[Review] Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music (Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee eds) by Keith Howard

Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee (eds): Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. (Routledge Global Popular Music Series.) xiii, 247 pp. New York: Routledge, 2017. ISBN 978 1 138 79303 3.

Keith Howard (a1) 

Published online: 23 February 2018

This volume brings together eighteen Korean and Korean-heritage authors to cover the major bases of South Korean popular music, dividing their contributions into four broad sections: “Histories”, “Genres”, “Artists”, and “Issues”. A “Coda” basically profiles an additional issue, while an afterword transcribes an interview with the rock and metal artist Shin Hae-chul. “Histories” contains chapters by Shin, Keewoong Lee, Jung-yup Lee and Sun Jung, and, rather than offer a chronological timeline, looks at music on stage, in recordings and broadcasts on the media, and pop’s global marketing. We read how recordings in Korea almost always had less importance than live or broadcast performances, how musicians “uniquely” honed their skills working for American military shows (why “uniquely”, given the entertainment needs of American forces posted elsewhere during the Cold War?), and how the notion of “spreadable media” (taken from Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media (New York: New York University Press, 2013)) has in recent years challenged notions of copyright. The last is given as a reason why Korean fans created myriad parodies of Psy’s Gangnam Style; surely, though, Gangnam Style was sufficiently hated by Korean pop aficionados that its parodies were created by just about anybody other than fans.

“Genres” curiously occupies a politics-free zone as its four authors attempt to tie specific music styles to times, places, and people. Yu-jeong Chang’s consideration of the early popular genres of trot and ballad ignores too much previous scholarship on both genres and on Japanese equivalents, and has inaccurate moments, but Pil Ho Kim and Aekyung Park in contrast provide excellent discussions of rock and modern Dylanesque folksong. Jaeyoung Yang’s account of soul, funk, rap and hip hop is particularly informative and readable, although he admits that his title, “Korean Black Music”, “is contradictory as it implies a socio-geographic and racial incongruity” (p. 95). Yang reveals his personal tastes openly: mainstream hip-hop, he tells us, relies on “sweet melodies over rapping”, while massive idol groups such as Big Bang and 2NE1 lack “rhythmic diversity and beat variations” (pp. 102, 104).

“Artists” starts with a useful consideration of the colonial-era jazz musician and composer Kim Hae-song by Junhee Lee, although eyebrows will be raised by the claim that Kim “was Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix, all compressed and accumulated into one” (p. 108). It closes with Eun-Young Jung’s account of Seo Taiji lifted, though no credit is given in Made in Korea, from my edited volume, Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2006). In between comes an analysis of rock by Dohee Kwon that finds Korean identity in pentatonicism (based on an outdated Korean musicological theory of mode), and Okon Hwang’s splendid discussion of the multi-talented Kim Min-ki and his legendary status as a dissident songwriter. Within “Issues”, Haekyung Um offers a finely detailed account of vocal style, Hyunseok Kwon explores how Korean traditional music (kugak) relates to popular music, and Soojin Kim gives an over-simplified account of pertinent legislation during the rules of successive South Korean presidents. Dong-Yeun Lee’s “Who’s afraid of Korean idols” is likely to be the most cited chapter: his somewhat rhetorical discussion is excellent, detailing how 50,000 aspiring idols are tested each year but only 10 or so will end up debuting after four or five years of strenuous training. Oppressive management masks “emotional” labour that from a Marxist perspective results in privation for idols as workers. Finally, as the “Coda”, Sunhee Koo and Sang-Yeon Loise Sung explore the circulation and reception of Korean pop beyond Korea, but the coverage is severely limited because they focus on their personal Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Austrian expertise.

Some editing is poor (particularly in the first section), and a few errors have made it into print. For instance, a German trader is said to have demonstrated a gramophone in Korea “in 1866” (p. 24), when Edison didn’t invent the phonograph until 1877 (the gramophone followed later). How can the claim that Korean TV broadcasting “started prematurely in 1961” be justified (p. 38)? For “Drunk Tiger” read “Drunken Tiger” (p. 104). The group Sarang kwa P’yŏnghwa did not, as claimed, only “prolong their career into the 1980s” (p. 99), since they disbanded in 2000. The volume sadly excludes any coverage of North Korean music, on the disingenuous grounds that “conditions for studying it are not mature”, with too few researchers existing in North Korea and insufficient data available outside the country (p. xi). Hundreds of albums featuring the groups Pochonbo and Wangjaesan as well as the “Songs of Korea” series are available, along with many clips on YouTube, providing plenty to study; indeed, I profiled North Korean pop in my edited volume (2006: 154–67). However, the editors of Made in Korea elect to critique my volume rather than engage with it, claiming that it and its constituent scholars make it “difficult to know the views of the scholars based in Korea” (p. xii). This is then used to justify only including authors who are Korean. However, my volume includes six Korean authors (three of whom reappear here, one reproducing the same contribution) as well as several foreign academics working at Korean universities. If the claim to provide a local take on Korean pop is to be taken seriously, then how is it that 12 of the 18 authors either work in, or completed their doctorates, in Europe and America? And, why do so many authors reference standard Euro-American popular music scholarship – Nicola Dibben, Charles Fairchild, Simon Frith, Bruno Latour, Keith Negus, Roy Shuker, John Storey, Tim Wall and Peter Webb all make an appearance before page 30?

Rather disconcertingly, recent years have seen two groups of Korean gatekeepers emerge for Korean pop, one led by Shin, and the other, the World Association for Hallyu Studies, led by Oh Ingyu and (until 2017) Park Gil-Sung. Shin points out that Oh and Park would not agree with his perspectives (p. 8), but otherwise ignores them and their group. Again, it is disappointing to read Shin’s comment that his participation in the 2005 conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) in Rome “marks the emergence of Korean scholarship on Korean popular music on a global scale” (p. 8), since this denigrates the contributions of so many. It also ignores the fact that my volume resulted from a series of conference papers and panels begun a number of years earlier at conferences of the Association for Korean Studies in Europe, the British Association for Korean Studies and the Society for Ethnomusicology, and for the International Institute for Asian Studies. Any attempt to police or sideline the efforts and scholarship of those with non-Korean ethnicity needs to be resisted, particularly in books like this designed for a non-Korean readership. We deserve better from Routledge, and the Made in Korea editors.

