Did you know that BTS were on the news two years before their debut?
Back then the group had been given the name BTS but it only had three members: RM, Suga and J-Hope.
The vocal line hadn’t even signed with BigHit yet. But BTS already had a song out that impressed, and that song was 팔도강산 (PalDoGangSan) often referred to as Satoori Rap.
The song was later re-recorded and included on their O!RUL8,2? album, but it was created back in the day, and was one of the first songs to bear the stamp “BTS”.
It was first released on the 17th of August 2011 - two years before BTS’s debut - as an announcement for BigHit’s 2011 Hit It Audition.
The first real BTS song
Although Satoori Rap was released in 2011, before a lot of the members even joined BigHit, it is NOT the first song released under the name BTS or Bangtan.
The first song released under the name BTS came out in 2010, back when only Rap Monster had signed with BigHit, and the others, even Suga and J-Hope, had yet to audition.
Back then, other trainees were lined up to be part of Bangtan, and the name BTS mainly referred to rappers Iron and Rap Monster, who were secure members at the time. Iron later left BigHit and continued making music as an underground rapper.
Satoori Rap is not the first BTS song, but it is the first BTS song that ONLY includes members who would later come to debut under the name Bangtan.
The song was later re-recorded and relased on a BTS album. The difference between the old and newer version is minimal. The lyrics and flow stayed the same. Some more voices were added to it and the beats got a bit of a revival, but it is still clearly the same beat and song.
Initially, pre BTS debut, it was released as part of the whole Audition hype for Big Hit’s second audition, along with a video of J-Hope rapping and dancing.
“A-Yo Hitman Bang introducing Hit It the Second Audition!”
Suga had joined the company through the first Hit It Audition, in 2010, and J-Hope joined around the same time, whereas Rap Monster had signed with BigHit before auditions even began. According to Bang PD the auditions actually began with the purpose of finding a team for Rap Monster.
The vocal line, however, mostly came in through that Second Hit It Audition in 2011.
The vocal line therefore heard 팔도강산 (Satoori Rap) before signing with the company, and a few years later, they would perform that very song together on stage in front of a larger audience.
On The News
A few weeks after the song was released, BTS, meaning Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope at this point, were on the evening news, talking about the song and their debut, which at the time was expected to be the following year, in 2012.
The reporter explained that their song was a rap song written in dialect and that it rose to #3 on portal sites straight away after being released. The song received a lot of love.
Their appearance on the news was the first true BTS exposure in media.
Pre debut BTS being on the news is just the first little gem concerning Satoori Rap, and there is a lot for us to talk about regarding this song, so let’s keep digging.
Predicting the Future
The performance of the song is great fun and I readily admit that I adore watching the dance practice too.
The choreography is clever because they divide themselves up between the members who come from the East (Gyeongsan) of the country and those from the West (Jeolla and Seoul), and have a rap battle between the East and the West.
What you may notice from the performance also is that after the song was re-recorded to be included on their album OORUL82? and they began to perform it, Suga gave some of his own rap lines to the other members from the Gyeonsang Province: Jungkook, Jimin and V.
What always has me laughing when I watch their performance of the song is that the lines that Suga gave to V were the following:
”마 갱상도카모 신라의 화랑 후예들이 계속해서 자라나고”
”Hey, about Gyeonsang Province,
the descendants of Silla Hwarang grow.”
Out of all the lines of the song, I find it so ironic that V was given the ones about Hwarang, considering that three years later he would end up acting as a Hwarang in a Korean drama.
Be it Hwarang, Daesang, or Billboard, it seems that Suga really has a talent for predicting the future through the lyrics he writes.
Now onto the serious stuff and the many reasons why I hold this song dear.
What is Satoori Rap?
I suspect that a few of you may be wondering what Satoori even is, and wondering why the song has so many titles (we will get to that) and what makes it so special, other than the fact that it got BTS on the 8 O’clock news before their debut.
Satoori is the korean word for Dialect. The song makes use of different Korean dialects.
This is why some fans prefer to call it Satoori Rap, which seems easier to remember than the actual title 팔도강산 (PalDoGangSan), although it is a great title, which we will discuss in a bit.
