SANTIAGO - Across Chile, parks and cultural centres have come alive with the catchy melodies of K-pop as teens embrace this wildly popular South Korean mix of upbeat electronic music and high-voltage choreography.
As embassies around the world stage early competition rounds ahead of the 2018 K-Pop World Festival, thousands of teenagers have been out practising their moves, with the local winners invited to join the final in South Korea.
“We get together to rehearse several days a week,” says Alicia, 17.
“All we want to do is dance.”
When Kim Hyun-joong, former lead singer of K-pop boy band SS510, announced a February concert in Santiago, the tickets were quickly snapped up by some 3,000 delirious young fans.
“I have waited six years for Kim Hyun-joong to come to Chile,” 16-year-old Cristal Escobar told AFP, who traveled 550 kilometers to get to the concert.
“I really like how he sings, how he dances, his songs and that’s why I wanted to come and see him.”
Last year, when another hugely popular boy band called BTS came to Chile, 12,000 tickets were sold within just two hours.
K-pop mania really took off in Chile in 2012 following the explosive success of “Gangnam Style,” a wacky hit which transformed the rapper/singer Psy into an international sensation.
Taking the country by storm, the genre inspired the creation of local bands such as “Rough Bunnies,” which emerged in 2014 after K-pop boy band BAP (Best Absolute Perfect) canceled a concert there.
“We started out calling ourselves BTP (the Spanish acronym for Babes: Perfect Tribute) but we weren’t completely convinced and it sounded a bit ridiculous,” band leader Tamara told AFP.
“We started to look for a new name and came up with ‘Rough Bunnies’ as it sounded better in English than in Spanish.”
And they have been well received, with their songs played on local radio stations and success both on YouTube and on social networks.
But the real K-pop still dominates the airwaves, luring young fans with its electronic rhythms, meticulously choreographed dance routines and immaculately coiffed singers decked out in extravagant outfits.