Tag Archives: music

lovexstereo

SXSW Hosts More Music From Korea

Love x Stereo performs at the Seoulsonic Showcase at SXSW on March 13. Photo via Seoulsonic Facebook page.

by JONATHAN CHA

The Seoulsonic Showcase at Icenhauer’s proved the strength and diversity of Korean music at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Thursday night.

Smacksoft opened the show with a powerful, “post-punk” punch to the face. One of the early influencers on Korea’s indie scene that lists Bach as an important influence on their “sound that defies easy categorization,” Smacksoft jump started the festivities with Whang Bo Ryung rhythmically rattling everyone at the venue down to the tent covering the stage.

Big Phony fielded a wedding proposal and asked the crowd to buy at least four CDs in his quest for a new guitar while simultaneously charming them with his soulful songs. A definite crowd favorite, many fans traded camera phones as they snapped pictures with the singer long into the night.

[ad#336]

Glen Check quickly transformed their set into a raucous dance party as fans grooved to the front of the stage and jumped into the air. Their flying guitars and upbeat energy inspired the crowd to chant for more when it seemed as of they had finished.

Rock and Roll Radio was true to their name, blending a style of rock from the U.K., U.S. and ROK. Deeper into the set, screaming fans began bobbing their heads to the funkier songs on their playlist, ending with “Shut Up and Dance.” The crowd, however, did not follow the song’s title, yelling vociferously while dancing vigorously.

Love X Stereo warmed the crowd with their incredible stage presence and energy. Onlookers of all ages swayed together to the dulcet echoes of “Fly Over,” even evoking one expressive fan to actually run in place. To the delight of the gathering masses, they closed with a hypnotic performance of their hometown anthem, “Soul City.”

No Brain exploded as if they had been waiting for 15 years to perform instead of holding down Korea’s punk scene since their Hongdae origins in 1996. Lee Sung Woo, the band’s vibrant lead singer, exhorted the crowd to join in on several choruses, highlighted by a random fan joining No Brain on stage to help scream their rendition of ACDCs “Highway to Hell.” Hwang Hyun Seong swapped his drum sticks for the mic for “A Glass of Soju,” even passing shots of the iconic drink to the front row. Lee joked that he took a turn on the drums for the song because he preferred makgeolli.

[ad#336]

cl3

2NE1 in Controversy Over Quran Lyrics

Top K-pop girl group 2NE1 is under fire from Muslim groups after it was revealed that one of their songs uses verses taken out of the Quran.

The Korea Muslim Federation demanded that record label YG Entertainment to “swiftly delete” the lyrics in the song “MTBD” or revise the song and make an apology to all Muslims, according to the Chosun Ilbo.

[ad#336]

The questionable content consists of an audio sample of children reciting verses from the Quaran, providing background vocals to CL’s rapping. The 8-second snippet is reportedly from Sura 78, Verses 32-34 of the Quran, which describes heaven.

YG Entertainment said it sampled a track from another song but did not elaborate.

Muslim fans were outraged, and expressed themselves on the YG Entertainment page on Facebook.

“I cant believe that you used our Holy Quran in this song,” one fan wrote. “Quran is not a joke. You need to respect our religion !!!!!! This song must be deleted !!!!”

YG Entertainment removed the live video of the song from YouTube and later uploaded an edited version that cut out the offending portion. It is unclear whether the label will re-release the album, which went on sale in late February.

[ad#336]

lovexstereo

Lady Gaga Attends ‘K-Pop Night Out’ at SXSW, Headlined by Jay Park, HyunA

by JONATHAN CHA

K-pop fans were treated to the second manifestation of “K-Pop Night Out” on Tuesday night as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. One fan just happened to be one of the biggest acts in pop music.

Before the show, KoreAm was watching fans flock to a steadily growing line in front of the Elysium Nightclub that ran down Seventh Street; they could barely contain themselves waiting for the rockstar list of performers hailing from Korea. Despite the obvious disappointment about Kiha and the Faces’ last-minute cancellation due to visa issues, the remaining acts valiantly filled the void.

