K-POP Anarchic hip-hop/rock Balming Tiger is K-pop of a different...

Anarchic hip-hop/rock Balming Tiger is K-pop of a different stripe


- Advertisment -

What comes to mind when you think of K-pop? Cool haircuts, synchronized dance moves and corporate-approved, squeaky-clean, boy-band and girl-group personas that never cross the line, am I right?

Well, Omega Sapien is out to upend that image. As the frontman for the Seoul music-art-video collective Balming Tiger, he’s the ringleader of an anarchic circus of sound that plays gleefully atop the borders that separate K-pop and pop as well as Korean and English, and hip-hop, punk, rock and dance music. After a succession of crafty singles — like the slinky “SOS,” the undulating “Sexy Nukim” and the infectious “Armadillo” — and enthusiastically received performances at events such as South by Southwest, the group has just released its first album, “January Never Dies,” and is in the midst of a tour that comes to Houston’s The Studio at Warehouse Live on Nov. 19 and culminates in Mexico and Colombia.

Finding some level of success in the U.S. is a full-circle moment for Sapien (born Jung Eui Suk) who spent much of his childhood in New Jersey before returning to South Korea and ultimately throwing himself into the underground music and art scene. Now, he’s back as a role model of sorts in the country where he saw few pop-culture heroes who look like him.

“Korea is a very mono-culture society. We all speak Korean. We all look Korean. So just getting out of that and experiencing the world…was a good thing,” says Sapien, 25, in a Zoom interview from a Los Angeles hotel room. “On the other hand, I had an immigrant identity crisis, especially at that time there was not really Asian representation. There were comedians doing the stereotypical Asian things but there were no idols to look up to. I have to trace it back to Bruce Lee and I’m not even of that era. That was definitely tough. But also I think it built me in a way that I’m, I don’t know, fearless.”

That’s one reason why Sapien, whose music bears the rough edges that most K-pop sands down, doesn’t mind being called K-pop and lumping himself in with the likes of the far slicker BTS and Blackpink. In fact, Balming Tiger collaborated with BTS member RM on “Sexy Nukim.”

“The word ‘K-pop’ means Korean people making music from Korea so I guess (what we do) is K-pop…K-pop is not really a genre. It’s just that the world is not used to having this country in Asia blow up culturally worldwide,” Sapien says. “We’re used to having English-speaking American artists go global or British artists go global. We’ve never seen non-English people going global so they label it K-pop…I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, we’re not K-pop.’…We’re just proud and we’re just lucky to be able to create music in Korea at this period of time.”

Though Sapien says he has been influenced musically by Tyler the Creator and Pharrell Williams, his sense of being Asian informs much of what he does.

“I really want to push this Asian identity thing because I want to be unapologetically Asian. I want to claim it as mine and I want to be make it cool,” he says. “My hope is that when another Korean kid moves to America in the eighth grade, I want him to see me and be like, ‘Oh, man, it’s cool to be Korean. It is cool to be myself’.”

But that doesn’t mean that Balming Tiger is understood by mainstream Korea. Sapien says a “very traditional, political newspaper” there referred to the band as “aliens.”

Musical group Balming Tiger, fronted by Omega Sapien, performs onstage at “Balming Tiger: Joyful Delivery Music Festival Showcase” during 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Reina and ReyRey on March 19, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Chris Saucedo/Getty Ima/Getty Images for SXSW

“When I come to Europe or America, I really see the alternate, left-field scene or subculture scene as really prospering. There are so many different types of things that you can tap into,” he says. “Now, in Korea, there always has been a (alternative) scene but now it’s trying to get there (where America is).”

On the other hand, many Americans and Europeans are obsessed with South Korean pop-culture, whether it’s in films (“Parasite,” “Train to Busan”), TV (“Squid Game,” “All of Us Are Dead”) or music. Sapien thinks he knows why there’s such a fascination and it starts with the destruction wrought by the Korean War in the ’50s.

“It was like we started off in a blank slate. My father and mother’s generation, they didn’t have time to appreciate art or (think) ‘How can I live a better life?’ So this art thing is very recent,” he says. “It’s so young right now in Korea that it’s flexible…Everything is so new and we’re just open to everything. We’re learning from America. We’re learning from the UK. We’re learning from Japan…We’re absorbing everything and creating something in our own country.”

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 19

Where: The Studio at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel

Details: $25; warehouselive.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Google stock up after company announces Gemini AI model

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, speaks on artificial intelligence during a Bruegel think tank conference in Brussels,...

Heisman Trophy candidates: The case for each 2023 finalist

The class of finalists for the 2023 Heisman Trophy is as deep as it is...

Who Is Aoora? Bigg Boss 17’s New Wildcard Contestant

"Jab hogi wild card entry of the biggest K-Pop sensation, tab badal jaayegi ghar ke andar ki situation."The makers...

Fans hail STRAY KIDS’ Felix as ‘the main event’ as he attends GQ Night in Korea

Felix, a member of the South Korean boy band STRAY KIDS, recently shot a fashion film video...
- Advertisement -

Liberal government unveils framework to cap oil and gas emissions at 35% to 38% below 2019 levels | CBC News

The Liberal government announced its regulatory framework for capping emissions in the oil and gas sector Thursday, unveiling a...

“I Wouldn’t Be an Actress Today.”

Summary Angelina Jolie, a highly accomplished actress and filmmaker, expressed her doubts about starting out as an...

Must read

- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you