[Book] Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery The Linguascapes of Popular Music in Mongolia by Sender Dovchin

Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery

The Linguascapes of Popular Music in Mongolia


The title seeks to show how people are embedded culturally, socially and linguistically in a certain peripheral geographical location, yet are also able to roam widely in their use and takeup of a variety of linguistic and cultural resources. Drawing on data examples obtained from ethnographic fieldwork trips in Mongolia, a country located geographically, politically and economically on the Asian periphery, this book presents an example of how peripheral contexts should be seen as crucial sites for understanding the current sociolinguistics of globalization. Dovchin brings together several themes of wide contemporary interest, including sociolinguistic diversity in the context of popular culture and media in a globalized world (with a particular focus on popular music), and transnational flows of linguistic and cultural resources, to argue that the role of English and other languages in the local language practices of young musicians in Mongolia should be understood as “linguascapes.” This notion of linguascapes adds new levels of analysis to common approaches to sociolinguistics of globalization, offering researchers new complex perspectives of linguistic diversity in the increasingly globalized world.

Table of Contents

1. Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery

2. Globalization as World of Scapes

3. A Theory of Linguascapes

4. Linguistics (N)ethnography

5. Derivative Linguascapes

6. Symbolic Linguascapes

7. Relocalized Linguascapes

8. Bi/Multilingualism, Linguascapes and Language Education

About the Author

Sender Dovchin received her Ph.D. from University of Technology, Sydney in 2015. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education, Curtin University, Western Australia. Previously, she was an Associate Professor at the Centre for Language Research, University of Aizu, Japan. Her research explores the linguistic practices of young generation in the current age of globalization. She has published her works in the Journal of SociolinguisticsInternational Journal of Multilingualism, Multilingua, English Today, World Englishes, Asian Englishes, International Multilingual Research Journal, Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts and Inner Asia.Her most recent book is Popular Culture, Voice and Linguistic Diversity: Young Adults Online and Offline (2018) co-authored with Alastair Pennycook and Shaila Sultana.

Subject Categories

[Review] Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music (Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee eds) by Michael Fuhr





 Call for contributions China Perspectives / Perspectives chinoises


Sinophone Musical Worlds and their Publics


Guest editor: Dr Nathanel Amar, postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong


Photograph by Elaine Ip for The Week Hong Kong, 2017

Download PDF File here:  Call for abstracts CP China musical worlds

Recent success of Chinese reality television singing competitions broadcasted on national television or streamed directly on the internet, has shown the extent of musical genres represented in the Chinese world, from pop to folk via hip-hop or rock ’n’ roll. The popularity of new musical styles up to then considered as deviant as well as the recent attempts of the State to intervene directly on musical contents, tend to blur the distinctions between “mainstream” (流行) music, “popular” (民间) music as non-official, “underground” (地下) music or even “alternative” (另类) music. This call for papers aims at promoting a better understanding of the transformations of Chinese “musical worlds”, in the sense that Becker gave to “art worlds”, which stresses the role of cooperation and interactions between the different actors of the artistic sphere. As Becker wrote, “all artistic work, like all human activity, involves the joint activity of a number, often a large number, of people. Through their cooperation, the artwork we eventually see or hear comes to be and continues to be. The work always shows signs of that cooperation” (Becker, 2008: 1). We thus welcome contributions which take into consideration the necessary cooperation between individuals, allowing the constitution of musical worlds.

This call for papers wishes to approach the political management of popular music and its paradox. For instance, the Chinese authorities have indeed tried to co-opt marginal or ethnic minorities artists on national television or by producing their albums, such as the nationalist rap collective CD-Rev whose songs are produced by the Youth League, or the Uyghur folk singer Perhat Khaliq, celebrated on the popular TV show “The Voice of China”. However, at the same time, the authorities went after hip-hop culture after the so-called “hip-hop ban” of January 2018, or even imprisoned popular musicians as the “Xinjiang Justin Bieber”, Ablajan Awut Ayup, incarcerated since February 2018. We also welcome contributions which analyze the use of music and music-video by the organs of government propaganda, such as the multiplication of music-videos to promote the “Belt and Road Initiative” – the most recent was made by the People’s Daily using the music of a famous Coca-Cola advertisement of the 70s – or in the recent past to celebrate international events, as the Olympic Games of 2008 or the Shanghai International Expo of 2010.

In this special issue of China Perspectives, we would like to rethink the role of music in Chinese society. If the intervention of the Party-State is essential, it is necessary to raise the question of the public. How and where do people consume music? What is the relationship between music and the construction of subjectivity in contemporary China? We invite submissions focusing on the public and spaces of popular music and the meanings the audience gives to the activity of listening to music; we thus strongly encourage submissions which use an ethnographic approach. The papers can focus on precise case studies, for instance Karaoke consumption (Fung, 2010), dancing and singing in public spaces, or the transformation of popular opera.

This special issue will also represent an opportunity to analyze Chinese musical worlds beyond the national boundary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by considering the relations and influences of other parts of the sinophone world, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, without forgetting the territories at the margins of the PRC like Xinjiang, Tibet or Inner Mongolia. The use of the term “sinophone”, as coined by Shu-mei Shih, allows us to investigate musical worlds outside the national territory of the PRC, but also the cultures of “minority peoples who have acquired or are forced to acquire the standard Sinitic languages of Mandarin, often at the expense of their native language” (Shu, 2013: 3) residing on Chinese soil.

We welcome contributions from any discipline focusing on popular music and encourage the inclusion of visual material. We are also open to non-academic papers as scene reports or photographic reports.

