Tag Archives: music


Esteban Ahn, a.k.a. SanchoBeatz, Makes His Acting Debut in ‘Seoul Searching’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Sergio Kim’s character in Seoul Searching was originally written as a Korean Brazilian, but writer-director Benson Lee couldn’t find the right actor for the role. He opened his options to Spanish-speaking Koreans, and lo-and-behold, Lee discovered Seong Jin Esteban Ahn, an entertainer and musician with a sizable online fanbase among Spanish and Latin American audiences.

“A friend of mine told me about [Esteban],” Lee recalled in his interview with KoreAm. “I saw him [on YouTube] and I was like, oh my God, that’s Sergio.”

The character is a fun-loving party-boy from Mexico, who attends summer camp for the beautiful girls and booze, and he does his best to get his roommates—the sour-faced Sid (Justin Chon) and the solemn Klaus (Teo Yoo)—to follow along on his adventures.

SAMSUNG CSCKlaus Kim (Teo Yoo), Sid Park (Justin Chon), Sergio Kim (Esteban Ahn) and Mike Lee (Albert Kong) meet the ladies of the camp.

But Sergio soon realizes how his flirtatious antics can rub people the wrong way. The hard-nosed Sue-jin (played by Byul Kang), in particular, doesn’t take his comments too kindly, and she isn’t afraid to throw him across the room to put him in his place.

Ahn seemed to be the perfect fit for the role of Estaban, being the only “Latino Coreano” character in the entertainment industry. He grew up in Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands in Spain, then moved to Korea after high school and served in the Korean Marines. He began pursuing music as early as 16, and in 2009, he founded “SanchoBeatz,” the largest online Latin urban beats and instrumentalists store.

Since then, Ahn has adopted the name SanchoBeatz as an artist and producer (as well as the nickname “CoreanoLoco,” which means “crazy Korean,” due to his crazy and random YouTube videos). His music, which is influenced by a mixture of Latin, hip-hop and electro, has been sampled by various artists and played on Latin radio stations. These days, SanchoBeatz is expanding into the K-pop industry.

Seoul Searching marks Ahn’s first acting venture. After the film’s Sundance premiere, Ahn told KoreAm he plans to pursue further opportunities as an actor-musician and also shared how the movie spoke to his own identity.

This interview has been edited for length, grammar and clarity.

Esteban and CastEsteban Ahn with the cast of ‘Seoul Searching,’ including director Benson Lee (far left) at CAAMFest 2015. (Photo via SanchoBeatz Facebook page)

What was your first impression of Sergio?

I thought that it was just me when I was young. He was so similar to me. I was really excited and really wanted to play Sergio.

What aspects of the character stuck out to you the most?

I really liked that he is always trying to be happy. No worries, and he seems like he is always having fun, and he loves girls. He lives his lifehe doesn’t think of yesterday or tomorrow; he just enjoys life. I love that.

What was it like working with Benson?

He taught me a lot about acting. He was a really nice director. He knows how to make what he wants, and he really knows how to bring my talent out. He was always challenging me, and I never felt that I would be able to act. He really helped me a lot.

How close was everyone in the cast?

Everybody was really close. They were great people. I had a lot of fun working with them. Most of the cast were already experienced actors, so I learned a lot of things from them about acting. Just watching them, how they act, how they workI learned a lot about them. I had a lot of fun working with them, too.

Ahn with fellow actor, Teo Yoo:


What was the atmosphere like on set?

It was really great. Now, [the cast members] are really close friends of mine. We weren’t so close at first, because it’s kind of hard … so we would unite. The relationships, we are all really close to each other.

Were there any themes in Seoul Searching that you personally connected with?

Even though I’m Korean, in Korea, people treat me like a foreigner, and in Spain, they also treat me like a foreigner. I don’t have a proper identity. Those kinds of themes really touched me a lot in the movie because as you can see in the movie, we are all Koreans. We come to Korea, and we are like foreigners. That part touched me a lot and also, the relationships with the parents and growing up outside Korea.

