Ask most music fans what they know about K-pop and they’ll probably mention Psy and his massive global hit, “Gangnam Style.”

But there are tons of other artists making Korean pop music — and they’re not all Korean.

Check out CoCo Avenue, a duo based in Los Angeles. You may think they hail from LA’s Koreatown, but Jenny Lyric is originally from St. Louis and Jenna Rose was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. And they’re both African American.

Lyric and Rose both discovered K-pop from watching videos on You Tube, particularly the Wonder Girls, a girl group from South Korea. “Seeing their video on You Tube was kinda the gateway to seeing every other K-pop act after that,” Lyric says. This was in 2009.

Both women started making music videos on their own, posted them on You Tube, and built a following, seperately. But then fans started confusing them. “People would message Jenny, thinking I was her,” says Rose.

Eventually it was Lyric who reached out and said “I think we’re kinda like twins. Let’s do some covers together.”

Because they’re not Korean, both women feel they’ve “opened a lot of doors … about what is K-pop,” says Rose.

But some critics say what they’re doing is not really K-pop. And most of the comments come from those in Korean American communities. The main charge they make is that CoCo Avenue is not really contributing money to Korea, therefore it’s not really K-pop. Lyric says, “It’s not so much what we classify ourselves as.” Rose adds, “We just like to sing in Korean.”

And sing in Korean they did — to fans in Seoul. They recently played a concert there and got a huge, positive response. Fans, of course, recognized the songs, as most of what CoCo Avenue sings are covers of popular K-pop tunes. But Lyric is quick to add that “it’s our goal to put our own thing, our own sound, into what they’ve already created. And I think the people who watch our covers appreciate that we take that twist on it.”

By April Peavey, PRI’s The World
This article is syndicated from PRI’s The World.

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