We welcome proposals, but by no means exclusively, exploring the following topics:

  • Opposition and crossing from the underground to the mainstream
  • Listening, dancing and singing together in contemporary China
  • Political uses of popular music
  • Music and the construction of identities
  • Musical influences and local adaptations
  • Music, the public sphere and uses of the past
  • Metamorphosis, structures and actors of the Chinese musical industry
  • Censorship and its circumvention, uses of propaganda
  • Music medium (radio, TV, internet, magazines, music schools)


For those who are interested, please send abstracts (between 300 and 500 words) to Nathanel Amar <namar@hku.hk> before 31 October 2018.


Format of abstracts and articles

Abstracts (written in English or in French) should be 300-500 words long, submitted by 31 October 2018.

Research articles (written in English or in French) should be 8,000 words long, and follow the format of articles guidelines available here. They will follow a double blind academic peer-review process.

“Current Affairs” articles, based on the latest developments in the Chinese music scenes, should be 4,000 words long.

Schedule of publication: full articles should be submitted by 15 February 2019 for publication of the special issue in the winter 2019.


About the journal China Perspectives / Perspectives chinoises

China Perspectives / Perspectives chinoises is an interdisciplinary academic journal, established in 1995, which focuses on the political, social, economic and cultural evolutions of contemporary China (PRC, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan). It is endowed with an Editorial Board of internationally recognized experts in all areas of the social sciences; All submissions are blindly reviewed by two anonymous external referees; Indexed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (Web of Science); Indexed in 8 international databases (including SCOPUS); Ranked by the French Council for the Evaluation of Research (HCERES) in Political Science, Sociology/demography and Anthropology.


BARANOVITCH Nimrod, China′s New Voices. Popular Music, Ethnicity, Gender, & Politics, 1978 – 1997, University of California Press, 2003.

BARME Geremie, Seeds of Fire: Chinese Voices of Conscience, Hill and Wang.

BECKER Howard, Art Worlds, University of California Press, 2008.

CHU Yiu-Wai, Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History, HKU Press, 2017.

CONDRY Ian, Hip-hop Japan. Rap and the paths of cultural globalization, Duke University Press, 2006.

DE KLOET Jeroen, China with a Cut. Globalisation, Urban Youth and Popular Music, Amsterdam University Press, 2010.

DE KLOET Jeroen, CHOW Yiu Fai, Sonic Multiplicities. Hong Kong Pop and the Global Circulation of Sound and Image, Intellect, 2013.

FUNG Anthony, “Consuming Karaoke in China. Modernities and Cultural Contradiction”, in Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, Vol. 42, no. 2, 2010, pp. 39-55.

HALL Stuart, JEFFERSON Tony (eds.), Resistance Through Rituals. Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, Routledge, 2006.

HARRIS Rachel, “Reggae on the Silk Road: The Globalization of Uyghur Pop” in The China Quarterly, No. 183, 2005-2, pp. 627- 643.

HEBDIGE Dick, Subcultures. The Meaning of Style, Routledge, 1979.

JONES, Andrew F. Like a Knife. Ideology and Genre In Contemporary Chinese Popular Music. Cornell East Asia Series, 1997.

LINK Perry and MADSEN Richard P. (eds.), Unofficial China: Popular Culture and Thoughts in the People’s Republic, Westview Press, 1990.

LINK Perry and MADSEN Richard P. (eds.), Popular China. Unofficial Culture in a Globalizing Society, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

SHIH Shu-mei, Visuality and Identity. Sinophone Articulations Across the Pacific, University of California Press, 2007.

SHIH Shu-mei (ed.), Sinophone Studies. A Critical Reader, Columbia University Press, 2013.

WONG Chuen-Fung, “Singing Muqam in Uyghur Pop: Minority Modernity and Popular Music in China” in Popular Music and Society, Vol. 36, n°1, 2013, pp. 98-118.


[Review] Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History (Yiu Wai Chu) by Nathanel Amar



Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2017, 256 pp.

Review by Nathanel Amar

Yiu-Wai Chu, director of the Hong Kong Studies Program at the University of Hong Kong, continues in Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History the analyses he outlined in his previous book, published in 2013, Lost In Transition: Hong Kong Culture in the Age of China.[1] Like Lost In Transition, this book is haunted by the decline of Hong Kong culture since the handover, and by the spectre of mainland China. By offering a chronological history of Hong Kong popular music, Yiu-Wai Chu’s book emerges as a reference in Asian Cultural Studies in English.

The introduction (pp. 1-20) reviews the notion of “Cantopop,” a term that emerged in the late 1970s to describe popular music in Cantonese produced in Hong Kong. For the author, Cantopop lies at the intersection of the two traditional definitions of pop music, as it is both “the main commercially produced and marketed musical genre” (p. 3) and popular in the sense that it is “capable of uniting a variety of social groups” (p. 4). This fairly wide definition of pop allows Chu to not contrast Cantopop too strongly with rock and alternative music—which are present at the margins throughout the book. The author justifies his focus on Cantopop in view of the limited existing English language studies on Hong Kong folk music: “Academic work on Chinese popular music shows a bias toward rock music from Beijing rather than pop music from either Hong Kong or Taiwan” (p. 10). The present work is thus an introduction to Cantopop. This leads the author to leave aside the study of the lyrics of songs, which, while regrettable, is justified by the global economy of the book.

The second part of the book (pp. 21-39) challenges the representations traditionally associated with Cantopop, by making a genealogy of it even before the appearance of the term. Until 1974, Cantopop was marginalised in the colonial society of Hong Kong, with music and the Cantonese language being perceived as inferior to English and Mandarin. Popular music in Cantonese was thus considered a “working-class pastime” (p. 21), which most often dealt with the difficulties of daily life during colonisation.

