Indian K-pop Stars? Here’s Everything We Know So Far
We take a deeper look at the mysterious new label Z-Pop Dream and its goal to create the world’s first ‘truly’ international K-pop group
We’re usually used to seeing India excluded from projects that talk about Asia, whether its tours, TV shows or special projects. It’s pretty standard for many to forget our country is part of Asia too. New South Korean label Z-Pop Dream, however, seems to want to change that.
Co-founded by veteran K-pop industry executive Jun Kang (also CEO of media corporation Zenith Media Contents,) Z-Pop Dream aims to create the world’s first truly international K-pop group. There’s not much information out about the label, but it is gathering traction online with the revelation of that the world’s first Indian K-pop stars will be part of its upcoming project groups.
So far Z-Pop Dream has announced they will be creating two groups, Z-Girls and Z-Boys, each with seven members. The ‘Z’ in the project’s name comes from the audience they plan to target: Generation Z. However it’s possible the names for the groups will change at debut. The company has dropped two teasers on their YouTube channel which announce six members from each group while keeping the seventh a mystery. Yesterday they released an additional video teaser of the six members of Z-Boys.
Z-Girls will feature Priyanka, Bell, Carlyn, Joanne, Queen, and Vanya while Z-Boys comprises of Sid, Blink, Josh, Mavin, Perry and Roy. Sid and Priyanka seem to be the two idols from India while the other members from their respective groups are rumored to be from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Online discussions guess that the seventh member of each group will most likely be Korean.
While celebrities and advisers involved in the project supposedly include Lee Jusun (known for his choreography on PSY’s “Gangnam Style”) and veteran producer Mad Soul Child, the sudden announcement of the project, the mystery around the idols’ identities, the lack of information about auditions and the general ambiguity around the company has K-pop fans around the world wary.
Z-Pop Dream has uploaded a montage-like clip of the audition process which features a brief glimpse of Priyanka, making it likely that the idols were chosen based on open auditions or casting calls. However most fans in the selected countries seemed to have been unaware of any auditions for a new idol group taking place.
The identities and backgrounds of each idol also largely remain a mystery except for two: Carlyn is reportedly Carlyn Ocampo, a YouTuber in the Philippines known for her K-pop dance covers and Mavin is a member of Indonesian boy band B-Force who are also known for performing K-pop dance covers.
According to a press release, Z-pop Dream also aims to create its own form of cryptocurrency (like bitcoin) called the ZPOP Coin as the method of payment for music, online content, merchandise and concert tickets. One ZPOP coin will be worth USD 0.08 and will be the main form of transaction for content from the idols under Z-pop Dream. The company promises to use a blockchain to maintain transparency and states, “Hundreds of millions of music fans spread across the world will power [the project] to discover talent and join star creation process with decisive voting power granted through Z-POP Online. Z-POP DREAM Project will return on society by giving a realistic chance to youngsters and decentralize star creation by blockchain based voting.”
In the same press release, the company claims it will set up Star Academies in 10 countries and regions in addition to Korea, including India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore to recruit more artists over time.
As to how this will all be received… it’s pretty complicated. Foreign idols in K-pop groups aren’t exactly a new thing; several prominent groups like GOT7, BlackPink, EXO, NCT and more do feature non-Korean members from China and Thailand. However, South Korea is notorious for its racism, and when established idols aren’t an exception to attacks, it can be even tougher for rookies. As recently as a week ago there were reports of leading girl group BlackPink’s Thai member Lisa being a target of racist comments by Koreans online. Alexandra Reid, the first African-American K-pop star who was part of girl group BP Rania, had to deal with even more hate. A Billboard article in 2017 outlined the nature of all the comments she was subjected to: “After a recent Lunar New Year photo shoot featuring Rania wearing traditional Korean clothing, Reid alone faced major criticism for daring to wear the outfit; nobody questioned whether BP Rania’s Chinese member should be wearing Korean clothing.”
Indians haven’t fared any better, and are often the target of racist skits and cultural appropriation on Korean variety shows and in K-pop music videos. Producer and television personality ‘Lucky’ Abhishek Gupta (who has lived in Korea for over 22 years) discussed his experiences with racism right up to 2018 in an interview last year with YouTube channel Asian Boss. So it’s very possible the Indian members of the groups will face the brunt of online hate.
As of now, Z-Girls and Z-Boys are scheduled to make their debut on February 23rd at a concert titled ‘Z-Pop Dream Live In Seoul.’ There are no indications as to what the music will sound like or what the groups’ final names and concepts will be. Z-Pop Dream’s website also states the project is a temporary one which will last just four months, which finally begs the question: What will happen to these idols after that?