Trot (music)

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Hangul 트로트 or 트롯트
Revised Romanization Teuroteu or Teurotteu
McCune–Reischauer T'ŭrot'ŭ or T'ŭrott'ŭ

Trot (Korean 트로트 teuroteu) sometimes called ppongjjak (뽕짝)(due to its distinctive background rhythm), is a genre of Korean pop music, and is recognized as the oldest form of Korean pop music. Formulated during the Japanese rule in the early 1900s, the genre has been influenced by Japanese, Western and Korean musical elements. Also, the genre has adopted different names, such as yuhaengga, ppongjjak, and most recently teuroteu (the Korean pronunciation of the word trot). While the genre’s popularity declined during the 1990s, most recently, it has been subject to revivals by contemporary South Korean pop artists such as Jang Yoon Jeong, Super Junior-T, Big Bang member Daesung, Red Velvet member Joy, and Trot Queen Hong Jin-young.

The name derives from a shortening of "foxtrot", a ballroom dance which influenced the simple two-beat of elements of the genre. Trot music is described as two-beat rhythm or duple rhythm, traditional seven-five syllabic stanzas, and unique vocal style called Gagok.


Trot music was formulated during Japan’s colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945. The initial form of trot music were translations of Western or Japanese popular songs, called yuhaeng changga[1] (유행창가 Hanja: 流行唱歌; lit., "popular songs"). Yun Sim-deok’s 1926 recording "In Praise of Death" is often regarded as the first yuhaeng changga. Later, in the 1930s, yuhaeng changga began to be produced by Korean songwriters and composers. These newly composed Korean popular songs were known yuhaengga (유행가; 流行歌; "fashionable music"). However, they soon acquired a new name, daejung gayo (대중가요; 大衆歌謠; "popular music"), referring to popular music in general. Kim Yong-hwan's (김용환; 金龍渙) "Nakhwa Yusu" (낙화유수; 落花流水; "Falling Flowers and Flowing Water") would become emblematic of this rise in Korean songwriters and composers producing popular songs. Additionally, both songs represent the subject matter that arose in yuhaengga, in that they generally dealt with the expression of personal emotions of love and life.

After the end of World War II and Japan’s colonial rule over Korea, trot music began to become more Westernized. The Westernization of trot music was done in part by two reasons: one, the South Korean government’s goal in eradicating the ideological values of communism,[citation needed] and two, South Korean musicians drew on American popular musical trends to appeal to American soldiers stationed in South Korea,[citation needed] as well as to introduce exotic musical effects to South Korean audiences. Female trio singers The Kim Sisters became popular during this time, as their performances drew appeal from American soldiers and audiences, catapulting them to fame when they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s. This period also introduced a number of South Korean musicians to the center such as Lee Mi-ja, Patti Kim, Tae Jin Ah, Na Hoon-a.

Decline in popularity (1980s-1990s)

Trot music gradually lost its dominance in the 1980s, as dance music soon overtook the airwaves. However, the invention of cassettes produced a huge impact on the production of trot, and helped bring about the localization of trot music. It also helped in the invention of the sound of trot medley, which is now emblematic of contemporary Korean trot music. Performers such as Joo Hyun-mi and Epaksa grew in fame. In recent years, trot music has become symbolic of traditional popular music in South Korea.

1984 ppongjjak debate

The origins of trot music have traditionally been disputed. In 1984 this dispute entered the national discourse in South Korea.[2] The debate, initiated in an article published in The Eumak Dong-a: A Monthly Journal of Music (음악동아 Eum-ak Dong-a) in November 1984, centered on whether or not trot music originated from either Japanese or Korean music. Because the genre originated during the colonial period of Korea, as well as incorporated Japanese song influences in changga, the genre has been subject to questioning its Korean identity. Since no concrete evidence has arisen to validate either side, this debate still continues to exist when discussing the origins of trot music.[3]

Contemporary political use of trot music

An article published in the Chosun Ilbo in 2010 reported the government’s use of trot music as a propaganda tool against North Korea.[4] Over 184 songs from artists such as Na Hoon-a, Jang Yun-jeong and Park Hyun-bin, were broadcast through FM radio programs targeting North Korean soldiers.

See also


  1. ^ Son, Min-Jung. "Regulating and Negotiating in T'ûrot'û, a Korean Popular Song Style." Asian Music 37, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 51-74.
  2. ^ Pak, Gloria L. "On the Mimetic Faculty: A Critical Study of the 1984 Ppongtchak Debate and Post-Colonial Mimesis." In Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave, edited by Keith Howard, 62-71. Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2006.
  3. ^ Lee, Gang-Im (2008). Directing Koreanness: Directors and playwrights under the national flag, 1970--2000. ProQuest. ISBN 1-109-05526-9. Despite the considerable popularity of trot song in South Korea, due to the origin of trot song in Japanese enka, this genre is still debated among (pop) critics. 
  4. ^ The Chosunilbo. "Trot Music Is S.Korea's Best Propaganda Weapon". December 30, 2010.
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