The rise of Cantopop in the 1970s is the subject of the book’s third part (pp. 40-68), concomitant with the identity and social claims born of the workers’ revolts of 1967 and the extension of the market in the 1970s. The year 1974 marks a turning point in the history of Cantopop, with the broadcast on TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited) of the series A Love Tale between Tears and Smiles, the Cantonese theme song of which was hugely successful. The author shows the close links between Cantopop and other cultural forms, such as television and cinema. The 1970s saw the emergence of many singers and lyricists who made it possible for Cantopop to develop, such as Sam Hui, “the God of Cantopop” (p. 48), who took up social problems in songs using vernacular language. Composer Joseph Koo and lyricist James Wong also participated in the popularisation of Cantopop through their songs for the television series Jade Theater. James Wong, nicknamed “the Godfather of Cantopop,” was also to make Cantopop the subject of his thesis, defended in 2003 at the University of Hong Kong,[2] and which serves as a reference throughout Yiu-Wai Chu’s book. The popularity of Cantopop pushed the music industry in Hong Kong to turn to Cantonese. Singers who hitherto sang in Mandarin or made covers of English hits began producing songs in Cantonese, giving Cantopop the hybrid aspect that would make it successful.

The 1980s, described in the fourth part, represent the golden age of Cantopop (pp. 69-104), as well as its cultural hegemony on the Asian scene during the period of economic reforms in mainland China. The popularity of the song “The Bund,” from the eponymous television series, sung in 1980 by Frances Yip with music by Joseph Koo and lyrics by James Wong, went well beyond the borders of Hong Kong and was even translated into Mandarin and Thai. During this decade, the first “superstars” appeared, such as Alan Tam, Leslie Cheung, and Anita Mui, who initiated a wave of unprecedented concerts. More than mere commercial events, these concerts “became a venue for building a collective memory for Hong Kong people” (p. 84). It is also the period when a limited but very influential Cantonese alternative music scene developed, including the rock bands Beyond and Tat Ming Pair, whose songs contain subversive political messages. The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 profoundly marked Cantopop, prompting singers, even the most popular ones, to pose the question of the future of China and Hong Kong in their songs.

The fifth part of the book focuses on the 1990s (pp. 105-144), in which the decline of Cantopop began, although it enjoyed a prosperous period at the beginning of the decade with the “Four Heavenly Kings”—Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, and Aaron Kwok, and the “Four Heavenly Queens”—Sally Yeh, Cass Phang, Sammy Cheng, and Kelly Chen. These singers were to dominate the Asian musical and visual scene in the 1990s, but this was not enough to stop the more general decline of Cantopop in the face of the development of Mandapop—popular music in Mandarin—from Mainland China and Taiwan. This shift is illustrated by the journey of the singer Faye Wong, born in Beijing, who became famous after settling in Hong Kong in 1987 by singing Cantopop before returning to Mandapop in the late 1990s. The slow decline of Cantopop was accompanied by a crisis of Hong Kong identity as retrocession approached, expressed in 1997 by a song that reeked of nationalism, “Chinese” (“Zhongguo ren”) by Andy Lau, sung in Mandarin.

The last part (pp. 145-183) deals with the Cantopop crisis, which began in the noughts. In addition to declining sales, the world of Cantopop lost two of its most popular representatives in 2003, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, while the SARS epidemic hit the Hong Kong economy hard that same year. The promotion of four new Heavenly Kings, Andy Hui, Edmond Leung, Hacken Lee, and Leo Ku, did not enable Cantopop to resist the domination of Mandapop. Cantopop nevertheless followed the evolution of society, and some groups took a stand in support of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, such as Denise Ho, Anthony Yiu-Ming Wong, and Kat Tse, who sang the anthem of the movement, “Raise the Umbrella.” In the midst of an identity crisis, Hong Kongers also turned to other forms of music, such as hip-hop with the collective Lazy Motha Fucka (LMF), while the record labels were no longer investing in new singers, preferring to recycle the old glories of Cantopop.

Yiu-Wai Chu’s book opens new perspectives in Asian cultural studies, including a comparative approach to popular music in mainland China. The author provides some very interesting analyses of the queer genre and the queer imagination of Cantopop, but one is surprised when he states that “Leslie Cheung never openly declared his sexual orientation” (p. 135), nor does he mention TVB’s censorship of homoerotic clips produced by Cheung.[3] Moreover, the scandal provoked in 2008 by the diffusion of pornographic photos taken by the actor Edison Chen in the company of popular Cantopop singers is barely mentioned.[4] The book’s aim to write a history of Cantopop, which undoubtedly fills one of the gaps in Chinese studies, neglects the mainland’s popular music, whether inspired by or critical of Cantopop. The book therefore encourages future research on the relationship between Cantopop and Chinese rock in the 1990s, for example through the concert given in front of 8,000 people by He Yong, Tang Dynasty, Dou Wei, and Zhang Chu on December 17, 1994 in the Hong Kong Coliseum, during which He Yong called the Four Heavenly Kings “clowns” and insulted Cantopop.[5] Similarly, the author’s desire to deal with Hong Kong alternative music at the same time as Cantopop forces him to bring together bands as diverse as the hip-hop collective LMF, the subversive anti-folk group My Little Airport, or the hardcore-punk band King Ly Chee, all of which deserve to be further analysed. Unfortunately, there are typos in the names of some Mainland singers and song titles, as well as repetitions in the body of the text.

Hong Kong Cantopop nevertheless remains an essential book for Asian cultural studies. In addition to a very complete chronology of Cantopop, accompanied by an excellent appendix, Yiu-Wai Chu’s book makes it possible to place Hong Kong pop music in its geopolitical, cultural, and social context. Also to be appreciated is the effort of systematic transcription of the names of singers and songs in Chinese characters. This is an important book for understanding the construction of Hong Kong identity, which more generally enables taking popular music seriously, and deconstructs many prejudices about Cantopop.

Translated by Michael Black.

Nathanel Amar, Ph.D. in Political Science, is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities of the University of Hong Kong (namar@hku.hk).

[1] Chu Yiu-Wai, Lost in Transition: Hong Kong Culture in the Age of China, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2013.