In Satoori Rap, BTS use three dialects that reflect where the members originally come from:
Suga’s verse is in the Gyeongsang Dialect
J-Hope writes his in Jeolla Dialect
And Rap Monster in the Standard Seoul Dialect
The song is set up like a diss rap battle between Suga and J-Hope, or more accurately, a rap battle between the two dialects that they speak.
People from Gyeongsang and Jeolla are known for fighting, as I’ve also explained in my blog about Sope and the Hwagae Market.
The song has them rapping in their original dialects and claim to be the best. Then Rap Monster comes in with his Standardised Seoul Dialect and wraps things up by telling them to stop fighting over petty differences.
Although most international fans call it Satoori Rap, the Korean title for this song is:
Such a long title, isn’t it? There are many more straight forward titles that they could have chosen for this song like 사투리랩 (Satoori Rap), as many people already call it, or 머라카노 (what did he say?) which is a line of dialect from the chorus which highlights the different provinces’ lack of willingness to communicate.
The real korean title, 팔도강산, is pretty cool though.
Allow me to break it down:
And the title altogether is used to mean Korea, or "the entire nation".
Rivers and mountains (강산) is an old fashioned way to say territory. So put it together and it gives: “The rivers and mountains of the eight provinces”, or, more accurately: “The territories of the eight provinces”, which may still seem random to you at this point.
There are two things that “The territories of the eight provinces” could refer to.
The first is the current eight provinces of South Korea.
Here is where that theory gets tricky: there may be eight provinces in South Korea, but there are only six dialects (one of which is practically a different language).
And this song IS about Korean dialects.
Suga doesn’t only rap about North Gyeongsan, he just raps about Gyeongsan, which includes both North Gyeongsan and South Gyeongsan, both of which are different provinces according to the current eight provinces of South Korea.
For J-Hope, it’s the same. He doesn’t rap specifically about South Jeolla, he raps about the overall Jeolla district which includes all of North Jeolla and all of South Jeolla.
In the chorus, they list the provinces of Korea. but they do not list eight provinces, they list Gyeongsan and Jeolla as singular provinces.
So, the eight provinces that BTS refer to in the title, could be our second option:
The eight provinces of the Joseon era. These provinces are bigger and more accurately define the dialect areas of Korea.
Note that I did not write: “of South Korea”, but simply “of Korea”. That’s exactly what makes this so interesting.
The eight provinces are from before the Korean War, so they refer to the entire Peninsula, both North Korea and South Korea.
By choosing to refer to eight provinces, BTS are also choosing to refer to Korea as a whole, and tear down the wall that separates North Korea and South Korea.
”Why keep fighting? 결국 같은 한국말”
”Why keep fighting? In the end, it’s all Korean”
It’s an especially powerful choice considering that the moral of this song is about stopping the provinces from fighting among each other.
However, we should also acknowledge that just like something spoke against option one, there is a specific part of the song that speaks against this second interpretation too. It's Rap Monster’s last line, which goes:
”말 다 통하잖아? 문산부터 마라도”
”We can all communicate, right?
From Moonsan to Marado.”
Marado is the southern most part of South Korea, whereas Moonsan is the northern part of the country that borders North Korea. So he specifically refers to South Korea in this last part of his rap.
Overall 팔도강산 refers to all of Korea, but there are other words that they could have used for this, so it's still an interesting choice. As I said above, they could have named this song so many other things, and BTS don’t seem to choose titles on a whim (I mean look at ‘First Love’ and ‘Spring Day’) so I like to think that there is a bit of a hidden meaning of unification in the song.
Before we carry on to look at dialects used in Korean songs, we need to talk about a fun feature of the song. There is a section of this song, just before Rap Monster's rap part that very clearly reflects how the people from different districts tend to fight.
Suga and J-Hope get into a verbal fight with each other. What is interesting about this is that every version of the song presents them fighting about something new, hence why I'm dedicating a small section to it.
Every time they perform Satoori Rap they personalise the fight to be relevant to where they are of what they're doing. This makes their performances of the song even more interesting to watch, just as their performance of 흥탄소년단 (Fun Boys) in which V personalises a small part of the choreography every time they perform the song.
Let's break down the Sope Fights that I could get my hands on...
J-Hope: Ah Hyung-nim, the 21st of August at Hongdae there’s the Hit It Final, don't you even know that? Suga: What’s that? J-Hope: Ah Hyung-nim, so you don’t know.
