The Korean American Student Association is one of the biggest cultural organizations on campus — but it hasn’t always been. Within the past three years, its membership has grown exponentially to include 200-plus students. While it organizes a range of programming and events throughout the year, its biggest annual event is the KASA Show: a cultural celebration showcasing internal student acts and external celebrity headliners. Outgoing internal president Kireem Nam describes it as the “most ambitious event that we put on each year, an unapologetic and proud celebration of our cultural roots.”
In past years, the group has supplemented the range of cultural shows at Northwestern with artists like hit R&B artist DEAN and Korean American hip-hop artist Dumbfoundead. This year, KASA sold out Ryan Auditorium with about 600 audience members for “Produce KASA,” a spinoff of Korean reality competition “Produce 101” in which ambitious music trainees compete to become K-pop stars. The show followed a fictitious plot line at the Korean American School of the Arts. There, three student groups — KASA Singers, KASA Presents, and Taekwondo — butt heads to win the chance to “debut.”
Though Taekwondo won audience members’ popular vote, all three acts, performed by students each year, took the show by storm. Local youth group Soribeat also highlighted traditional music and dance while Chicago-based improv group Stir-Friday Night became the first comedy act to headline KASA Show. For Nam, Stir-Friday Night was a great way to bring “some much needed diversity and representation” for Korean Americans in areas like acting and comedy.
The night concluded with second headliner San-E, a rapper who has made gains in the Korean hip-hop industry for nearly a decade. He performed hit songs “Me You” and “Butterfly,” drawing in audience members from around the Chicagoland area.
Nam said the show is an important way to raise awareness and appreciation for Korean culture among the greater Northwestern community. As spring quarter winds down, other student groups and departments aim to do the same with shows of their own. In light of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month, JubilAsian will host a celebration of APIDA identity and highlight its theme of visibility through its 2018 theme “To Be Seen” on May 25. Kaibigan, the Philippine Student Association, will be hosting its Pinoy Show, “A Song of Kai and Fire,” on May 19. Make sure to go out to support student groups for all their hard work and join in their celebrations!