[2] James Wong, The Rise and Decline of Cantopop: A Study of Hong Kong Popular Music (1949-1997), PhD Thesis, Hong Kong, University of Hong Kong, 2003.

[3] Natalia Sui-hung Chan, “Queering Body and Sexuality: Leslie Cheung’s Gender Representation in Hong Kong Popular Culture,” in Yau Ching (ed.), As Normal As Possible: Negotiating Sexuality and Gender in Mainland China and Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2010, p. 147.

[4] It was the subject of a chapter in the book by Jeroen de Kloet and Yiu Fai Chow, Sonic Multiplicities. Hong Kong Pop and the Global Circulation of Sound and Image, Chicago, Intellect, 2013, pp. 81-100.

[5] Mike Levin, “Chinese Pop Music Lovers Show A Taste For Rock,” Billboard, 21 January 1995, p. 45.

China Perspectives


[Book] Hong Kong CantopopA Concise History (香港粵語流行曲簡史) by Yiu-Wai Chu


Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History
Yiu-Wai Chu
January 2017
256 pages
6″ x 9″, 5 tables

Cantopop was once the leading pop genre of pan-Chinese popular music around the world. In this pioneering study of Cantopop in English, Yiu-Wai Chu shows how the rise of Cantopop is related to the emergence of a Hong Kong identity and consciousness. Chu charts the fortune of this important genre of twentieth-century Chinese music from its humble, lower-class origins in the 1950s to its rise to a multimillion-dollar business in the mid-1990s. As the voice of Hong Kong, Cantopop has given generations of people born in the city a sense of belonging. It was only in the late 1990s, when transformations in the music industry, and more importantly, changes in the geopolitical situation of Hong Kong, that Cantopop showed signs of decline. As such, Hong Kong Cantopop: A Concise History is not only a brief history of Cantonese pop songs, but also of Hong Kong culture. The book concludes with a chapter on the eclipse of Cantopop by Mandapop (Mandarin popular music), and an analysis of the relevance of Cantopop to Hong Kong people in the age of a dominant China. Drawing extensively from Chinese-language sources, this work is a most informative introduction to Hong Kong popular music studies.

Yiu-Wai Chu is professor and director of the Hong Kong Studies Programme in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong.

“Few scholars I know of have as thorough a knowledge of Cantopop as Yiu-Wai Chu. The account he provides here—of pop music as a nexus of creative talent, commoditized culture, and geopolitical change—is not only a story about postwar Hong Kong; it is also a resource for understanding the term ‘localism’ in the era of globalization.” —Rey Chow, Duke University

“Yiu-Wai Chu’s book presents a remarkable accomplishment: it is not only the first history of Cantopop published in English; it also manages to interweave the sound of Cantopop with the geopolitical changes taking place in East Asia. Combining a lucid theoretical approach with rich empirical insights, this book will be a milestone in the study of East Asian popular cultures.” —Jeroen de Kloet, University of Amsterdam

[Preview] Chu, Yiu Wai 2017 Hong Kong Cantopop – A Concise History

cfp: XX Biennial IASPM Conference (Canberra, Australia, 24-28 June, 2019)

Turns and Revolutions in Popular Music Studies

XX Biennial IASPM Conference
School of Music, The Australian National University
Canberra, Australia, 24–28 June 2019

Call for Presentations

As certain songsters and songstresses have noted, seasons turn, turn, turn, even if you are talking about a revolution. While global warming alters seasonal cycles with the aid of neoliberal and (pseudo)socialist forms of capitalism, and waves of societal turmoil follow each other with varying degrees of authoritarianism in different parts of the world, popular music studies remains committed to critical enquiry of music of the masses, the everyday, a variety of subcultures, the megastars, all with their revolutionary potential. Faced with the increasing worldwide austerity in the humanities and social sciences, caused by short-sighted research funding policies that purportedly aim at revolutionary technological and business innovations, popular music studies also struggles with its future directions. Whither popular music studies and where to turn?

Popular music studies in its institutional form is approaching the end of its youthful years, and IASPM will celebrate its twentieth biennial conference in Canberra. This provides also an opportunity to turn to the past and reconsider what may be learned from the twists and shouts of the previous decades. How have recent affective, neomaterialist, performative, post-humanist, spatial, transnational and visual turns, among others, affected popular music studies, and what might the emergent or future disciplinary turns be? Or to what extent do the turns and revolutions within popular music studies signal an excessive neoliberal belief in constant innovation that implies a lack of thorough investigation of the field’s intellectual history? How are the politics of higher education changing the field’s history of critical research and challenging its civic agenda?

To address these issues, as well as any other questions and topics related to the past, present and future turns and revolutions of popular music studies, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music invites proposals for the twentieth biennial conference, to be held at the School of Music at the Australian National University in Canberra 24–28 June 2019. The general theme of the conference is divided into six interrelated streams:

a) Temporal turns and revolutions. In recent years there has been a pronounced interest in popular music as cultural heritage. Alongside issues of heritagisation, this stream accommodates topics relating to nostalgia, history, historiography and futurology alike, and any other aspect involving temporal relations within popular music studies.

b) Spatial turns and revolutions. As popular music studies is a global field of enquiry, debates emerge concerning the key geographical loci of its knowledge production. This stream welcomes discussion on the centrality of Western conceptualisations of popular music and their challenges, including the variety of centre–periphery relations, “locals” versus “newcomers”, migration and displacement. Furthermore, how are issues of space and place dealt with in the field, including such liminal circumstances as festivals?

c) Technological turns and revolutions. Media studies approaches constitute a dominant strand of popular music studies, and in addition to issues of media, mediation, mediatisation, et cetera, this stream invites topics that address all dimensions of popular music and technology, whether conceived as practical technical solutions or more abstract logic behind the use of various tools and techniques. A particularly relevant theme in this stream is the presence of technological elements in all stages of the music industry, from production to consumption, and how they blur the lines between live, recorded and streamed music experiences. Additionally, how is technology inspiring aesthetic choices, also in terms of post-digital backlash?

