Archive for the ‘South Korea’ Category

New Website

June 7, 2011

Hello all!

Many thanks for all your support over the last year as I travel, work and write. It’s come time, however, to change things up a little. As a result, I’ve launched a new website:

I am still trying to figure out how to post pictures, but I hope to have that done shortly. I’ve tried to clean things up a little for easier navigation. Please let me know if I’ve been successful or if something needs to be changed.

If you have any suggestions, please contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d be more than happy to talk/chat/email with you.

As for this site, I will keep it active for now, but will stop updating it shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support,



Korean Traditional, Pop, and Jazz Music

September 27, 2010

Ok, so here is my second post on Korean music. Here I’ll cover some traditional, pop, and jazz music. Admittedly, this post is incomplete since Korea, especially Seoul, is teeming with a vibrant music culture.


2-CD collection of Kim Duk Su's traditional music.

The Grand Poobah of Korean traditional music is Kim Duk Soo, the man who leads his own samul nori ensemble. The core ensemble consists of four instrument, the janggu (the hour-glass-shaped drum), buk (a regular big tub of a drum), jing (a large, dull sounding gong) and the Kwaenggwari (a small cymbal used to solo and lead the group), but in many cases the ensemble is expanded. Some find this music annoying, especially because of the kwaenggwari, but to see it live is simply amazing. These muthfuckas can wail! Not only that, take a look at performance in which they do the twirly-head-thingy, gives metal-loving headbangers a run for their money, eh? Luckily I had the chance to study the janggu under the tutelage of my school’s music teacher, but without the head spinning. If you’re interested, Mr. Kim runs a daily show in Seoul at the Gwangwhamun Arts Hall. I missed it, but I have a couple of his discs, “Pan” and his 2-disc “Samulnori”. I like the second one best but “Pan” would probably give a better overall glimpse at traditional Korean music.

There is another traditional performing arts show that’s not all percussion. It’s also a regular show at the Korea House in Seoul. It is here you can hear the traditional flute played, see the fan-dance, and also see the all-female drum quintet that, I think, inspired Drumcat.


KPop all-stars, 2NE1 from South Korea.

If there is one country that has PERFECTED pop music, it’s Korea. It’s catchy, it cute, it’s fake, it’s in Korean AND English! I’ll admit that I’m sadly out of touch with the current Kpop trends, but I did spend some time studying Kpop since it would often get my students to pay attention… and make ladies laugh at the bar. Recently, Super Junior, 2NE1, Brown Eyed Girls, 2PM and SNSD were tearing up the charts with their catchy singles (I’d post links but they’d just get deleted because of copyright infringement). A friend sent me this link to a couple of wayguks (foreigners) giving heir top 2009 Kpop hit singles. I think it’s a pretty good summation.


Autographed jazz CD by Se Yun's trio. Translation: "Steve! Thank you. Se Yun. 12.12"

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see as much jazz as I would’ve liked while in SoKo. But, from what I can tell, Seoul is the city to catch some live jazz. While in one jazz bar the band, Se Yun’s Trio, was phenomenal live so I picked up the disc (see above). The disc is equally impressive. Busan has one bar that’s dedicated to jazz, but the “jam” on Mondays always seemed empty. I was part of one band that played a lot of jazz in Busan, you can see some vidz HERE. Lastly, there are several jazz festivals that take place. The two I had heard about were the Seoul Jazz Festival and the Jarasum International Jazz Festival.

And that’ll just about do it for my knowledge on South Korean music. Looking back at my posts I’ve realized my knowledge is paltry compared to what’s really out there. To those in SoKo, there’s lots of stuff going on and I’d love to hear about it. To those outside of SoKo, don’t write Asia off for it’s music!

Korean Rock Music

September 15, 2010

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.

Stepping out of a cab in Seoul, South Korea, my friends and I saw this group, Drumcat, just about to take the stage to perform. Four gorgeous Korean women dressed in black who play drums, everything about that is "yes".

Artist: Drumcat!

Album: Live show, DVD

MySpace: None

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.

Artist: YB

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.

Artist: Sinawe

Album: Sinawe 5

MySpace: None


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

MySpace: None

Website: none

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.

Live music

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

Album: None


Website: None

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.

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