There’s a whole lot of excitement happening lately among K-pop fans in the Emirates. Why you might ask? Well it might be because one of South Korea’s hottest boy bands, who go by EXO, is coming down tomorrow to watch their song Power being played for the first time at the world’s largest choreographed fountain system, The Dubai Fountain.
EXO might be super talented and breaking records as they go, but the superstars have a loyal support of fans, who go by EXO-L or or EXO-LOVE, all over the world and their first to Dubai proves that the UAE is no exception.
I had the pleasure to interview Hend Jumah Al Ali, Fatima Omar Al Bannay and Sara Ahmed Ahmed, the head admins of @EXOinUAE, UAE’s first official EXO fanbase on Twitter, and discuss in-depth their love for EXO, why they created a fan account in the UAE, their song Power being played at The Dubai Fountain and much more.
Hi there, can you tell me more about yourself and the @EXOinUAE Twitter account?
Hend J.: Hello, @EXOinUAE is the first UAE Fanbase for the K-pop boy group “EXO”. Our account focuses on fan projects and EXO important updates.
Why did you decide to create an EXO fan account in the UAE? Who are the admins?
Hend J.: Almost all EXO’s Arabic fanbases accounts are dedicated to all Arab countries in general. Most of the international fanbases try to prove their selves as a fandom in that specific country to get more recognition as a fanbase. Therefore, we decided to open this account to gather all UAE EXO fans to do fan projects, supports, share updates and fangirl over EXO together.
This way UAE EXOL (EXOL is EXO’s fandom name) will get recognized by our favorite group and they will know more about the country and the fandom.
After opening this account and starting our own projects we received many messages saying that they are so happy about the UAE fanbase account and they never knew that there are this many EXO fans in the UAE-Dubai since no one ever talked about it before. We admins would like to thank all of those who supported us and kept on sending us sweet and encouraging messages it really means us a lot.
“The statistics of our account followers shows that there is a great number of fans in the UAE. In addition to those who do not use social media accounts but yet they are part of the fandom”- Sara A.
Who are your followers? (Nationality, gender, age groups etc…)
Hend J.: Our account Data shows that the TOP 3 nationalities of our followers are Emiratis, Saudis and Filipinos who are currently living in the UAE.
Most UAE followers comes from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah & Ras Al-Khaimah. In addition to the followers from the other emirates.
93% of the followers are females while 7% are males, The age range of the followers is between 18 to 26 years old.
What made you become interested in the K-pop group?
Fatima O.: Prior to the debut of the group, I was interested in Korean culture, dramas and songs. In 2012, I saw EXO’s first stage with the song MAMA in a music show, I loved their song so I decided to listen to their album and watch other shows they guested on. I started liking their personalities and loving their talents. I searched more about them and got to know their names and position in the group. I was admiring all of the member’s talent and personalties even though I was trying to choose one favourite member (which is pretty common in K-pop).
Is there a big EXO fanbase in the UAE?
Sara A.: As far as we know yes, there is a large number of EXO fans in the UAE. The statistics of our account followers shows that there is a great number of fans in the UAE. In addition to those who do not use social media accounts but yet they are part of the fandom.
It’s been announced that EXO’s song ‘Power’ has been chosen as the first K-pop song to ever be played at The Dubai Fountain. How did you feel when the news came out? Were you expecting this?
Sara A.: Actually, a few months ago (during EXO’s 5th Anniversary) the admins had an idea of playing one of EXO’s song in The Dubai Fountain and we started contacting several companies and people who are responsible of the music played at the fountain. In 16-11-2017 we woke up in the morning with the news of Power being the first Korean song to be played at The Dubai Fountain! We were shocked and happy at the same time because finally our dream that we have been working on for months is coming true.
Additional comment: Many fans have misunderstood that we were the reason the song is featuring the dubai fountain. The actual thing is we were trying so hard and we were contacting everyone to feature one of their song at the fountain for their 5th anniversary! However, we didn’t have the pleasure of getting the approval!
How was the response of the public afterward?
Sara A.: Most of the people around us who knew that we are EXO fans started congratulating us whether it was in university, work or on twitter. EXOL from all around the world were talking about the news in their social media accounts and they were admiring the beauty of The Dubai Fountain and loving the idea of EXO’s Power being the first Korean song to be played there. In addition to the Korean fans who were going crazy and wishing to visit Dubai just to witness the event.
Do you think it’s a major accomplishment for EXO and for K-pop in general, especially in Dubai and in the Emirates? How so?
Sara A.: Considering a country that is not widely introduced to the Korean culture and art, it is surely a major accomplishment to play a Korean song in one of the most visited sites in Dubai. It is also considered as one of the major achievements in EXO’s career considering them being one of the most popular groups in Korea nowadays. This event might open a door to the Korean culture to fully introduce itself to the UAE and Arabs in general and many major events might follow this step.
Were you satisfied with the choice of song? If not, any other recommendations?
Sara A.: Absolutely, Power is the most recent EXO song from their latest album “The War: Power of music” which sold more than 1M copies in a very short time. Power is an existing EDM song that can suit everyone’s taste. The song talks about how we can become stronger and happier through music. However, EXO has so many songs with a slower tempo that suits the atmosphere of The Dubai Fountain and the Downtown area more such as Don’t Go, lucky, First Snow (A song that suits the Christmas season) and walk on memories.