d) Political turns and revolutions. Popular music studies, however defined, is intimately associated with questions of power relations and hence with politics. In an age of global migration, extremist populism, global warming and #metoo, the politics of popular music are implicated in issues of racism, ecological activism and gender and sexual discrimination in particular. Presentations focussing on identity, intersectionality, and more generally, inclusivity are especially welcome, as well as those that address the socio-historical shifts in protest music, however conceived.

e) Theoretical turns and revolutions. How has the inherent interdisciplinary nature of the field evolved during the last decades? How have “popular” and “music” been – and continue to be – understood in the field, and how is their “study” or “analysis” conceived? Furthermore, how are the theoretical and methodological choices that popular music scholars make today likely to affect the field’s “health and wellbeing” in the future? Of particular relevance here are topics that deal with conceptual curves and conflicts within popular music studies, whether stemming from feminism, Marxism, postcolonialism, semiotics, music analysis, or any strand of music theory in its broadest sense.

f) Affective turns and revolutions. Issues of feeling, emotion and pleasure have been central in the study of popular music, in part because of the importance granted to forms of stardom and fandom. Alongside such questions, this stream tackles additional aspects of affective attunements and alliances within popular music and its scholarly investigation.

Academic Committee

Pablo Alabarces, Emilia Barna, Sam de Boise, Giacomo Bottà, Diego García Peinazo, Elsa Grassy, Florian Heesch, Sarah Hill, Fabian Holt, Nadine Hubbs, Laura Jordán González, Akitsugu Kawamoto, Pil Ho Kim, Serge Lacasse, Kristin McGee, Isabella Pek, Rosa Reitsamer (co-chair), Geoff Stahl (co-chair).

Local Organising Committee

Samantha Bennett (chair), Catherine Hoad, Di Hughes, Stephen Loy, Bonnie McConnell, Pat O’Grady, Georgia Pike, Julie Rickwood, Geoff Stahl, Catherine Strong, Aleisha Ward, Samuel Whiting, Kirsten Zemke.


There will be four options: panels (of 3 or 4 presenters), individual papers, film/video presentations, or poster sessions. Panels and individual papers may also be delivered as practice-based presentations, featuring performance-based, composition-based, recording-based or multimedia-based research. In case of practice-based presentations, please make sure to include a description of room and/or technical requirements. In addition, online presentations may be considered for inclusion in the programme, yet priority is given to on-site participation.


Proposals of organized panels are strongly recommended (two-hour long sessions with four papers, or three papers and a discussant). Each session should leave at least 30 minutes for discussion or for comments by a discussant immediately following the presentations. The panel organizer should submit the panel abstract and all individual abstracts (200 words each) in one document, with a full list of participant names and email addresses. Where an independently submitted abstract appears to fit a panel, the Academic Committee may suggest the addition of a panellist.


We invite abstracts of no longer than 200 words, including five keywords for programming purposes and an optional list of references (max 10). Individual paper presentations are 20 minutes long to be followed by 10 minutes of discussion.

Film/video session

Recently completed films introduced by their author and discussed by conference participants may be proposed. Submit a 200-word abstract including titles, subjects, and formats, and indicate the duration of the proposed films/videos and introduction/discussion.

Poster session

A space where presenters can exhibit posters will be provided. A 200-word abstract by the poster’s author, including five keywords for programming purposes, must be submitted.


Please email your abstract no later than 31 July 2018, as a doc/odt/rtf attachment to iaspm2019@anu.edu.au. Please name the file with your surname (eg. Ciccone.docx). The following format should be used:

• Name, affiliation and contact email address
• Type of presentation (select one from: panel, individual paper, film/video, poster)
• Stream (select preferably one but not more than two from: Temporal/Spatial/Technological/Political/Theoretical/Affective Turns and Revolutions)
• Title of presentation
• Abstract (200 words maximum; in the case of panels, include a general abstract followed by individual abstracts, in total 1000 words maximum)
• Five keywords
• Bio (80 words maximum; in case of panels, bios of all participants)

Abstracts will be accepted in English, IASPM’s official language. Papers in all other languages are allowed, if accompanied by a visual presentation in English. Letters of acceptance will be sent by 30 September 2018.

Each participant must be a member of IASPM: http://www.iaspm.net/how-to-join. Each participant may present only one paper at the Conference, but may also preside over a panel or serve as a discussant.

The conference organisers look forward to receiving your submissions!

With kindest regards

IASPM Executive Committee:
Julio Mendivil, Chair
Jacopo Conti
Marta García Quiñones
Antti-Ville Kärjä
Kimi Kärki
Sílvia Martínez
Ann Werner

Call for Proposals: IASPM-SEA Conference 2019

Call for Proposals: IASPM-SEA Conference 2019

‘Popular x Traditional’

11-13 January 2019, RUANG Think City, Kuala Lumpur

Deadline for abstracts: 31 August 2018

The IASPM-SEA Conference (IASPM-SEA 2019), hosted by RUANG Think City, will take place on Friday 11th to Sunday 13th January 2019 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This international conference will feature research and performances about the interaction, convergence and contestation of popular music with traditional music in Southeast Asia. We also welcome proposals of / from / on any region that relate to the conference theme or subthemes.

Aside from aesthetic approaches that merge local traditions with global popular music styles, the conference also seeks to question the notion of the popular in relation to the traditional. It is often overlooked that currently considered traditional musics were once popular art forms, either practiced communally (in sites of worship, villages, homes, ritual festivities) or consumed commercially (in records, films, cassettes, concert halls). However, postcolonial states in the region continually seek to construct and perpetuate a primordial expression of national identity, sourced in invented traditions that have resulted in homogenous boundaries of musical culture. In truth, the popular is in constant dialogue with the traditional, as musical practices and styles adapt and change in a process mediated by human actors in ever-changing historical, political, social and cultural contexts.

