My Asian Rock and Metal post excludes one country that had a great affect on me personally and musically, Korea. Korea presented me with a few opportunities to both play and listen to music that I never would have had the chance to experience before. With this post, I’ll give you a glimpse of what’s going on overseas in SoKo.
I’ve broken this post into two parts. The first part is about the some of the rock music I found and the live scene in the ex-pat bars. The second part will deal with traditional, pop, and jazz music in South Korea.
Album: Live show, DVD
My first experience with this all-female percussion group was in Seoul. I stepped out of a cab into a very large crowd. I look to my right and see this very attractive Korean woman dressed in black velvet holding a pair of drum sticks. Naturally, I ask for her name, number, blah blah and snap a few pictures. Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of them and they make up Drumcat. The videos posted below were taken by me the first time I saw them. Apparently they’ve toured Europe before and now they run a daily show in Seoul. I thought the street performance was phenomenal, but the live show in Seoul was too drawn out. They have a DVD available at their daily show. Highly recommended.
Album: Millicromb Bomb
Also known as Yoonband, this Korean rock band rocked my balls solid and then left them used and abused. I especially like track number 2, “88”. From what I know, “88” is pronounced pal-ship-pal, the last two words “ship-pal” being tantamount to saying “fuck you” in English. This group embraces traditional instruments as much as they utilize their guitar-drums-bass rock music. Full of attitude, they’ve even been banned from KBS, a Korean broadcaster. The songs pulse with energy and the CD stands as a great background for a party… or perhaps a film soundtrack. Well worth the price of this CD.
Artist: Galaxy Express
Album: Ramble Around
I asked the clerk at the Gwangju music store if he could recommend any bands, and he pointed out Galaxy Express. Upon further research, turns out this is one of the most famous rock bands in SoKo. In any event, upon listening to Ramble Around, you can tell that these Korean rockers listened to a LOT of Western rock. With throw backs to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, the classic rock and metal of the ’80s, and the grunge movement of the ’90, this band pays tribute to their heroes in a great and listenable way. Now, there is a chance that I’m not giving enough credit to this band for simply coming up with some great tunes, but I can’t help but hear the connections they make in the music. Example: track: hear the Jimi Hendrix chorus before the Alice in Chains verse? How about the Motorhead breakdown? In any event, a great party disc. It was really good and I’m still listening to that one regularly.
Album: Sinawe 5
Apparently this is the first band to have ever played metal in South Korea. I couldn’t find out much more about them, but the guitarist, Sin Dae-Cheol, is the son of the “Godfather” of South Korean rock, Sin Jung-Hyeon. Formed in 1983, this band shut down operations in 1991 only to start up again in 1995 with new members. The disc I picked up was simply titled Sinawe 5, and I believe it belongs to the second incarnation starting in 1995. Really like the vocal work on track 3, “내가 원하는 거“. Decent disc, but not metal in the Norwegian or North American sense of the word. I’d love to see this band live simply because any one disc won’t capture their history.
Artist: Me 6
Album: Beautiful Doll
A friend of mine suggested this band to me after reading my post on Asian rock and metal. Wow! The first track itself (clocking in at 14 ½ minutes) is a smorgasbord of sound. Within the first minute you get the sense that you should roll a “j”, sit back, and relax. And then all of a sudden, it feels like you’re thrown into a late 70′s cops n’ robbers flick, or a Tarantino movie! Sheeit! The cops are coming meng! I think the opening track would be a great opening for a movie, complete with the initial drug deal, the complications, the chase, and the resolution. The rest of the album is groovy, great background music for either yourself or with company.
For the year that I lived in Busan, most of the bands I saw were foreigner bands. I played in one jazz/blues band with two Koreans, but we played cover tunes catering to the ex-pat community. You can watch me groove away the last time I played drums in Korea (including 2 drum solos!)
It is quite possible that the Korean bands played elsewhere, but I couldn’t find them. Seoul would be the most likely place. That being said, in the group of teacher recruits that I came over with alone there were two solid acts: a couple from Texas calling themselves Poko Lambro and this guy named John Rennie.
Artist: Poko Lambro
Album: Year of the Renegade Children
The Texans are a singer/songwriter duo who absolutely wail on the acoustic guitar, check out their stuff, and make sure you see their guitar dual. They perform an amazing guitar duo with no vocals. Though they are both teachers, their band often plays the ex-pat bars in the Kyungsung, PNU, and Seongjeong areas.
Artist: The Defector Frequency
Then there’s JR who’s manage to create what seems to be a (Prodigy-inspired?) Euro-electronica rock band. Their tracks on mySpace don’t reveal how much work they’ve put into their songs. Great key work, a very tight rhythm section, and some catchy melodies. Don’t know how they pull off their shows live (as I’ve never seen this incarnation live), but I sure hope they’re as good as they are in the digital domain.
There are other acts in Busan to be sure, but, like the two I just mentioned, they’re mostly foreigners. But the real music scene is in Seoul. Around Hanguk University is a number of live venues ranging from rock to jazz (and then add on top your clubs and bars). Seoul has also been attracting a lot more international acts lately, which is good to see. The free mag, Busan Haps, would be the best place to see what’s happening in the ex-pat community. Sadly, my Korean is insufficient to provide any information on authentic original Korean music, but I’d be interested in finding out more.
In the next post, I’ll cover some traditional, pop, and jazz music in South Korea.