Suga: I'm asking you what it is!!
J-Hope: What do you mean "what is it"? Look it up!
Suga: I’ve seriously thought hard and long about it, and I think Gyeonsang guys are really cool. J-Hope: No, that isn’t right Hyung-nim. Why are you being like this? Suga: I’m telling you it’s right.
J-Hope: No, it isn’t. Suga: It’s right! J-Hope: Ah - just be quiet!
J-Hope: Eh Hyung-nim, do you even know that BTS are coming out on Show Champion?
Suga: What’s BTS? J-Hope: Don't you even know that? Suga: I’m asking you what it is! J-Hope: Ah whatever, just be quiet!
J-Hope: Ah right, Hyung-nim, do you know that BTS are coming out on Sim Sim Tapa?
Suga: What’s that?
J-Hope: Don't you even know that?
Suga: I’m asking you what it is!
J-Hope: Ah whatever, just be quiet!
V: This time I want to try!
Suga: No, no...
RM: Be quiet!
Suga: This time the album is Daebak!
Suga: V! Yea, go get it!
J-Hope: What, Hyung? What's this?
V *gets flustered*: What? Ah wait a minute!
J-Hope: I'm talking to Suga, what's up?
V: Why are you doing this!?
J-Hope: I'm saying you don't know this! *kicks V*
V: Ah!! *gets Jimin to push J-Hope *
J-Hope: Ya! Gwangjoo is the best! Gwangjoo is the best! Gwangjoo!
Suga: Ah right... Tokyo, Tokyo.
J-Hope: Tokyo is the best! The Best!
BTS: Tokyo is the best!
J-Hope: Army are the best!
*Suga arrives soaked because of Jimin*
J-Hope: What's that?
Suga: I won't forgive you for this!
*gets more water dumped on him*
Korean Dialect in Songs
Using dialect in songs is an extremely interesting idea, both for the significance that it can hold (as we explored above) but also as it adds a different flow. Besides, using local dialects naturally represents the general point of view of the people who use this dialect.
However using dialects in songs is also quite rare, and that is precisely why BTS got on the news for their song even pre debut, and probably also why the song received so much love in the first place.
In 2011, when BTS released their song, few others had used Korean dialects in their songs.
Rapper Simon D of Supreme Team had done it. Simon D has always been famous for using the Gyeongsang Dialect (specifically the Busan dialect). His dialect is usually wrapped into his general rapping style, and he has several songs in which he uses a lot of dialect.
A good example is this song called 피곤해(Tired) from Supreme Team’s first album Supremier in 2010 that is almost entirely in Gyeonsang dialect.
Another is Eh Hey from his 2011 solo album, which features a lot of dialect.
Other examples of full songs in Dialect are: MC Meta‘s song Yes Yes Y’all from 2012 in which he raps entirely in the Gyeonsang dialect, and What Did You Say? By Sool J and Kim Bo Seon from 2014 which uses the charm of dialects, and Long distance relationships by Sti also from 2011, which uses a minimal amount of dialect but actively uses it to tell the story of the song.
Except for Simon D, these examples all came after BTS's Satoori Rap.
Dialects in K-Pop
In idol music, while a single line of dialect is popular, a whole verse in dialect is extremely rare, even more so than other Korean music genres. In fact, other than BTS, I only have one example.
B.A.P’s No Mercy from 2012 uses both the Gyeonsang and Jeolla dialect in the first two verses. But it is still only the short opening verses.
It is also more of a controversial case because Yong Guk who wrote and rapped the verse in Gyeonsang dialect is born and raised in Incheon and naturally uses the Standard Seoul Dialect.
Seoul guys putting on a Gyeonsang dialect is a phenomena that became popular, because the dialect supposedly make guys sound tough, but from the perspective of those who are originally from Gyeonsang, their dialect is being appropriated and butchered by people trying to imitate it, which isn’t all that tough and cool.
Rap Monster actually references this phenomena in his verse in Satoori Rap.
"경상도 사투리는 남자라면
쓰고 싶게 만들어"
"If you're a guy, Gyeonsang dialect makes you want to use it"
B.A.P's No Mercy lyrics are a quite ironic addition to this discussion as the bridge of the song goes:
”앵무새 같은 너와 나를 비교하지마”
”Don’t compare you, who is like a parrot, to me.”