Thus, the theme of ‘Popular x Traditional’ invites participants to think beyond such the oppositional divide between the two terms in music practice and scholarship, drawing attention to the fluid interchanges and continual adaptations of music-making in the context of distinct national, ethnic and cultural identities expressed in an increasingly commodified and digitally-mediated world.

Keynote speakers

– To be announced

Conference Themes

– Popular x Traditional

– Local x Global

– Art x Commercial

– Performance x Production

– Analog x Digital

– Independent x Mainstream

– Religious x Secular

Proposal categories
– Papers (20 minutes maximum, with 10 minutes for discussion)
– Paper sessions (three or four papers, each of 20 minutes maximum, with 10 minutes per paper for discussion)
– Roundtable discussions (up to 6 participants, each giving a short position paper, followed by a general discussion, total running time of 90 or 120 minutes)
– Recitals, lecture-recitals and lectures illustrated by sound diffusions or audio-visual screenings (maximum duration 90 minutes)

Proposal guidelines
– For individual papers: up to 250 words
– For paper sessions: 250-word (maximum) summary and up to 200 words for each session participant
– For roundtable discussions: 250-word (maximum) and up to 150 words for each panel participant
– For recitals, lecture-recitals and lectures illustrated by sound diffusions or audio-visual screenings: 250 word (maximum) summary, plus participant CVs and recordings / scores / other details of works to be included in the event (contact the organizing committee to discuss)

Further information for applicants
– Proposals must be sent by email as a MS Word or PDF attachment to iaspm.sea@gmail.com.
– Proposals need not be anonymised.
– All enquiries should be sent to Ken-Ny via iaspm.sea@gmail.com.

Programme committee:

Adil Johan (UKM, Malaysia)

Citra Aryandari (ISI Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

Raja Iskandar Halid (UMK, Malaysia)

Liew Kai Khiun (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Viriya Sawangchot (Inter-Asia School, Thailand)

Sarah Hill (Cardiff University, UK)

Proposal submission deadline:

31 August 2018.

Applicants will be notified by 30 September 2018.

The 6th IAPMS Conference in Beijing, China, 2018


*** Jun 2, 2018: Program Booklet (ver 1.4) 

*** May 24, 2018: Panel Schedule announced

*** May 24, 2018: Location and Transportation

*** Dec 5, 2018: The deadline for the submission is extended to December 29.


The 6th Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Conference 2018 in Beijing, China


June 9-10, 2018



Communication University of China

No.1 Ding Fuzhuang East Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100024



Organized by:

Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group (IAPMS Group)

Music and Recording Art College, Faculty of Art, Communication University of China


Keynote speaker:

Keith Negus (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)



Asia in the Mix: Places, Temporalities and Inter-Asian Entanglements of Popular Music



Ranging from J-pop to Indonesian punk, from Chinese folk to Japanese Enka, from Bollywood songs to Thai heavy metal, music takes multiple forms and identities, allowing for complex negotiations of both time and place. These forms quickly travel, mostly regionally, and in some rare cases also globally. The circulation of sounds changes over time, for example, where in the 1990s Cantopop played an important role regionally, this role has now been taken over by both Mandapop and K-Pop. The sound of Bollywood, on the other hand, continues to fascinate the global imagination. Further down in South-east Asia, Indonesian and Malaysian boy bands merge their Islamic beliefs with the global sound of pop.

Amidst this cacophony of voices, sounds and images, we wonder: what are the sounds of that construct called “Asia”? How do sounds travel regionally, and globally, and why? How comes that certain sounds travel better than others? How does the music industry respond to the changes caused by globalization and digitization? What transnational fancultures do emerge? The entanglements we witness refer not only to place but also to time, for example, folk music often expresses an urban alienation and romanticizes a forgotten past, while other sounds from the past are brought back to life, or reassembled in a quite different form, or come from a different place. The nostalgia of Japanese Enka speaks to the longings of urban youth in Taiwan. And take for example the Chinese band RETROS and their reinterpretation of the 80s sound of Bauhaus from the UK, or a reinterpretation of the Shanghai sound of Zhou Xuan from the 1930s and 1940s in electronic music. At the same time, in India, old Bollywood classics are reworked into club house dance songs. These various music cultures and their social significance cannot be possible without the workings of the music industry, whether on a local, regional or international scale.


This conference aims to bring scholars together that work on the different popular musics of Asia, linking these to negotiations of both place and time, and paying special attention to the entanglements of sound with these two categories.



Please submit an abstract (200-300 words) and short bio (max. 100 words) by 15 29 December 2017 to iapmsconference@gmail.com. For panels, please submit a general panel description of 200-300 words, four abstracts (200-300 words each) and biographies (max. 100 words each). Please use the Proposal Form (right click to download) when submitting your proposal, and use your surname as file name (ex. Chua.doc, Douglas.doc).


Notice of acceptance will be given by 1 February 2018


Registration fee


Waged members: 75 USD

Unwaged/ Students: 50 USD





Journal Support:

Global Media and China


Local committee:

Zhang Qian (Communication University of China)

Zhao Zhi’an (Communication University of China)


Organizing committee:

Yiu Fai Chow (Hong Kong Baptist University, China)

Anthony Fung (Chinese University, Hong Kong/ China)

Kaori Fushiki (Taisho University, Japan)

Jeroen Groenewegen (Independent scholar, China/ the Netherlands)

Tung Hung Ho (Fu-jen Catholic University, Taiwan)

Jeroen de Kloet (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands/ Beijing Film Academy, China)

Liu Fei (Chinese National Academy of Arts, China)

Yoshitaka Mori (Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan)

Hyunjoon Shin (Sungkonghoe University, Korea)

Jung-yup Lee (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

Wang Qian (Yibin University, China)

Zhang Qian (Communication University of China, China)

[Book Review] Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music – Motti Regev


Book Review

Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music

Pages 1-2 | Published online: 10 Jul 2017

A fine addition to the highly recommended series Global Popular Music (edited by Franco Fabbri and Goffredo Plastino), this volume on popular music in Korea (short for South Korea) is as comprehensive as such a book can be. Its sixteen thematic chapters are divided into four sections, devoted to histories, genres, artists, and socio-cultural issues. These are preceded by a short introduction, outlining some basic information about Korean history, aspects of language, and transcription. The book is rounded up by a chapter on the circulation of Korean pop in Asia, and (a permanent feature in the series) a conversation with a prominent musician. In this case it is the late Shin Hae-chul (1968–2014), a major figure in Korean pop-rock music of the 1990s.

