At a time when it seems that K-pop has taken over the world, it’s no surprise that the Middle East has played a vital part in its global growth. A recent survey by music streaming service Spotify named the UAE and Saudi Arabia as the top streamers of the genre in the Mena region.
But that isn't a new revelation to fans in the UAE. BTS performed at KCon 2016 in Abu Dhabi and Exo headlined 2018's SM Town Live (which also featured acts such as Super Junior and Red Velvet) in Dubai, with fans flooding in from all around the Emirates to prove just how in-demand K-pop acts are here.
More recently, boy band Seventeen took to the stage in front of screaming fans when they headlined a mini-concert during the Korea Brand & Content Expo Dubai 2019 last month. The 13-member band consists of Woozi, DK, Mingyu, S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon and Dino. Even though they didn't perform a full concert set list, their fans, known as Carats, were ecstatic simply at the chance to see them.
The group had taken a small break from their Ode To You world tour, which has taken them through Japan, before stopping in Dubai and moving on to Indonesia and Thailand.
Their Dubai show was their first time the band have been to the UAE, and they liked what they saw.
“First off, we really appreciated all of our fans who were supporting us from miles away. I was also really excited to see the tall buildings, and the city was as beautiful as I’ve imagined it would be,” says Jeonghan.
“We had so much fun experiencing the beautiful skyline and desert with the red dunes. We also received so much energy from our fans in Dubai, which left us wishing we can come back for our own concert soon,” adds Mingyu.
Pledis Entertainment formed the group in 2015. Unlike other bands, Seventeen is known for being a "self-producing" group, meaning that its members are actively involved with writing lyrics and choreographing dances, and also have creative control over many other aspects of their existence. The group says that they get inspiration from new experiences.
"As our Ode to You tour continues on to different regions, I hope we can meet more Carats to receive and share our energy. I also hope we can experience new things that will inspire our work," says S.Coups. So, perhaps there could be a future song inspired by the UAE?
Since they've been together, they have put out three studio albums – all of which have reached No 1 on the Korean charts. Their latest release, An Ode, peaked at No 7 on the US Billboard World Albums chart, signalling again just how far the genre has reached.
“I believe that K-pop content is becoming more accessible globally, so people throughout the world have more opportunities to check them out through various outlets,” says Dino. “I think that gradually allowed people to become more interested in K-pop also. As a K-pop artist, I hope Seventeen can also bring more sincerity to our work and make refreshing music that motivates others.”
Seungkwan adds: "I also think social media plays a significant role in spreading K-pop globally. I'm assuming the music and energetic performances are the main reasons fans in the UAE enjoy K-pop."
The band will now finish the Asia leg of their tour and head to North America for eight shows at the start of 2020. Even though there aren't any plans to have the group return to the UAE for a full concert yet, they remain hopeful they can come back for one someday.
“The memories we made in Dubai will remain in our hearts forever. Thank you so much,” says Vernon. “It would be great if we can return, so invite us again.”