The nine-piece indie folk Filipino band makes waves across the Philippines and South Korea with popular K-Pop idols showing their love for hit song "Leaves" and more.

/ 9 September 2020

It would be an understatement to say that Filipinos have long been enamored with the Korean culture for a few years now, when so much of K-Dramas, K-Pop and traditional Korean food has made it to our day-to-day lives, even without actively seeking them out. Twitter and Facebook are filled with posts from friends talking about the latest dramas and their swoon-worthy leads, radios now play some popular K-Pop songs with lyrics we barely understand, and the infamous samgyupsal has effectively latched itself into our vocabulary when thinking of places to eat with friends and family.

The usual scene is Filipinos absorbing this new and interesting cultural phenomenon, and enjoying the intricacies of Korean media and flavor. However, recently there’s been an interesting shift with K-Pop idols getting introduced to our very own Original Pinoy Music (OPM) with fans suggesting some songs by Ben&Ben to them during live streams.

Some idols from popular groups such as Mark, Renjun and Chenle from NCT Dream, YoungK from Day6, Wendy from Red Velvet, and Momo from TWICE have shown their appreciation to these songs, particularly “Leaves” and its emotional lyrics and arrangement. In fact, the song being played in several live streams across weeks and months have resulted to it trending on Melon Realtime Search Chart, which is a Korean streaming platform.

As a thank you, the band released its first episode of Ben&Ben TV on YouTube back in August with a video dedicated to trying their hand at covering some of these idol group’s popular songs. The video has now reached over 800K views, and has been followed on September 1 with another K-Pop Cover Challenge video featuring songs of other popular groups like GOT7, SEVENTEEN, EXO, The Boyz, IU, and BTS. The nine-piece band rearranged the songs to fit their own style, incorporating nine different instruments to songs that are typically electronically produced.

This exciting, and somewhat unexpected, merger of two worlds have set fans of both industries to an uproar of appreciation for the music of Ben&Ben and the featured groups. While OPM fans who watched the video for the band alone were introduced to some K-Pop songs, international viewers who tuned in to listen to this viral cover of their favorite groups are likewise getting to know one of the most popular local bands in the Philippines right now.

The indirect collaboration is a welcome reversal to the cultural appreciation between our country and that of South Korea, in which the seemingly one-way street has opened up to a mutual recognition of the talents and musicalities of both countries and its distinct styles. Hopefully, this event won’t be an isolated case, and it paves the way for a deeper understanding and respect for OPM and our musicians all over the world.

On that note, Ben&Ben recently announced its fandom name “Lights,” only to suspend it a few hours later after some conflict with another fandom of the same name dedicated to Korean group HIGHLIGHT. The band issued an official statement apologizing for having offended the fans of the group, and assured them and their own fans that its management will handle the issue accordingly and with respect to K-Pop culture. The Light fandom shared its appreciation of Ben&Ben’s quick and respectful response to their concern, while fans of the local band shared their suggestions to the group for their new fanbase name. 

Finally, on September 4, just a few hours after the “Lights” fiasco, the band released their official fandom name “Liwanag.” This is to honor the Filipino language while staying true to the band’s mission to offer some semblance of comfort and brightness through music, while celebrating their fans as the band’s own source of light and hope.