Admittedly, I am not an expert on Korean music or culture. For my own work on the globalization of pop-rock music (see Regev) I have consulted several available texts in English (notably Epstein; Howard; Shin; Kim and Shin) that provided intriguing introductions to the complexity and richness of the field of pop-rock in this country. This new book goes several steps further in offering a multifaceted view of major themes and issues in Korean popular music. Three key topics seem to be at the core of any interest in Korean pop-rock. These are the stylistic and socio-cultural evolution of pop-rock music in Korea, and especially its relation to local indigenous traditions; the social and political context of pop-rock music production and consumption, amid the prominent American presence in the country or the authoritarian regimes that were in power until the 1990s; and the phenomenon of K-Pop that swept young people in East Asia and other parts of the world at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Indeed, audiences in other parts of the world became aware of Korean popular music mostly in the wake of K-pop. This major phenomenon is covered here in two chapters. One (by Sun Jung) illuminates the deliberate production of the “wave” as an export project by the cultural industries of Korea, and especially their conscious use of social media. The other (by Dong-Yeun Lee) examines the meaning and role of idols in the context of K-Pop. Combining pop tunes and glamorous images of youth, these cultural products with short life spans are interpreted here as typical of the neo-liberal market.

K-pop and idol culture are, however, but one relatively recent phase in the history of Korean pop-rock. As the thread that runs through this book makes clear, it is a history characterized by a quest for a balance between Western, mostly Anglo-American influences, and traditional or indigenous sounds. Strictly local genres attempt to preserve a musical language of supposedly pure “Korean-ness.” These obviously include folk music and People’s Song (both discussed here in a chapter by Aekyung Park), but also Trot and Ballad, explained and described in a chapter by Yu-Jeong Chang.

Several chapters in the book add up to present a broad picture of the stylistic evolution of pop-rock in Korea, including explorations of typical Korean sounds and the intricate ways in which this has been entangled with changing attitudes of the regime towards popular music. A chapter by Jung-Yup Lee in the History section follows the change in media broadcasting of music from being a state and politically controlled institution to a highly commercialized and diverse mechanism in the 1990s and 2000s. Soojin Kim, in her chapter in the Issues section, completes this aspect by surveying the ambivalence towards popular music in the cultural policies of the regimes through the years.

Chapters in the Artists section fill this institutional context with examinations of three towering figures in the history of Korean pop-rock. Dohee Kwon focuses on Shin Joong Hyun, one of the most influential and prominent rock musicians in the country, and especially on one of his most famous works, “Miin” (1974); Okon Hwang outlines the career of composer and singer Kim Min-ki, whose song “Ach’imisŭl” became an anthem for the anti-dictatorship movement of the 1970s; and Eun-Young Jung discusses the impact of Seo Taiji, whose career was pivotal in introducing hip hop, dance, metal and hard rock to the mainstream of Korean popular music. Additionally, an interesting chapter by Haekyung Um in the Issues section examines changes in the vocal style of Korean singers along history and across styles, and points to the cultural shifts reflected in them.

A review of the stylistic scope and genealogy of Korean pop-rock is provided by Pil Ho Kim in the Genres section. His chapter traces the path of Korean rock from the early Group Sound phenomenon of the 1960s and early 1970s to the most recent indie and alternative bands of the 2000s. His observation about the relation of twenty-first-century indie rockers, who “managed to bring back the old formula of global-local balance with a new twist,” to the history of Korean popular music seems to capture the cultural essence of the story unfolded in this book. He writes, “For example, 3rd Line Butterfly resurrects Kim Hae-song, the jazz genius during the 1930-1940s, by sampling his music in “Kimp”o ssangna’al’ (Double Horn of Kimp’o, 2004). Chang Ki-ha Wa Ŏlgul Tŭl (Chang Kiha and the Faces) . . . makes clever references to Group Sound rock and modern folk of the 1970s.” Kim concludes that “Korean popular music has been around long enough to establish a tradition of its own and to help create new local sound that may well be added to the global repertoire of rock music” (all quotations 80).

Regretfully, language and other cultural aspects hinder fans in other countries from getting acquainted with and enjoying the full range of pop-rock music from Korea. At the scholarly level, however, this book provides an expansive overview, written by an expert team of researchers. This book is certainly not just for scholars of Korean or Asian culture. I think that researchers in popular music, cultural studies, media, and cultural sociology who are interested in the details and intricacies of cultural globalization can find a wealth of information and insights hidden in these pages.

Motti Regev
The Open University of Israel

© 2017 Motti Regev

Works Cited

  • Epstein, Stephen J. “Anarchy in the UK, Solidarity in the ROK: Punk Rock Comes to Korea.” Acta Koreana 3 (2000): 134. Print.
  • Howard, Keith, ed. Korean Pop Music: Riding the WaveFolkestoneGlobal Oriental2006. Print.
  • Kim, Pil Ho, and Hyunjoon Shin. “The Birth of ‘Rok’: Cultural Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Glocalization of Rock Music in South Korea, 1964–1975.” Positions 18 (2010): 199230. Print.


  • Regev, MottiPop-Rock Music: Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism in Late ModernityCambridgePolity2013. Print.
  • Shin, Hyunjoon. “The Success of Hopelessness: The Evolution of Korean Indie Music.” Perfect Beat 12 (2011): 147165. Print.