Have you managed to play any EXO songs on Dubai-based radio or work on any previous EXO-related projects in the UAE that we might have missed?
Hend J.: Actually, we have so many ideas on mind that we would like to do. However, we have been trying to do different projects but we could not get enough help and support from the companies here in the UAE. Nevertheless, we as the first EXO fanbase were doing group orders for EXO’s albums and official goods for the EXO-L living in the UAE. In addition to some successful projects in Korea and we are planning for more.
“I love the fact that they’re talented boys who work hard for their fans and never complained about it in front of us fans” – Hend J.
What makes EXO stand out from the rest of other K-pop groups/artists?
Sara A. and Fatima O.: First, EXO debuted with a unique concept which was not used before and they continued in developing their concept through the years with their new music and MVs and made it look like a series of fictional novel. It became a tradition for the fans to write theories using EXO’s videos and music. Even though the EXO story is connected, EXO’s music is always different than their previous album. EXO have tried and showed so many different genres of music to the fans starting from electronics, R&B, EDM, Reggae to ballads and more.
Second, EXO is the first K-pop group of this generation that have sold over one million copies with each album they made since 2013 until now, making EXO the best-selling Korean artist in twelve years. There are over four million members registered in the official EXO fan club website “EXOL”. Also, EXO have won over 100 music program awards, received 21 Daesang awards, which known as an Asian grand prize award, best concert award in 2017, in addition to many different awards from different countries. EXO has entered the Guinness World Records 2018 for being the most Daesang winning artist at the MNET Asian Music Awards.
Lastly, EXO is known for their continues donations. They have collaborated with SPAO and donated some of their profits ($25,000) they made from shirts to UNICEF. Donated profits of their albums “For Life, Sing For You, EX’ACT, Dancing King” to charity. EXO member Lay has started a scholarship fund to assist students in achieving their dreams and he participates in the ‘2016 Bazaar Star Charity Night’ by donating more than 10 emergency trucks. Also, EXO Member Chen designed the fourth concert goods and he donates all of its profits.
As an EXO-L, what do you like most about the K-pop group?
Hend J.: I love the fact that they’re talented boys who work hard for their fans and never complained about it in front of us fans, they can sing, dance and make their own music, they even prepare their own solo stages for their concert and some of the members went to the acting proficient and succeeded on it.We can always see their passion for music and dancing, I have been their fan since their debut in 2012 and i can totally see how much they worked hard to improve their skills.
The most thing that i like about EXO is “Their Love for EXO-L” I’ve been a fan of the Korean entertainment since 2008 and I’ve never seen a group who sincerely love their fans like EXO do. The relationship between EXO and their fans is on another level. There are many articles mentioning the special treatment EXOL’s get. Not saying that other groups don’t love their fans but I’m just saying that the way EXO treat their fans is so different from others in a good way. I also love that even though EXO are now one of the most successful groups they are still as kind and humble as they were before fame or even more. I totally respect these boys.
Any upcoming projects you’ll be working on that you can share? Any hopes of them coming down to Dubai for a concert?
Fatima O. Sara A.: We are in the stage of planning for so many project that we will do in the near future. We’re always looking for new and original projects to do. After the success of our previous projects such as sending cake for EXO members Chen and Xiumin in a Radio show, sending refreshments truck to the venue of EXO’s third concert in Korea which made us the first fanbase to support their fellow Korean fans which made the Korean fans so happy and surprised to the point that they wrote an article in their top search engine “Naver” about the project “Arab Fans Generously Gift Concert Audience”. This year, we celebrated EXO’s 5th anniversary, so we prepared a gift video that was displayed in the biggest LED SCREEN in Gangnam-Korea. A few days ago, we sent a flower wreath to congratulate EXO on their 4th concert that just started.
EXO have talked about The Dubai Fountain in their recent press conference, and they are aware of the number of fans in the UAE so we are hoping and always trying our best to make UAE EXOL wish come true and be able to see their favorite group holding a concert in the UAE.
Have you been to any of their fan signings or concerts? If you had the chance to meet EXO, what would you say?
Hend J.: I’ve been to EXO’s concert in February 2017 and it was the BEST experience in my whole life.
If i had the chance to Meet EXO in person I don’t think i would be able to say anything because I’m really bad at expressing my feelings. But i hope that they would know how much they’re important to me as they are my source of Happiness.
Fatima O.: I will always keep on loving and supporting you regardless of the distance separating us, EXO Let’s Love.
Sara A.: Thank you for being born.
Do you think K-pop is becoming known in the UAE compared to last year? Is the public noticing the music genre more?
Fatima O.: Of course, K-pop nowadays is more popular and recognized here in UAE. After the major Korean event (KCON) that was held in Abu Dhabi happened, we noticed that so many people were introduced to K-POP and started enjoying the music. Al-Arabiya news new segment that features different Korean entertainment fields also helped in rising the number of people interested in the culture. EXO was the first group to be interviewed in this section and the rating of the episode increased by 80%.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?
Nothing more Ms. Samar but we would like to thank you for choosing us for this interview and for giving us the opportunity to express our feelings. It’s a great pleasure to be part of spreading the K-POP culture in the UAE.
For more updates and upcoming projects, you can follow them on Twitter @EXOinUAE and on their website exo-uae.com.