With their chart-breaking tracks and powerful discography, South Korean boy band BTS have now become a global sensation. Backed by their fandom ARMY, which is undoubtedly the largest in K-Pop (40 million and counting!), the BTS effect has been felt beyond the music industry, as they use their growing influence to raise awareness and advocate for various social causes around the world.
The youngest BTS member, Jeon Jungkook, a.k.a Golden Maknae, turned 24 on September 1. My Kolkata caught up with a few ARMY members in the city to discuss the band, their music, and an upcoming surprise for ARMYs later this month.
A student of Psychology at University of Calcutta, Poulami Biswas, was introduced to BTS by her cousin brother, sometime early in 2019. While talking about her favourite member (Min Yoon-gi; stage name SUGA) and her favourite song – Life Goes On – Poulami tells us how the music makes her feel alive. “We have always looked up to them. They are the ones who drive us to give back, as we all believe that we can make the world a better place for everyone,” she said.
For 20-year-old Mahima Das, the best part about the music is how they can tell a whole story through the simplest lyrics. The songs feel personal, and therefore, everyone feels as if the BTS song is dedicated to them. Over the years, the fandom has been involved in fundraising for a lot of social causes including but not limited to the Assam floods, COVID-19 relief and the Black Lives Matter movement. According to Mahima, this too is a spillover effect from the message that BTS tries to convey via their music, “The songs can be interpreted differently by every individual who listens to them. We want to share and spread that message of healing, and so we participate in social causes and relief work. Their music and ethics are a way of living, so believing in that makes us think, and feel responsible to further the impact.”
However, K-Pop was not always as popular as it is today. Born and brought up in Seoul, Seok Jung, who runs King’s Bakery in Kolkata, told us how the scenario has changed today. “When I was a child, K-Pop was a domestic entertainment for specific people in Korea and in Japan. Now “hallyu” (a Korean term which refers to the rapid advance of Korean culture) has become a huge consumption by tons of generations all over the world.”
King’s Bakery has two outlets - one in New Town and the other in AJC Bose Road. The outlet at AJC Bose Road will be hosting an ARMY meet for fandom members on the 15th of this month. We caught up with organisers Ishita Dhar and Pritha Mukherjee, who gave us a sneak peek into what one can expect at Kolkata’s first ARMY meet since the pandemic. “ARMY is like a family. Ishita and I came up with the idea because we thought it would be a good time for a meet and greet. We wanted to make people smile even if it was for a few hours,” says 19-year-old Pritha.
While the event has been in the planning stage since April, it kept getting postponed owing to lockdown restrictions. Now, since small gatherings have finally been allowed, the organisers thought of having a combined celebration in honour of the birthdays of band members Kim Namjoon and Jeon Jungkook. To that end, the event has been named ‘NamKook Bday ARMY Meet’.
Ishita Dhar’s foray into K-Pop began around five years ago with a random BTS clipping on the internet. Soon she found herself gravitating towards the band, and as she got to know more about their music and their impact, she warmed to the fandom. Over the years, Ishita has attended a lot of BTS events and has wanted to organise one now, especially because everyone has been going through a difficult time owing to the pandemic. “I wanted to spread some happiness through BTS”, says the 29-year-old. Following a conversation with her friend, they booked the venue, and multiple lockdowns later they are finally ready to host the event.
At Kolkata’s first ARMY meetup this year – hosted by the AJC Bose Road outlet of King’s Bakery near The Conclave – you can expect fun K-Pop games (with exciting official merchandise to be won!), freebies for all attendees, Korean coffee and of course, cake-cutting.
Entries are limited, so if you haven’t booked a slot yet, do so today.