[ad#336]

Jambiani enthralled the crowd with their eclectic blend of haegeum, the piri and the geomungo with electric guitars and electronics. Nell delighted fans and newbies alike with their hit anthem, “Ocean of Light.” Hollow Jan took over for Kiha and the Faces. Designated by the dozen photogs and international press lining the back of the club as “Korea’s only screamo band” — or emotional hardcore punk augmented by screamed lyrics — the band won over a few new fans of their own.

Crying Nut continued the controlled chaos, rocking out with screaming guitars and an accordion occasionally played with a microphone. Yes, Kim Insoo smashed a microphone onto his accordion and used it as brilliantly as a cellist would a bow, just far more punk.

Idiotape followed by moving everyone in all directions with their synthesized dance beats, prompting an inspired electronic fan to scream out, “This is what Daft Punk should have done for Tron: Legacy!”

[ad#336]

Suddenly, the crowd went nuts as the “Goddess of Love” herself, Lady Gaga, moved to the front of the room amid a frenzy of reporters and cameras. After security ushered her to a riser behind the ticket booth, social media exploded with pride for Lady Gaga’s support of K-pop. The phones used to capture and record the Gaga experience sprouted like mushrooms and remained there for the rest of the show.

Jay Park, a former Gaga interviewer in 2009, confessed to a slight bout of fatigue following the familiar 14-hour flight to the States, but the Seattle native still managed to  electrify the stage. He danced, sang and rapped with his new AOMG label act, Loco, amid a steady stream of screams with the occasional swoon.

The night concluded with the first solo U.S. performance by 4minute’s HyunA. Only a total of 15 minutes, her four-song set featured the You Tube hit “Bubble Pop” that had Gaga moving a bit. Expect this showcase to monumentally expand K-pop curiosity in Austin and SXSW for many years to come.

[ad#336]

[ad#336]

Photo via New York Times.

yg-entertainment

Korean Record Label to Build ‘YG Land’ in Southern California

Only a few months after SM Entertainment announced the opening of its SMTOWN Museum in Los Angeles, YG Entertainment has released news of its own outpost in California.

The South Korean entertainment company announced its plans today to open “YG Land” in Orange County’s Buena Park with partner M+D Properties.

[ad#336]

Breaking into the American music scene has always been a difficult goal for Korean artists, but YG Land will give the company a tangible foothold in North America. Unlike SM’s venue, which is more focused on providing the Hallyu experience for visitors, YG Land will also be focused on promoting YG artists, including Big Bang, 2NE1 and PSY, as well as providing a launchpad for further U.S. activities.

The building will reportedly house a recording studio, practice room and even a theater for their artists to work on projects and it is expected to open sometime in 2015.

YG Land will be located in an outdoor mall called The Source at Beach, set to open later this year. Conveniently located in Buena Park, YG Land will be just up the freeway from Disneyland and less than an hour by car from Los Angeles, discounting traffic, of course.

[ad#336]

2ne1

2NE1′s New Album Highest Billboard Chart Ever for K-Pop Act

K-pop group 2NE1′s recently released album Crush is at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Girls’ Generation-TTS’ “Twinkle” EP to set the all-time highest-selling K-pop album in the United States.

“Crush” also sold over 5,000 copies in just four days and eclipsed BIGBANG’s 2012 album Alive, which started its first week with 4,000.

[ad#336]

In Korea, every track of Crush made it into the top 40 slots of the K-pop Hot 100. “Come Back Home” was placed the highest at No. 2 behind “Some” by Junggigo & Soyou.

2NE1 released the video for lead single “Come Back Home” and album track “Happy” on March 2.

[ad#336]

fx-kpop-sxsw-2013-650-430

SXSW 2014: Korean and Korean American Groups Set to Perform

f(x) performed at last year’s K-pop showcase at SXSW.

by RUTH KIM

A record number of Korean indie acts will have a chance to step into the spotlight at the South By Southwest 2014 Music Festival in Austin, Texas, from March 7 to March 16. But South Korea isn’t really quite known for its moody, alternative side.

In fact, Korea’s musical reputation on an international platform has not been very diverse. Homogenous dolled-up girl groups or idolized boy bands are the faces of South Korean cultural export, K-pop. But this uniformity notwithstanding, K-pop as an out-of-control, international phenomenon (which reached another level after PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012) has benefited the Korean music industry and has paved the way for other Korean artists from various genre backgrounds to share their voice.

