studies.
Keywords: nationalistic songs; Chineseness; Cantopop; autobiographical approach; resistance

Taike rock and its discontent
Tung-hung Ho
Pages 565 – 584
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166408

As popular music is an important means of expression and representation, it is important to consider the social forces that give rise to it and the various extents of these influences. This paper explores generic and discursive practices that have been labelled ‘taike rock’ in Taiwan. In recent years, ‘taike rock’, a generic term brought into use by music industry insiders, journalists and entertainment media, has triggered animated debate. The disputed term tai-ke, literally means ‘Taiwanese guest,’ but in its earliest and original form, as used by those post-1949 mainland Chinese arriving in Taiwan with the KMT regime, the term connoted ethnic discrimination towards native Taiwanese and was used specifically to articulate perceptions of their unsophisticated outlook and behaviour. Recently, however, the commercial forces of the music industry have re-appropriated the term tai-ke to create ‘taike rock’, thereby ascribing new meanings and triggering controversy. In this paper, the phenomenon of taike rock is explored in order to discover the extent to which its newly ascribed meaning renders obsolete the old political and cultural antagonisms between native Taiwanese and ‘Mainlanders’ (i.e. post-1949 immigrants from the Chinese mainland), especially as the trend attracts commercial and media attention. In the process of this examination, the taike phenomenon is then considered to be musically embodied in taike rock, the generic practice of which has given rise to its contested nature. Next, the discursive and performative aspects of taike rock are finally evaluated by looking at a general protest against the corporation Neutron Innovation’s attempt to trademark the term ‘tai-ke’. In discussing this anti-trademark campaign, this paper concludes by bringing up critical issues of cultural identity and creativity in popular music in the face of corporate monopolisation of intellectual property rights.
Keywords: Taike rock; Taiwan’s ethnic politics; music genre and performance; intellectual property

Vedic metal and the South Indian community in Singapore: problems and prospects of identity
Eugene I. Dairianathan
Pages 585 – 608
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166424

Music – when created, performed and responded to – has been considered somewhat paradoxical because of its simultaneity of location between the individual and the social identities. If this analogy is extended to individual (read local/national) and social (read dominant/global), an own-language popular music intersects with its dominant/global practices rendered through music’s unique characteristic, its porosity. Given that identities are at once tactically and strategically situated and continuously evolving in relation to their situated environments, this porosity generates problems of identifying the local/ity and identity of situated voices. In this paper, I examine the emergence of a local Extreme metal group Rudra who performed their own compositions at the Outdoor Theatre of the Esplanade. Using their emergence at this highly publicised public space and relying on my e-interviews with the group, their privately held material, newspaper articles and local as well as international interviews posted on the group’s website, I consider Rudra’s multiplicity of identities, despite the varying levels of consonance and dissonance of these identities. By situating their practice in the local, and by extension, global (Anglophone dominated) practices, I suggest a consideration of their multiplicity of identities as that emerging through a series of socio-cultural, historical and political processes.
Keywords: Extreme metal; Vedic metal; Rudra; South Indian; music; identity; decentralisation

Visual Essay
Bidesia in Bombay
Surabhi Sharma
Pages 609 – 619
DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166440

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