Author: Dimitri Lignos

The Iron Chef Experience

https://theironchefexperience.wordpress.com/

With absolutely no experience with Iron Chef prior to this autoethnographic process, we intend to present a researched series of recordings that not only reflect prior research and understanding of Japanese culture but further authentic reactions and reflections  with the influence of our own cultures.

It is our hope that this project is not only informative but entertaining!

So sit back, relax, grab some popcorn and enjoy!

-Dimitri and Caitlin

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Bridging the Gap

In my last blog post, I talked about my journey into discovering Korean underground rap and analysed some of the tracks I found. This post featured my epiphanies on the genre, a common feature found in Autoethnography. In this blog post, I will be delving deeper into my own analysis of Korean underground rap, and my autoethnographic approach to the genre.

At the beginning of the blog, I presented a video created by music company 88Rising called Rappers React to Higher Brothers, in which a bunch of American rappers watch and react to the Chinese rap group. This video, I believe, was a perfect example of not only an autoethnographic experience, but also the ideology of east vs west, and the similarities and contrasts between the two cultures. I found myself having similar reactions with the American rappers, even though Australian and American culture is different, the overwhelming presence of western, particularly American, culture in Australian mass media has seen an increase in the cultural bond between Australia and America.

The video was also perfect for another thing, the closing of the gap between east and west, in terms of rap music. The music company producing 88Rising, is considered to be one of the few music companies bridging the gap between the two separate cultures. And it’s becoming more obvious in the music itself, where Korean and other Asian rappers are incorporating Western cultural references within their songs to create more of a connection with fans from a western culture.

The further I delved into the genre, the more and more I found myself comparing it to western rap. When reviewing the track MV 뱃사공 – 마초맨(Feat.차붐,deepflow), I found myself comparing it New York rap, the reason behind this being that I had been listening to Action Bronson’s new album all week and had found the instrumental on the track to be something that could easily feature on the album. Even when I was talking about the music video, I found myself comparing the video to a specific time period, something that can somewhat be seen as a bias towards western culture, and that may show the lack of originality from Korean rappers.

My autoethnographic analysis of the text had no real variety in the approach. There were no different methodology styles, a pretty basic, standard autoethnographic analysis. Using Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview, I could have had an Indigenous approach to the songs and discuss the power and who has the power in the scenario. There were multiple levels of power present in my discovery of underground Korean rap. You have YouTube who has probably the most power, being it is the main platform where the artists and the music companies can provide the music videos for the audience the watch. Then you have the YouTube channels, which may be either a music company or the artist themselves, for example STONE SHIPLEGIT GOONS and MKIT RAIN. These companies had levels of power that somewhat influenced my journey into finding underground Korean rap, with YouTube being the place where I could find the majority of the songs, but the search was based on number of views and other factors that easily could have promoted some songs over others, and could easily have had an effect on my autoethnographic experience.

When I was listening to the tracks, I had many assumptions and stereotypes already in my head about underground Korean rap. Some of these assumptions and stereotypes ended up being true in my situation but again, these assumptions had an effect on my autoethnographic experience. One of the assumptions was that the majority of Korean rap would be similar to Korean pop, in terms of randomly inserting English words and western cultural references to create a connection between the audience. Another assumption I made was that the themes of American and western rap culture, such as money and girls, will be prevalent throughout Korean rap, again to create a sense of connection for the audience to have with these songs. I also had the stereotype that the rappers will be feature clothing brands associated with hypebeasts. For those who don’t know what a hypebeast is, according to trusty academic resource Urban Dictionary, “A hypebeast is a slang for someone who is a beast (obsessed) about the hype (in fashion), and will do whatever it takes to obtain that desired hype. The term is meant to be derogatory by ridiculing of such with a lack of style.”

My original autoethnographic analysis of the genre of Korean rap was a more personalised analysis which featured many comparisons to western culture. I believe with a much wider approach using the methodologies Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview, I can continue to grow and appreciate an understanding of autethnography and use that understanding to continue my research into the genre of underground Korean rap.

Trapped in Korean Rap

When trying to find a Digital Asian topic to research and gain an understanding of, I was inundated with ideas that could be potentially used as part of my digital artefact. Listening to the other students talk about their ideas, like ramen noodles and Japanese toilets, really put into perspective how I should approach this topic. My original idea was to use Japanese metal as part of my digital artefact, however, was changed just a few days ago when my friend showed me a video on YouTube.

The video was called Rappers React to Higher Brothers, where rappers such as Lil Yacthy (lol), Migos, KYLE and a bunch of other rappers reacted to a Chinese rap group called the Higher Brothers. Throughout the video, they are comparing and contrasting to American culture, however, most have their own input about the beat, the lyrics and the music video itself. Watching these rappers react to something they had never seen or experienced before was something I could relate to, simply because I had never seen or experienced underground Chinese rap before.

After seeing this video, I finally made my decision on what to use as my Digital Asia text, but change the origin of the country. Considering Rich Chigga (even though he is Indonesian) has just become a somewhat household name in American rap, and now the Higher Brothers getting attention from mainstream media, I decided to stray away from China and focus on underground Korean rap.

I though trying to find underground Korean rap would be a much more difficult and arduous task that would involve travelling into the deep web and end up with me trying to decipher Korean writing and find the music. But just a simple Google search of “underground Korean rap” did the trick. Or did it?

No, it did.

Anyway, so when I googled underground Korean rap, the first link that popped up was a Tumblr paged dedicated to Underground Korean music called Discovering the Korean Underground. The page was a mixture of underground genres ranging from rap to pop. The first song I discovered was called 리빠똥 by 차붐(CHABOOM).

