NCT 127 accused of cultural appropriation after sampling Maori haka


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K-pop group NCT 127’s song “Simon Says” sparked mixed sentiments in New Zealand after it was accused of appropriating parts of traditional Maori prayer karakia.

“‘Simon Says’ by NCT 127 has been watched nearly 7 million times, but not everyone’s a fan,” wrote New Zealand’s television channel TVNZ, Thursday.

Screen grab of “Simon Says”’s music video (YouTube)

TVNZ quoted professor Aroha Mead of New Zealand’s Maori Centre of Research Excellence, that the te reo Maori words, “Ttuturu o whiti whakamaua kia tina,” feature at the beginning of the K-pop song “Simon Says,” are “… very empowering and affirmative respectful words” and that “If this song is not carrying on that spirit … then they have used it inappropriately.”

Music video for “Simon Says” was uploaded on YouTube on Nov. 22 and seven days later as of Friday morning, it has been watched more than 7.75 million times. 

Opinions on the song’s “cultural appropriation” is divided, with one side arguing the difference of being inspired by a culture and using it without sufficient knowledge, and another side saying the K-pop song helped promote the Maori culture to the global audience.

Some have petitioned online for the K-pop group to take out the karakia part from “Simon Says.”

The song is the title track of NCT 127’s first repackaged album that contains 14 tracks in total. The album came out on Nov. 23.

The Korea Herald made phone calls to S.M. Entertainment for comment, but the agency was unreachable at the time of writing.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)


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