Imagine this: you’re on a train in Morocco, sat next to a group of Moroccan girls who are casually speaking to one another in Korean. It’s a strange idea, but one that genuinely happened to me. After speaking to them, I realised that the girls (who are native-Arabic speakers) loved K-pop so much that they learned the language and decided to only speak to each other in it.
That was when I realized how massive the K-pop phenomenon was. And Spotify just confirmed it too. The Middle East and North Africa are one of the world’s biggest consumers of K-pop. Morocco, the UAE and Saudi Arabia top the charts when it comes to countries who listen to it the most.
To paint a more detailed picture for you of K-pop’s global popularity: it’s a $4.7 billion industry, there are more than 80.3 million K-pop playlists and over 2.4 million hours have been spent streaming K-pop music (that’s on Spotify alone), so it’s no surprise that K-pop fever has reached the region.
Twitter is flooded with MENA-oriented fan accounts dedicated to their favourite K-pop artists. They share updates, track their whereabouts, translate and interpret K-pop content.
— 레이 (@sweetbtsx) July 29, 2019
In July, a K-Pop concert was held in Jeddah. It sold out just hours after tickets went on sale and the venue was filled with young Saudi Arabian fans screaming Korean lyrics at the top of their lungs.
The same can be expected for the highly anticipated BTS concert that’s set to be held in Riyadh in a few days. The turnout is expected to topple the Jeddah concert. Seven-member boy band BTS now tops the most streamed artist list within the genre in both the KSA and the UAE. Their latest hit ‘Boy With Luv’, which features American pop-star Halsey, is the number one most streamed K-Pop song in KSA and the UAE and five of their songs have made it to the top 10.
“Despite the fact that K-pop is coming from a different culture and is in a different language, its catchy and engaging style has managed to mesmerize hundreds of thousands of people from Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” said Spotify’s Managing Director for the MENA region.
The boyband is scheduled to perform at the King Fahd International Stadium, despite some criticism by international fans, which the group responded to in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter saying: “It’s been a while since we’ve performed in the Middle East – the last time was 2015 in Dubai.” And needless to say, their Saudi fans can’t wait.