Advertising image for Kollaboration 2020 (Photo credit: Kollaboration)
Founded in 2000 by comedian Paul “PK” Kim, Kollaboration has become a pillar of the Asian American arts community for its tireless support of Asian American artists, musicians, and young people. Each year, Kollaboration hosts several events that showcase Asian American talent, as well as training sessions and workshops to help aspiring artists launch new media projects. Since 2015, Kollaboration has also hosted Empower, a leadership conference that invites leaders in Asian American entertainment and community organizing to share their perspectives to aspiring Asian American artists. (I was honoured to be invited to speak at Empower in 2017.)
This year, Kollaboration celebrates its 20th anniversary on December 12th with a free virtual event featuring a powerhouse lineup of Asian American media voices. Scheduled guests include rapper Ruby Ibarra, singer-songwriter Megan Lee, and YouTuber David Choi among others.
When I first wrote my article about BTS coming to the American Music Awards, I was excited to see this famous K-pop group that I’d heard so much about. I was happy that they would have the chance to perform on a major international stage like the AMAs. I believed that this appearance would serve as the biggest stepping stone yet for K-pop’s eventual domination of American airwaves. As I wrote on Twitter after BTS’ performance (and after I saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy), this must have been what seeing the Beatles for the first time was like. BTS has been on a roll since their big AMAs debut. They’ve hob-knobbed with R&B it-boy Khalid, and they have released a track featuring Desiigner and Steve Aoki,”Mic Drop”. Everything’s going well; or, it’s going well for BTS, anyways. The rest of K-pop, however, still hasn’t really “made it” in the States. While one might speculate as to the many reasons why K-pop has failed to penetrate the American music landscape — language barriers; stereotypes about Asian performers held by music executives; general American disinterest towards international music that isn’t British or Canadian — one major reason deserves more discussion: K-pop, as a whole, has a race problem.