[ad#336]

The widely popular SXSW festival recognizes the Korean talents of both the K-pop genre as well as indie rock and alternative groups. The festival will showcase 16 distinct and gifted Korean acts, from acoustic to punk rock, from well established to up-and-coming. Punk rock pioneers Crying Nut are making their first appearance at South-By and will be sure to have the crowd moshing in no time. Korean American Big Phony’s sincere sound and velvety voice will melt hearts, while EDM gods Idiotape will keep the party going all night long.

Read below for the rest of the lineup of these trailblazing Korean indie and rock bands, and pencil the names into your SXSW schedule—like their K-pop counterparts, they’re not to be missed.

1. Big Phony

Big Phony is no sham—Korean American singer-songwriter Bobby Choy is the real deal when it comes to soothing acoustic guitar tunes, often intertwined with catchy 80’s inspired sounds, and the kind of Elliot Smith-esque voice that has your heart strings tugging.

[ad#336]

2. Glen Check

**UPDATE** 
All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Glen Check FB page.

Recognized by MTV K for their boundary-pushing musical and visual experimentation, South Korean indie pop group Glen Check is making their name with electro, synth-rock, pop, and indie sounds that will keep your feet moving.

3. Jambinai

You’ve never heard rock like this before. Taking traditional Korean instruments like the haegum, piri, andgeomungo out of their usual element, Jambinai creates beautifully haunting and ominous melodies that gradually intensify into passionate, goose-bump raising metallic rock sounds.

[ad#336]

4. Jang Kiha and the Faces

**UPDATE** 
All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Booking company

Self-described as “a life boat of sanity in a sea of cookie-cutter bubblegum pop music,” Jang Kiha and the Faces bring a completely unique and fresh pop sound to the stage. Emphasizing visual aspects and spontaneity in each performance, this indie band will keep you on your toes.

5. Nell

Named after the movie Nell starring Jodie Foster, the band Nell takes eloquently written lyrics and puts it to catchy, psychedelic tunes that are considerably more profound than the typical K-pop song.

6. No Brain

No Brain is, really, a no-brainer. Originally part of Korea’s underground punk movement known as Chosun punk, the band brings raw and uninhibited punk rock vibes that will keep your head banging.

Click here to see the rest of the Korean performers at SXSW.

[ad#336]

F-CB-0813-3Home-Impact2

Chuck Kim Helps Youth Nurture a Passion for Music

At A Place Called Home in South L.A., Charles “Chuck” Kim is helping underserved youth retune their lives through music education.

by CHELSEA HAWKINS
photo by MARK EDWARD HARRIS

During a jam session in the middle of June, about 10 people are crammed into a small recording studio. There are a handful of camera-shy pre-teen girls, who smile nervously, unsure of this reporter and a photographer who have just slipped in. Meanwhile, a well-dressed teen, his hair perfectly coiffed and shoes kicked off, sits behind a keyboard, as a smiling young man, at the far end of the room, strums his electric guitar. A male instructor puts on a voice track, and the musicians starts to jam, playing off each other, altering rhythm and speed, with others in the room throwing out suggestions to change things up or adding in some “oohs” and “yeahs.” At times, they break out into boisterous laughter.

All of this—the clamor of instruments and vocals, the group’s focus and engagement, the laughter, even the occasional discordant note—is music to Charles “Chuck” Kim’s ears. In these sounds, the 28-year-old hears more than just melodies; he hears a chorus of hope and transformation. And they are what beckon this Harvard Divinity School graduate to this unassuming space in South Los Angeles, where inner-city youth nurture a love for music and find educational opportunities that they otherwise might not have.

For over a year, Kim has served as the music department coordinator at A Place Called Home, an after-school arts program, originally established in 1993 as a safe haven for youth in the wake of the Los Angeles riots. In addition to music classes, A Place Called Home also offers visual arts, digital media and dance classes, as well as homework assistance, SAT tutoring and counseling, all free of charge to 8- to 21-year-olds living in one of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.

At the nonprofit center, Kim not only teaches music and music theory—he plays the bass, guitar, piano and drums—but also oversees the department’s curriculum, managing teachers and helping run an accelerated program for advanced students. The center, in fact, has a partnership with the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A pastor’s son who grew up playing praise music, Kim says he realized early on how music has the power to uplift individuals even in the direst conditions. “Music was always a thing people could use to get to know themselves [better] and transform in a spiritual sense, but also a communal sense,” he said. “After people play together you really see the way their interactions change.”