Now I don’t like to talk myself up, but being a musician and listening to rap music for a very long time, I can distinguish between good and bad flow, how hard a beat goes and the overall feel the song gives the listener.

First off. This song goes hard. The flow is there and the beat is A1. Although I don’t know what CHABOOM is saying (except the occasional swear word), this is a very good rap song.

The Tumblr page wasn’t giving me the fix I needed after I had a new-found addiction. After watching the video again on YouTube, this time I was greeted with a number of different YouTube channels such as STONE SHIP, LEGIT GOONS and MKIT RAIN that promoted underground Korean rap.

MV 뱃사공 – 마초맨(Feat.차붐,deepflow) was the next video I stumbled upon. The video had some Yakuza vibes to it, like late 80s vibes. The way they dressed, the way they acted was very gangster. Even so more evident when the instrumental kicked in. Old school, slow methodical beat, with that guitar lick over top, reminds me of New York rap from the 90s. I thought it was very cool in the way they mixed the music with the video.

It was getting late at that point and it was time to get some shut eye. One more video I thought, this is the last one, and I mean it. So, after watching three more videos, it was around midnight and I knew I had to get up at 6:30 to get to uni. The final video that would end my escapade into the unknown world of underground Korean rap was Drivers Film M/V by Legit Goons.

The cinematography for this video was really good, and I began to realise that each video had something in common. The videos were all filmed really well, like I mean really well, like MTV good. Another thing I noticed was all the references to Western culture. The money, the cars, the clothes all synonymous with Western culture. But this is autoethnography, we ain’t supposed to be comparing to western culture. Welp, broke that rule a few times.

And that’s what was unusual about this experience. The idea of autoethnography is to have epiphanies about what you experienced with the text and the new culture. But underground Korean rap, for as underground that it is, still has an essence of Western culture spliced throughout the videos and songs. The random English words and western culture references, how they dress, how they act. But what makes them different is, well, they have taken this western rap culture, and twisted it into their own thing. And that’s what makes it so different.

Understanding Autoethnography

After reading Ellis et al Autoethnography: An Overview, the Autoethnographic process was pretty straight forward and easy to understand. In layman’s terms, its the combination of the study of ethnography, which is studying a culture, understanding their beliefs & values, and how they form relationships, and autobiography, which is the study of one’s personal experiences, pretty much their life story.

When you combine the two studies, you get autoethnography – The study of a culture, through an individual’s own personal experiences when immersed in that culture. Well, thats how I understood it.

The more I thought about the concept of autoethnography, I realised that everyone can or has experienced ethnography. People who travel the world and immerse themselves in another culture, experiencing the wonders of said cultures, are gaining a personal insight  and learning about how that culture functions. I remember when I was ten years old travelling to Greece, my mum bought me a diary to write in. In the diary, I wrote about what happened throughout the day, where we went, what we ate etc.

However, what separates a world traveler from an autoethnographer, is how analytical they are of their experience. Like Mitch Allen mentions, “everyone has their own story, but what makes your story more valid is that you’re a researcher. You have a set of theoretical and methodological tools and a research literature to use.”

As I understand, there are different ways of how to approach writing about autoethnography. For example, an indigenous ethnographer will focus on power, how they can address the issues and disrupt it.  The utilisation of interviews can add an element of emotion and insight to the piece that the autoethnographer may not be able to provide. For example, it would be like me interviewing a family member in Greece about what it is like to be living in Greece. My experience would be from the point of view of someone on holiday, not really understanding what its like to actually live in the country.

From Autoethnography: An Overview, I now know the methodology and the process behind autoethnography and I look forward to applying different forms of autoethnography throughout this semester, and to gain a further understanding of Asian media culture by immersing myself through the multiple forms of entertainment that it provides.

Tokyo Terror: an Ethno-Australian Perspective on Gojira (1954)

As a child, my father raised me on 80s metal and action movies, whether it be listening to Queen or watching Arnold Schwarzenegger star in the Terminator, I grew to having an understanding and an appreciation for music and film at a young age. The first real interaction I had with any form of Asian media was watching animes such as Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, as well as, watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films.

Before watching Gojira, I had never actually seen a Godzilla film before, so I was intrigued to see how the film would be presented, and how much film had changed in the past 60 years. I understood that the film would look campy and very low budget, but in 1954, it was revolutionary and ground-breaking.

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Modern film-making tries to make a movie flow seamlessly, utilising today’s technology to splice scenes together to create this flow. It was obvious in this film how jarring each scene was spliced together, continuously hard cutting from one scene to another. However, there is certainly an appreciation for the attempt to make the story of Gojira flow, especially how they actually had to physically cut the film and put scenes together. Something that I really enjoyed was the synchronisation of the soundtrack with the film, something I did not expect from a film made in the 1950s.

The actual story itself is very intriguing, especially using Godzilla as a metaphor for the atomic weapons used by the US in World War II. In my opinion, the set design was fantastic, and created a realistic representation of Tokyo, and was especially impressive how accurate it was without the use of modern day CGI. The Godzilla costume design was another aspect of the film I was impressed with, and the way Haruo Nakajima moved in the costume, really made the character of Godzilla realistic at the time. There was one scene in particular that annoyed me, when we see Godzilla under water for the first time, Nakajima is walking in the suit instead of swimming. I know it was a small detail, but it just annoyed me a little.

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Gojira was a great way to be introduced with Asian film making and Asian media in general, and is just the beginning into the discovery of the world of Digital Asia.