What makes BTS’ Satoori Rap so special is that it’s not just a song that uses Dialects, as its setting, it’s a song that is ABOUT dialects.
This puts it on a very short list of songs.
Usually songs only use dialect to give a setting much the same as a film may show the Sydney Opera House to tell us that we are in Australia.
And BTS have more songs like it! Their song 팔도강산 (Satoori Rap) was simply their first.
For the Skool Luv Affair album, they made the song Where Are You From? which is also a celebration of dialects. This one too has Suga’s and J-Hope’s verses in dialect, and the whole song is about dialects and physical distances not posing a problem in getting along and falling in love.
V and Jimin also celebrate their dialects and touch upon struggling to give up their dialects and speak in standardised language through their V-live series called 구오즈 만다꼬 (Gyeongsang dialect for: “What are 95z up to?”).
Why is it so important that BTS use dialect in a song?
Korean, as most languages, has a standardised way to speak and pronounce words. This is the standardised speech that you will hear on TV and will be taught in school. Dialects are differences in pronunciation from that standardised speech.
In South Korea this standardised way of speaking is the Seoul Dialect that Rap Monster employs in the song.
Rap Monster and Jin naturally employ the Standard Seoul Dialect since they grew up in Ilsan and Anyang, both of which are cities in the greater Seoul area, but J-Hope grew up with the Jeolla dialect, and everyone else in BTS grew up with the Gyeongsang dialect.
Most BTS songs are in the Standard Seoul dialect, and most of the time you will hear idols and celebrities speak in that dialect, be it in songs or during interviews.
People who don’t use standardised dialect are often presented as being inferior to people who use standardised dialect, simply because of the way they talk.
It happens in English too.
You may have heard of English speakers looking down on those with Cockney English dialects, well it’s true.
Cockney English is commonly associated with working class and English people who naturally have this accent face a lot of struggles to be seen for their full worth and achievements and not the sound of their dialect.
A lot of assumptions about their worth and intelligence are made simply based on their accent.
Assumptions based on dialects are made for Korean too.
People who speak the Gyeongsang dialect are expected to be cool and tough, whereas people who speak the Jeolla dialect are expected to be friendly.
Certain jobs are sometimes associated with these dialects.
For example, the Gyeongsang dialect is commonly associated with fishers and sailors, whereas the Jeolla dialect is associated with farmers. So the stereotypical image of what a farmer is or what a sailor is, are carried on into people’s impression of people who speak with that dialect.
People from provinces often move to Seoul to study or to get a job, and in order to succeed in the big city of Seoul they have to throw away their original dialects. This is especially true for idols.
They are required and requested to use Standard Speech, and have to abandon their dialect.
Some idols have been unable to “fix” their dialect and a few of those have found a way to use it to their advantage. For example, B1A4 who are known as Satoori Idols because they all come from outside of Seoul and speak in dialects. But their songs are still in the Standard Dialect.
Eunji from A Pink starred in the dialect filled drama Reply 1997 also turned her dialect to her favour on screen, but it is no easy feat and idols are still widely required to abandon their dialect and speak in the Standard speech.
While it is not bad to want to use standardised speech, being forced to change the way we speak can have big consequences that affect people’s ability to express themselves.
There are certain phrases and ways to say things in different dialects that define how we see and think about the world. This is the same for when we learn foreign languages.
Dialects help define our world view, and they also provide a sense of community.
To meet someone with a similar dialect to yourself, is a bit like being in a foreign country and meeting someone who speaks your language: an experience of immediate kindred.
I am someone who has lived abroad most of my life and while I struggle to identify where I come from, when I meet someone from a country I’ve lived in or who speaks with the accent of a place I have lived, I immediately feel a connection as if I know them already.
It’s one of the many powers of language and dialects.
This is why it is so important to not abandon dialects and to acknowledge their existence. They give a sense of identity and community, the same as a nationality may give us.
By using their original Korean dialects in their songs, BTS celebrate their Korean heritage and cultural identity.
팔도강산 is a song that celebrates dialects, comforts those who use dialects, talks about the worth of dialects to those who do not, while being a song that solidifies their Korean identity, and that is why I love it.
It presents them as idols who fight for the minorities of non-Seoul-speakers. Idols that every Korean can relate to, no matter if they’re from the big city or not.
It makes them relatable.
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