Over the past few days I have immersed myself in the world of the MAMA Music Awards. The Mnet Asian Music Awards (abbreviated as MAMA) is a major South Korean music awards ceremony presented annually by entertainment company CJ E&M. The majority of prizes are awarded to K-pop artists, although some prizes are awarded to other Asian artists.

I decided to focus on the 2018 MAMA Music Awards in Hong Kong and have detailed by experience of watching the event online.

Initially, my experience of interacting with the cultural event is already altered due to my geographical distance from it.

This means the only place I could source the data from was YouTube, centering my experience within the realm of western media almost instantaniously.

Despite this, the quality was quite good and I felt it was easy to engage with the content.

Now, whilst I was watching the Hong Kong event on Youtube, I recorded my epiphanies. Read the below:

  • Although it is a South Korean Awards show, it is often held in other countries. This is new to me as music awards shows I am familiar with e.g. The Australian Recording Industry Association Awards (ARIAS) and the American Music Awards (AMA’s), are never held outside their country of origin.
  • The above would make more sense if artists from different countries were winning awards, but most awards go to Kpop artists.
  • I think this speaks for the global success and popularity of Kpop, particularly in Asia.
  • Kpop songs are really long
  • There’s no cross over between male and female performers – they perform seperately in same sex groups
  • It’s hosted in English??? and the host has an American accent?????
  • It’s feeling more like Eurovision than an awards show. It’s not formal at all, there’s a public audience and it has opened with multiple live performances
  • It’s a million times cooler than any awards show I’ve seen
  • BTS must be big news
  • Janet Jackson hahhahahhahahaha
  • They’re switching between English and other languages making it harder for me to follow along
  • ‘Unit’ is a catergory – referring to groups, unlike what I’ve seen in western media
  • It feels like more of a concert, there’s so so so many acts performing
  • There’s lots of female representation which I am HERE for

Of course, my epiphanies are only occuring through the realm of my own lived (cultural and personal) experience, but according to Ellis et al. (2011) recording these moments of significance for me whilst becoming a participant observer will enable insiders and outsiders to better understand the culture.

After further research, I realised I was only watching the finale of MAMA, and it’s in fact a WEEK LONG event.

In 2018, MAMA Week actually started in Korea on December 10, before moving onto a ceremony in Japan on December 12 and concluding in Hong Kong on December 14.

At the finale in Hong Kong, every single artist who won an award originated from Korea, except for Janet Jackson (lol) who won an Inspiration award, and the winners of the ‘Best Asian Artist’ catergory: Peck Palitchoke (Thailand), Afgan (Indonesia), Huong Tram (Vietnam), Da Pump (Japan), JJ Lin (Mandarin).

To extend my research as a particpant observer, I observed tweets surrounding the MAMA event, and learnt that I wasn’t alone in some of my epiphanies providing further understanding of the culture.

It seems there is wider contention over the fact the MAMA is promoted as the top Asian Music Awards show, yet most awards go to Kpop/South Korean artists.

Additionally, the wider significance of Janet Jackson winning an award can be viewed as an effort to globalise Kpop. In 2013, Stevie Wonder also performed. It appears, that at each annual awards show there is at least one ‘western’ artist.

According to The Record, “this three-country, four-night Asian Music Awards show is a K-Pop promotion machine.” MAMA is owned by CJ E&M, an entertainment company which operates a K-pop label and management division.

These awards have highlighted for me the incredible popularity of Kpop across Asia, and domination of an entire industry. Additionally, it’s opened my eyes to a world outside anything I had experienced within my immediate culture.

Epiphanies have cultural signifiance and are not value-free from your own cultural understanding. Read more about my auto-ethnographic experience on my next blog here.

Watch the music awards below:

3 thoughts on “MAMA Music Awards: Hong Kong 2018

  1. this was very engaging to read! I’m quite fascinated by the epiphanies that you had while engaging with the music awards. I’m assuming you do enjoy K-pop in your spare time? this means the lens in which you approached this was already fill ed with personal experience and made digesting it a lot easier and allowed you to re-tell your findings in an easier way. As you said in your post, Ellis et Al does mention being able to observe these epiphanies as an observer instead of an engager allows you to retell it in a way that becomes easily understood for those who are not familiar with your chosen autoethnographical study. Very unique perspective!


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