F-CB-0813-3Home-Kids4 The youth of A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

For many youth who come to A Place Called Home, life in the inner city is marked by gang violence, poverty, crime and broken families. Kim sees firsthand how these conditions impact the lives of his students, but also how A Place Called Home offers them some respite and, more importantly, opportunities to better their future. He shared how one of his students had two brothers in prison and a third killed by gang violence. This student, who had been given a trumpet by someone at his school, was introduced to A Place Called Home in 2008 and participated in its programs throughout his high school years. After the two met at the center last year, they hit it off, and Kim would often counsel the youth and talk to him about musical composition.

“He told me how music had saved his life,” said Kim. “Because of his love for music, he didn’t get caught up in other things. Because of his love of music, he would sit in his room and explore and create worlds rather than get caught up in the world. Because of his love for music, he was able to learn discipline and focus.”

Today, this student is attending a University of California school and receiving a $7,000 scholarship from A Place Called Home, said Kim. “I love seeing that moment where a child just grabs hold of his or her life,” he said. You might say Kim, who grew up in the college town of Claremont, Calif., grabbed hold of his own, after his freshman year of college, when he decided to take a break from his studies at the University of California, San Diego. Working with the faith-based nonprofit Mission Year, he decided to move to Chicago and challenged himself to survive on $12,000, which he had raised before leaving for the Windy City, for the entire year. While there, he volunteered for the Chicago Legal Clinic, Inc., and a local public library. It would turn out to be an eye-opening experience—and, eventually, a life-changing one.

That winter in Chicago, Kim and his roommates decided to walk around their neighborhood and offered to Saran wrap windows as a form of insulation for residents who could not afford to heat their homes. He recalled one resident, a mother whose son Kim often babysat at the library, wept as she shared how difficult it was to choose between buying food to feed her child and heating her home.

F-CB-0813-3Home-Kids2

Girls who care at the APCH youth center. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

“I was sitting there listening to this, after having Saran wrapped her windows, and I came home feeling really heavy,” said Kim. “So I called my mom and told her what happened. My mom at that point just started crying. She said, ‘That’s just how it was with our family because, when your brother was born and we were bankrupt, I had to choose between diapers for your brother and buying food.’

“At that very moment, this low-income African American mother was connected to my Korean mother back in Claremont,” continued Kim. “I felt like I really discovered a large part of my Korean American identity that way. It’s not just about [from whom] and where you come from, but it’s about how your story interweaves and mixes with people wherever you are.”

Although Kim would return to college, graduate and later go on to earn his master’s from Harvard, he never forgot his experiences in Chicago. And by his mid-20s, he realized he didn’t want to work in academia, but rather longed to be out connecting with people and making grassroots change. His memories of the L.A. riots also had a profound impact. The riots were an expression of decades of economic frustration and racial injustice, and Korean American immigrants felt the brunt of that explosion, as many ran businesses in these low-rent areas.

“The L.A. riots is a time when, in my opinion, the Korean community fended for itself,” described Kim, who was only 7 at the time. “People were looting, people were angry at the cops, Koreans were defending their stores, everyone kind of got into a tribal mode in a very interesting way.”

In search of a fresh start for himself, he boarded a plane from Boston to Los Angeles in 2011. A trained jazz musician, he hoped to create a musical based on Saigu, the moniker (literally meaning 4-2-9, the month and day of the riots) many Korean Americans give to the event. He thought that, by working on the musical, he could better understand his own Korean American identity and bring together the stories of the diverse communities involved.

But, after arriving in the City of Angels, Kim learned about the position at A Place Called Home through a friend. He immediately applied, noting that the principles of the nonprofit aligned with his own. Ironically, Kim has had to put the Saigu project on the backburner, while he directly engages in a community so directly affected by the riots and struggling against many of the same conditions that led to the crisis.