Esteban SelfieAhn leads a selfie during a shoot with The Hollywood Reporter.

Did your parents oppose your choice to pursue music?

My parents were not like that. I’m really blessed to have my parents. At the time, my father told me to go to university and get a job, but my parents always supported my dreams, and I’m very thankful for that.

How did they react to your role in Seoul Searching, especially when it was announced the movie was going to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival?

Yeah, it’s like one of the best things that happened to their lives, I think. They were so excited.

Esteban StudioSanchoBeatz in his element. (Photo via SanchoBeatz Facebook page)

SanchoBeatz just released his latest mini-album, which you can check out for free at SoundCloud. The music video for his new single, “Millonario,” is below.

You can find more information on Esteban Ahn/SanchoBeatz on his official website, SanchoBeatz.com, as well as follow his Facebook page and YouTube channels SanchoBeatz TV and Coreano Loco TV.


Subscribe to our daily newsletter


Transcribing his notes

First-World Problems: Welcome to the Club


This past New Year’s Eve, I was on the second floor of Terminal 5, a concert hall in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Leaning over the railing, I screamed, “I love to hate you!” with the rest of the frenzied crowd below me, above me, all around me. As the song reached its end, the singer segued into a countdown, and then he yelled, “Happy New Year!” Gold balloons and white confetti rained down from above, and then we all sang the next song, “I try to discover, a little something to make me sweeter …”

If you are of a certain age and Asian American, there’s a high likelihood that you know these two songs are “Love to Hate You” and “A Little Respect.” This was my first time seeing Erasure. I probably should’ve done this a quarter of a century ago, but back then, I didn’t even know who they were, and more to the point, I didn’t know who I was.

Growing up in the ’80s, music was not a meaningful part of my life. My two older sisters had a small collection of LPs and cassettes, so I ended up listening to their favorite artists, which is why I still have a soft spot for Journey (respectable) and Air Supply (shameful). I listened to what was on top-40 radio and MTV, and these songs became a part of me, but on a background, ancillary level, as if my life were an elevator and what I heard around me was Muzak.

Even as a freshman at college, music didn’t define me in any significant way. At least a band or two came to campus that year to play, but I have no recollections because I didn’t go. But, then, everything changed my sophomore year.

By this time, I’d joined a fraternity (not what you think—worthy of its own future column), and one of the brothers in the house was a guy named Dave, a fellow Korean American. Dave was pretty much the opposite of me in every way—quiet, laid-back and loved rap. But his musical tastes ventured far beyond N.W.A. and Public Enemy because, one day, I heard these lyrics flowing out from his room:

Every time I see you falling

I get down on my knees and pray

I’m waiting for that final moment

You say the words that I can’t say

It wasn’t the lyrics that got me; it was the melody—a layered, synthesized sonic landscape with driving drums; the words, I noticed later.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s New Order,” Dave said, and handed me the double CD. It was all white, except for the name of the band and the title of the album in black, capital letters: SUBSTANCE 1987, five years in the past. Looking over the 1987 Billboard chart for singles now, I can tell you with great certainty that I had listened to the Bangles’ “Walk like an Egyptian,” Whitney Houston wanting to dance with somebody, Bon Jovi living on a prayer and Wang Chung wanting everyone to have fun tonight.

How the hell did I not know about New Order, who had put out this album, which was a frigging best-of compilation? That meant the band had other albums before this one. Many of them. I was glad to have found them at last, but I’d also totally missed out.

New Order became (and still is) my favorite band, but the group also served as the gateway for other artists like them. In this day and age, Spotify and Pandora would make this discovery easy, but back in 1992, human recommendation was the way to go. Dave introduced me to Erasure as well; I can still remember hearing “A Little Respect” in his room, holding onto that jewel of a CD in my hand as I stood in front of his boombox and basked in the synth-pop beat.

One of my favorite pastimes back then was ordering CDs from BMG Music (12 CDs for a penny!), and Judy, a Chinese girl in my Japanese literature class, looked over my shoulder and recommended the Pet Shop Boys. Later that semester, when she invited me to a Chinese Students Association dance and all I heard were these British new wave bands, I turned to her and asked, “Do all Asians love this music?”

