GLOBAL FLOW #2: POPULAR MUSIC- CULTURAL HYBRIDIZATION
In a globalized world, popular music flows easily across national boundaries. Because English is the dominant language in popular music today, music is an aspect of the mass media that provides motivation for learning English (McKay & Bokhorst-Heng, 2008). According to Pennycook (2007), popular music is a clear illustration of transcultural flows where global and local languages mix to create new language and art forms. He argues that English is “a translocal language, a language of fluidity and fixity that moves across, while becoming embedded in, the materiality of localities and social relations” (2007: 6). In many countries, exposure to popular songs in English has led to plenty of language mixing in locally produced pop music.
As Kachru (2006) points out in her study of Hindi popular songs, such mixing can serve various purposes, such as providing social commentary or achieving satirical and humorous effects. For example, in the following line from a song analyzed by Kachru (2006: 230), the word funda can represent both an abbreviation of the English word fundamental and the anglicized pronunciation of the Hindi word phanda, “a noose, lasso, knot”:
Pyaar Ka Funda Hit Huaa Apnaa Chakkar Fit Huaa (“The lasso of love found its mark self’s plan worked”)
Kachru (2006) explains that in addition to serving the needs of rhyme and connecting the word funda with the fundamental philosophy of life that the song mentions, using funda in the song also exploits this double meaning of the word to add to the satirical effect. She argues that this type of bilingual word play resonates with the listeners because there are many expressions in both Hindi and English that compare being in love with being caught in a net or snare.
Lee’s (2004) study of South Korean popular music, or K-Pop, shows that code-mixing is used by Korean youth to assert their identity, challenge dominant representations of authority, and reject older generations’ conservatism. She argues that while the English used in K-Pop represents self-indulgent attitudes, Korean lyrics within the same song represent more reserved and conformist views. She contends that mixing the two languages symbolizes Korean youth’s attempt to define their identities in a world characterized by tension between global and local ideologies. Similarly, Moody (2006) asserts that the use of English in Japanese popular music, or J-Pop, challenges and redefines Japanese ethnolinguistic identity. He argues that the J-Pop mode of mixing Japanese and Western forms and content blurs ethnic identity boundaries and challenges the belief that Japanese is unique.
While mixing English with local languages is a prominent feature of popular music in many countries, globalization is not only about the transmission of Western cultures and ideals to non-Western countries. In other words, it is not a one-way flow. For example, Iwabuchi (2002) contends that contrary to the popular belief that globalization is the worldwide spread of Western—particularly American—popular culture, Japan’s “localizing” strategy of repackaging Western popular culture for Asian consumption has resulted in a broad adoption of Japanese popular culture throughout East and Southeast Asia. Similarly, Ryoo (2009) points out that South Korea is now a brisk exporter of music, TV programming, and films to the Asia-Pacific region. He explains that K-Pop, which is itself heavily influenced by Western culture and English mixing, is preferred over Western music throughout Asia because it contains Asian values and sentiments while being just Westernized enough to mediate information from the West to Asia.
This pan-Asian movement is now spreading to the U.S., which Iwabuchi (2002) terms as “trans-Asian cultural traffic.” Korean Americans and Korean students studying abroad in the U.S. play an important role in spreading Korean pop culture in the U.S. (Nakagawa, 2010). For some Korean Americans, consumption of Korean pop culture is motivated by their search for an identity and a sense of belonging as an ethnic and racial minority in the U.S. The physical and psychological distance between Korea and Korean Americans is greatly reduced by the widespread use of the Internet, satellite, and cable technologies that enable pop culture to flow easily in both directions (Nakagawa,
2010). What we witness then is a two-way traffic of transcultural flows of Korean artists importing and localizing American pop music, which is then exported back to the U.S.