상상은 여권이 필요없는 여행이다
I haven’t updated in quite a while, and that is primarily due to the fact that I just got back from a 10-day trip to Korea! I spent the majority of my time in the Hongdae area of Seoul, known primarily as a thriving hub of creativity and youth culture. I originally planned on attending the music festival called GreenPlugged, but it was understandably cancelled due to the Sewol ferry incident. But I did notice three distinct music scenes while there: music that got played in stores, clubs, and on the street!
I: Music in stores
In Japan, I very rarely recognize the music that gets played in stores. I just don’t know J-pop, and if I were to be quite honest, I have almost zero interest in it as well. But the situation in Korea? Woaoahhhhhhhhhhh, TOTALLY different. I recognized almost every song playing, despite stores in Seoul constantly blast the latest of the charts. The most common culprits of this were Paris Baguette (a bread store) and Etude House (a cosmetics store).
There were a few common standout songs and artists:
1. Sunmi’s “Full Moon” was played so frequently that my friend, who rarely listens to kpop and had never heard the song before, started to memorize it.
2. Akdong Musician, having just released their debut album, were everywhere. I heard pretty much every song off Play at least twice.
3. 2NE1’s Crush album proved to have staying power because, like Akdong Musician, each song from the album could be heard over and over again.
4. Soyu and Junggigo’s duet, “Some,” rounded out the list for the most-played pop songs while I was there.
5. Ok, I’ll add one more. Busker Busker got played a lot, but not only did they get played a lot, they were probably the most commonly recognized artist. So many of the shopkeepers would sing along to Busker Busker but not recognize any other pop song.
II: Music at clubs
American hip hop. That’s all it is. Noise Basement 2 (aka NB2, owned and operated by YG Entertainment) obviously played songs by YG artists on occasion, like Taeyang’s “Ringa Linga” and GD’s “Crayon” or “Michi Go,” and even Primary’s “See Through” crept in there once. But it was overwhelmingly American hip hop.
What was incredibly interesting to experience, however, was what Simon and Martina mentioned in their video about Korean nightlife and was particularly prevalent at NB2. There were risers at the front of the club where people would mostly just stand… until a song like Lil Jon’s “Outta Your Mind” came on and they all did the exact. same. dance. It was honestly kind of shocking at first, but intriguing, amusing, and ultimately appealing. I read in another blog that there are people who are there expressly to lead these dances, which checks out because there was one guy I saw up there two times I went.
III: Music on the streets
Quite undeniably my favorite aspect of Hongdae, there were buskers out playing from the moment I was able to open my eyes in the morning until they were chased away by police at night. However, this is also the hardest aspect to share because, not being professional musicians, they don’t really have official recordings or videos. However, I will share the Facebook page of some of my favorites, and include videos where possible.
Also, I would like to note that Coldplay’s “Yellow” and pretty much any song by Busker Busker were absurdly popular among street musicians.
1. First up is Hongdae ABCD, a duo consisting of Kim Dong Ho (who reminds me strongly of Choi Daniel) and Kim Shin Woo (who equally strongly reminds me of CNBLUE’s Younhwa).
These two caught my attention with a cover of 10cm’s “사랑은은하수다방에서 (Love at the Milky Way Café)” which was actually a bit of a stock song for many buskers. But they proceeded to play a bunch of my favorites, including CNBLUE’s “사랑빛 (Love Light)” and Primary’s “만나 (Let’s Meet).” The excitement I felt to hear the latter song can’t even be described in words.
Also, Hongdae ABCD’s “Band Interests” section translates to, “Oooh my God, I seem to have fallen for you!” That’s worth a “Like,” yeah?
2. Next is Beauty Handsome, which is the band that seems to have found the most success of the ones I’ll talk about. They’re actually signed to a label (Sugar Records) and are touring.
Unfortunately, I only saw three members busking: the vocalist Eddie Chun, the bassist Lee Jae, and the percussionist Gwak Jin Seok. But those three members played the sweetest funk reinterpretation of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” that really blew the original out of the water imho.
3. The final group I’d like to share is MuDanHwaengDan, which means “Jaywalking.” Based on their Facebook page, the group seems to loosely be a duo but there is limited information. When I first ran into them, there were actually three people. A couple days later, however, there was only one member out busking.
Anyway, I fell in love with these guys because they kept playing Busker Busker. I like to imagine it is because they noticed I knew Busker Busker.
4. There is a fourth group that I am a huge fan of, but I cannot find a shred of information on. The group name sounded something like the Policemen, but it wasn’t written anywhere that I could see and I have since used all my Google powers in both English and Korean and come up empty-handed.
I listened to them the night I arrived and the night before I left, and thus ashamedly had no money to give on either occasion. There was a vocalist, a guitarist, a guy on the cajon and one on the djembe. The energy, humor and skill of this group was absolutely insane, and their ability to involve the audience was on a whole different level. These guys were obviously seasoned buskers and I really regret not being able to follow up on them.