She smiled. “Welcome to the club.”

Dancing under the strobe, for the first time in college, I felt like I was a part of something bigger. As my feet stomped to the drums, I knew I was finally at the right place at the right time.

I saw New Order in the cavernous Meadowlands in 1993, my first rock concert, and again in 2005 and 2012. Last year I dragged my wife to the Pet Shop Boys in Philadelphia (thank you, honey), and as 2014 clocked over to 2015, I celebrated the brand new year with 3,000 fellow Erasure fans. Standing next to me with a smile as wide as mine was a woman of Asian descent. She was a complete stranger, but she was also my sister.


Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.27.25 AMSung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney’s and Hyphen. His debut novel, Everything Asian, won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Youth Literature Award. His second novel, Love Love, is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press in 2015.

This article was published in the February/March 2015 issue of KoreAm.  Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the magazine issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


Awk Parker

Parker & Awkwafina Booking College Shows

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Parker, also known as Dumbfoundead, just finished off his Dead End Tour, but he’ll be back on the road soon with his fellow rapper Awkwafina. The two artists are gearing up for their tour through April and May, and they want a few suggestions from the college crowd.

If your school club or organization is interested in possibly hosting them for what will be one heck of a show, contact book.dfd@gmail.com.

You can read our September 2013 cover story on Awkwafina here.


Featured image courtesy of Dumbfoundead

Get our daily newsletter



How to Say Goodbye to the PMS Monster

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) is a terrifying monster that attacks every month and leaves a path of destruction and hormones in its wake. Or so they say.

“They” being K-pop singer Lizzy (After School, Orange Caramel) and comedian/singer Park Myung-soo, who collaborated with producer Duble Sidekick for this single. The song, titled “Goodbye PMS,” carries an uplifting tune dedicated to the women who are stricken with PMS monthly—as well as the men who are caught in the blast radius.

Park Myung-soo plays the monster that embodies PMS (fitting, since his initials spell it out) and attacks poor Lizzy during her time of the month. His tactics are the worst possible, as they cause acne breakouts, food cravings, headaches, cramps, emotional sensitivity and irritability cranked to the highest setting.

With a little help from her medications, Lizzy finally says enough is enough and fights the PMS monster: “This is all your fault, PMS. I wont be fooled anymore, don’t come back!” At least until the next month.

PMS 3Park Myung-soo as the PMS monster.


Get our daily newsletter



New Hampshire Teacher Wins Grammy Music Educator Award

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

You know you have a great teacher when his students endearingly call him “The Energizer Bunny.”

Jared Cassedy, the band director at Windham High School in New Hampshire, will be recognized with the 2015 Grammy Music Educator Award, CBS News reports.

Cassedy was chosen from an initial list of 7,000 nominees from all 50 states, then from 10 finalists. This is the second year the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation has recognized a music educator who has “made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrates a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.”

As the head of Windham’s music program, Cassedy quickly earned his nickname from his highly contagious passion, according to students. He was hired when the school opened six years ago, and since then, the school’s band has grown from around 40 students to a current roster of 87. Anyone can join, Cassedy said, and he doesn’t believe in auditions so that anyone can have access to music education.

Students said Cassedy sets a high ceiling for them, calling them professional musicians, and the results show it. Windham won band festivals in New York and Chicago in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Last year, Windham’s band was invited to perform at a recital on the main stage at Carnegie Hall

It was a former student of Cassedy’s who wrote the letter to the Grammy committee to nominate him for the music educator award. Thanks to that recommendation, Cassedy will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award and receive a $10,000 honorarium at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony. The other nine finalists will receive $1,000 each, and the schools for all 10 finalists will receive matching grants.

Cassedy was adopted from South Korea by an American family at the age of 4. His parents introduced him to music as a child, and he went on to study music education at New Hampshire University. He began his career at Windham Middle School as the band director and teacher of music appreciation before moving to Windham High School in 2009, where he has since been the band director.

