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In Session: Tradition Now: New Roles, Platforms, and Audiences for Korean Performing Arts
3: Resurrecting Trot: How Pansori Facilitated the Triumphant Return of an Old-Fashioned Genre to the Popular Music Scene
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Korea University, Republic of Korea
Trot is a roughly 100-year-old genre of Korean popular music, whose popularity reached its peak in Korea between the 1960s and the 1980s. Since the 1990s, trot seemed to fall out of favor when younger K-pop musicians who have incorporated Western popular musical styles such as ballad, rock, and hip-hop become the norm, dominating the music industry. In this paper I discuss the recent revival of trot and explore contributions to this phenomenon by artists trained in pansori, an even more traditional genre of music performance. The reality TV show Miss Trot (2019) served as a catalyst of this genre’s revival. The American Idol-esque trot audition program rekindled national interest in trot, as the outstanding 19% viewer rating for the series finale shows. But as Song Ga-in, the winner of the competition, was a pansori singer, the program also directed the attention of the fans to this traditional genre. After Song new singers, prominent among them disciples of pansori, began to appear in many different TV shows, beyond the audition program format. This paper supplements observations from Miss Trot and its 2020’s follow-up Mister Trot with a comparison between the trot business structure and the traditional scene, and a series of ethnographic interviews with both trot and pansori singers. Collectively this reveals continuity of trot with traditional arts and its enduring hidden popularity that forms the foundation for trot’s sudden return to the limelight.