Biholi Sema used to shake a leg with Shakira until she discovered it was more fun snaking it up with BoA. Like this 19-year-old, Mambemo Lotha (24) has also converted — from enjoying Eminem to revelling in Rainism.
“Those guys (of the West) are great but these guys (Koreans) are cooler,” says Biholi, her body-hugging T-shirt giving away another Korean ‘acquisition’ — washboard abs obtained from BoA’s ballet regimen dovetailed with Jun Ji Hyun’s easy-to-follow Da Vinci Diet. “And…” adds Mambemo, “They are so… like us!”
For the uninitiated, Boa Kwon or BoA — it expands to Beat of Angel — is one of South Korea’s leading K-pop singers while Rainism is a popular album by singer-actor Rain (Jeong Ji-Hoon). Hyun, on the other hand, is one of the hottest Korean actresses with a diet formula that helps carbohydrate-crazy women stay slim.
Nagaland’s capital Kohima is 75 km from Dimapur, where Biholi lives. Bang across the War Cemetery — Kohima’s prime landmark — is Dream Café, the haunt of the hip brigade. Run by musician and ‘cultural promoter’ Theja Meru, this café often transports you to Seoul or anyplace else in South Korea. And it’s not only because of a TV that keeps airing Arirang, the government-run Korean channel.
“Last year, we conducted Korean language classes here for six months. It had to be discontinued after Kolkata-trained teachers, all from Nagaland, got jobs in Korean firms. I am under pressure from many youngsters who want to learn the language,” says Meru. “Even otherwise, youngsters are picking up bits of the Korean language to communicate among themselves.” Korean is sometimes used as a code language; teenagers have developed the habit of SMS-ing Cho ah hey yo to mean ‘I like it’ or Kwen chah nah yo for “It’s okay”.
Like Korean pop, Korean fashion — gelled up hair-prongs, tight pants and bling — have spread like wildfire in Nagaland and adjoining Manipur. And it’s not only the young crowd; the elderly too are smitten by digitised Korean movies and soaps. “For many, Korean is as easy or tough as Hindi. Besides, the movies have English subtitles,”Meru adds.
Not too far behind is the Nagaland government, which has been promoting musical exchanges with Korea. In December last year, the government brought Korean celebrities — pop and soul queen VJ Isak and rhythm and blues singer Ilac — for the Hornbill Festival. This year, a group of Naga musicians are scheduled to tour Korea.
In Mizoram, local sensations like Vanlalsailova and Liandingpuii have infused elements of K-pop in their Mizo songs. But the region’s pop and rock bands haven’t quite broken out of the ‘traditional’ western music mould. “It’s just a matter of time,” says Aizawl-based event manager Nono, agreeing similar features make Mizos and others in the Northeast relate to the Koreans.
“The fad for Korean apparel marked by trendy super casuals and light weight shoes is catching on in Meghalaya and Mizoram. In the hill states, people subscribe to cable or dish TV only if Korean music channels are provided. Korean music is catching on in the plains too. In IIT Guwahati, for instance, you will find students sporting Korean RED T-shirts and listening to K-pop,”says ex-IITian and music critic S.D. Bhuyan. “It possibly had to do with many students getting placements with Korean firms.”
Possibly. As a quartet of BTech and MTech students, who landed jobs with IT firm Samsung Siso this year, would tell you.