According to CNBC, Cassedy also balances his position at Windham High School with being director of the New Hampshire Youth Wind Ensemble and director of K-12 fine arts for the Windham School District. He is also working on attaining his administrative certification in curriculum and institution with a focus on educational leadership at Southern New Hampshire University.


Photo via CBS News. H/T to Korea Times US

Get our daily newsletter



Win a Pair of Tickets to a Valentine’s Day Concert with VIBE & 4MEN

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and for those couples (or singles) who don’t have anything scheduled for that evening, we’re here to help you out.

Concert organizer Powerhouse gave us 14 tickets to the VIBE and 4 MEN concert in Los Angeles on Feb. 14 to give away as we see fit. Why not help out a lucky seven couples (or singles) who need something to do on Valentine’s?

Hug someone close or warm your cold, single heart with the soothing vocals of VIBE and 4MEN. Or join a number of on-site events for both singles and couples.

To win a pair of tickets, here’s what you need to do:

1) “LIKE” KoreAm Journal on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: @KoreAm.

2) Enter your email at our contest page.

3) Share this article via Facebook OR Twitter.

4) Tell us your most memorable Valentine’s Day story by commenting on this article’s Facebook post or sending us a tweet.

The best stories will be picked by the KoreAm staff. The winners will be announced Monday, Feb. 9 and notified by email. We will send the tickets to you!

Rules and disclaimers: Contestants must be 18 years or older and live in the Los Angeles area. We value your privacy. Your personal information will be kept confidential and will never be sold to third parties. It will only be used for communications related to this contest.


2NE1’s ‘Crush’ Appears on Rolling Stone’s Top 20 Pop Albums of 2014 List

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

America has been a tough market for K-pop acts over the past decade, even with the success of “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Leave it to the ladies of 2NE1 to “crush” that precedent.

Last week, Rolling Stone named 2NE1’s Crush, the quartet’s first full album since 2011, No. 6 on their list of Top 20 Pop Albums of 2014. Crush beat out some stiff competition, including Ed Sheeran’s X, Pharrell’s GIRL and Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour.

2NE1 was the only Asian artist to be featured on the list after Crush quickly jumped up to No. 61 on the Billboard 200 list after its release and became the highest-selling K-pop album ever in the U.S.

“The album itself was no stiff,” Rolling Stone wrote. “In fact, it’s a canny downshift from the wigged-out ‘I Am the Best’ maximalist mash-ups of the past.”

In particular, Rolling Stone praised Crush for “Happy” and “Good to You” while singling out “MTBD,” CL’s solo track that sparked some controversy for its use of Quran quotes.

2NE1 has had a busy year in America. Since releasing the album back in February, they’ve made appearances on The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model. 2NE1 and their fellow YG labelmate Big Bang have been consistently among the most recognized Korean artists by Western media for the last few years. G-dragon and CL, for example, recently collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo’s track “Dirty Vibe.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.34.59 PM

MelOn Reveals Top 20 K-pop Artists and Songs of 2014

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

To mark its 10th anniversary, popular Korean music site MelOn released an infographic that compares music fans’ top 20 favorite artists and songs of 2004 and 2014.

SG Wannabe, Buzz and ballad singer Kim Jong Kook were ruled as the top three favorite artists of 2004 by both male and female listeners. For female audiences, the top three songs in 2004 were Kim Jong Kook’s “Standstill,” Yoon Do Hyun’s “It Must Have Been Love” and MC Mong’s “I Love U, Oh Thank U. ” Male listeners, on the other hand, preferred M to M’s “Three Words” over MC Mong’s song.

Both male and female listeners chose IU, Busker Busker and 2NE1 as top three artists of 2014. The most favorite song for both genders was Soyu and Jungigo’s duet “Some.” Meanwhile IU’s “Friday” ranked second place on the female listeners’ chart and third on the men’s chart.

Below is the infographic and the full list of top 20 artists and songs from 2014.






Photos courtesy of MelOn and Soompi