M.Pire brings K-pop to Korean Fest
BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Korean culture tops this weekend’s list of big events in family entertainment as the Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce presents the annual Korean Festival at Magic Island (a new location this year, as improvements are underway at Kapiolani Park).
One of the most visible examples of Korean culture in recent years has been K-pop, Korea’s super-successful spin on contemporary American pop that blends elements of electronic dance music, light rock, hip-hop and R&B. K-pop is represented at this year’s festival by M.Pire, pronounced “empire,” a seven-member singing/dancing boy band — Taehee, Lumin, Seo Yooseung, Haru, Red, T.O and Jerry.
13TH ANNUAL KOREAN FESTIVAL
Featuring K-pop group M.Pire
» Where: Magic Island
CULTURE, GRINDS IN STORE AT KOREAN FESTIVAL
» Korean Festival cultural events include a taekwondo (Korean martial arts) demonstration, Korean fan and drum dances, cooking lessons, a Korean song contest and a kimchee eating contest.
» Those who want to enjoy traditional Korean cuisine at a more leisurely pace will find items including kalbi (Korean-style BBQ shortribs), tteokbokki (small rice cakes in spicy sauce) and mandoo (dumpling), pictured, in the product tents.
» The purpose of the Korean Festival is to share, promote and raise awareness of Korean culture. Proceeds fund service projects that benefit the Oahu community — Korean and non-Korean alike.
M.Pire fans know that the group made its official debut with a slightly different roster at the 2013 Dream Concert in Seoul, and expanded to seven when Lumin joined them in October. (Fans will also know that the group’s acronym of a mission statement, “MUSE,” stands for “Mind,” “Understand,” “Special” and “Encourage.”)
M.Pire’s discography includes a debut digital download single, “Carpe Diem,” and a six-song project, “New Born,” released in October. The act’s current EP, “Rumors,” came out in May. It includes the current single, “She Ain’t Like That.”
M.Pire has been on tour in Asia this month. On Monday, during a day off in Japan, the performers responded via email to some questions. This writer doesn’t speak Korean and the band members are not fluent in English, so the group’s manager, Na Min Young, served as go-between:
QUESTION: What is the most important thing people in Hawaii should know about M.Pire?
ANSWER: We are a “boy group” from Korea with seven members. Our group name, M.Pire, combines the English words “music” and “vampire.” It means we feed on music and our fans love to live. It is pronounced like “empire.”
Q: What song that you have recorded best represents M.Pire this summer?
A: We have to say it is our latest single, “She Ain’t Like That,” that was released in May.
Q: How do you describe your music? “K-pop” is a fine general label, but you have something more specific?
A: We do not have the “M.Pire music style” yet, but we are trying to put ourselves on a mission to make something new each and every time that we make our music.
“K-pop” is the genre that anybody can listen to. Also, it is fun to listen to what the overseas musicians make based on American popular music. For instance, our latest single, “She Ain’t Like That,” was based on soul, funk and retro.
Q: What are your goals for M.Pire in the next 12 months?
A: To become more popular. To make songs that touch the listener’s heart. And to become the best boy group in Korea.
Q: What do you enjoy doing most as a working group — recording? Doing concerts? Making videos? Something else?
A: We enjoy all those things. We are very energetic when we are all together. But if we had to choose one, we have to say concerts. We haven’t had a huge fancy concert yet, but every time when we are on a stage, that’s the most valuable time.
Q: Do you have time to watch Korean “soap operas,” or are you too busy with your own careers?
A: We do watch “soap operas” when we have time. We call them “dramas” in Korea. Our two main vocalists, Lumin and T.O, have sung the original soundtrack of one of the latest Korean dramas, “Hotel King,” which debuted in April.
Q: Who are some of the entertainers — Korean or non-Korean — who inspire or influence M.Pire?
A: We are most influenced by K-pop entertainers like TVXQ, Big Bang, Beast and many others.
Q: If you could do a concert anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
A: NYC!! Showbiz mecca city of the world.
Q: In 1963 a Japanese singer, Sakamoto Kyu, had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with a song known in the United States as “Sukiyaki.” It never happened again, but modern Korean artists do very well in many countries outside Korea. Do you think modern Korean artists like M.Pire can be successful in the United States beyond the ethnic Korean-American community?
A: It is very hard to say. There are talented Korean singers who could become one. However, we think it is the matter of time and how well the audience accepts the music and performance. Some say K-pop is very unique, some say not. Some say K-pop will lead the world music trends, some say not. Each audience has their own point of view, and it is free for them to judge whether it’s good music or not. To become No. 1 on the Billboard chart, we think it is not only about the music. Performers must understand the culture, trends of the period and, most importantly, how to communicate with the fans by their music.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.