F-CB-0813-3Home-Kids1

Children playing at A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

But not everything is the same as in 1992, and A Place Called Home, which is a positive legacy of the riots, is trying to write a different future for the community’s youth. It has a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District on a high school dropout recovery program. Last year, the nonprofit provided support for 68 first generation college students in local schools and across the country. And at a time when arts programs are being cut in public schools, the value of that aspect of the center cannot be discounted, according to the youth themselves.

“I believe arts education is important to development, as a student and as a person,” said Reynaldo Cartagena, 19, a longtime student at A Place Called Home. He has been playing the guitar for 10 years. “It’s cathartic, it’s therapeutic,” said Cartagena, who participated in the afternoon jam session. “You’re able to express yourself in ways people maybe will or won’t understand.”

F-CB-0813-3Home-Impact

Jam session at A Place Called Home. Photo by Mark Edward Harris.

Even though Kim has only been with A Place Called Home for a little over a year, he says he has seen the “harmonizing effect” it has on the students and staff, who may come from different backgrounds. He notes that many do a double-take upon first seeing his Asian face in the building. “Racial and social lines don’t disappear, but there is more emphasis on the kind of person you are becoming, the kind of work you are doing and what you are building [together],” said Kim.

Reflecting on the traumatic clashes that occurred 21 years ago in L.A., Kim said A Place Called Home allows people to connect on a “human level,” and helped him see that if “you change the form, change the scenario,” the challenges and differences that drove people apart then can bind them now.

“Working here is a very different kind of collision [than the L.A. riots],” he said. “It’s the kind of collision that happens with sincerity and a true willingness to extend a hand and just get to know each other’s stories.”

This article was published in the August 2013 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the August issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).




F-Defector-0713-3pianist2

Concert Pianist Kim Cheol Woong is Not Your Typical North Korean Defector

Kim Cheol Woong defected from North Korea not because of hunger or fear of persecution, but for his music.

by MICHAEL LAFF

When concert pianist Kim Cheol Woong asks South Koreans to guess his profession, the most popular answer is insurance salesman. They are surprised, of course, when he tells them he’s an accomplished musician, but even more surprised when he tells them he defected from North Korea.

Tall, with a light complexion and broad build, Kim is aware that he does not match the profile of a “typical” defector.  Though now a music professor and concert pianist in Seoul, Kim is ever conscious of his status as an outsider.

“I do not look like a typical defector—is that true?” Kim, dressed in a tuxedo, jokingly asked the audience gathered at the Pilgrim Church in Burke, Va., last March for one of two concerts he performed. “What does a typical defector look like?”

His recent concerts in the U.S. raised funds to help support North Korean refugees. But Kim does not push any political agenda; he believes music transcends politics. In fact, the musician defected from North Korea simply because he could not play the kind of music he loved.

“I didn’t go to South Korea for political reasons,” he told the audience. “I came to play piano.”

Kim’s musical odyssey began at a young age, a time when his talents shielded him from the state-mandated obligations his peers had to endure. After graduating from Pyongyang Music and Dance University, Kim studied for four years in Russia. In Moscow he was exposed to music that he was unlikely to hear during a lifetime in North Korea, where musicians are trained to play patriotic tunes that praised then-leader Kim Jong Il and his party. It would be French composer Richard Clayderman’s “A Comme Amour,” a romantic jazz tune that would capture the pianist’s imagination while he was in Russia and eventually lead to his decision to defect.

Upon returning to Pyongyang, he played the Clayderman tune for a woman who attracted his interest. An official heard him playing the unfamiliar Western music, and Kim was consequently forced to write a 10-page self-criticism for the offense. Kim’s father’s status as a high-level Workers Party official likely saved him from more severe punishment.

In 2001, at age 27, he stole money from his mother and fled to China. After spending time there working illegally as a logger, he, with the help of a Christian network, was able to get to South Korea in 2003. There were scant opportunities to play in the intervening years, but he was determined to be a musician again. “I defected for the sake of my music, so I didn’t have any thoughts about giving it up,” he toldKoreAm.

He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2009, fulfilling a dream. Before the performance, he told the New York Times, “I want to show my friends and those in North Korea who must be calling me a traitor that I made the right decision. I want to tell them: Look at me, I have found my music.”

Kim, who has also performed with the London Philharmonic, possesses a performer’s flair for the dramatic. This was something he had to develop because he was unaware of such stage flourishes while living in North Korea. Realizing that he suddenly had the freedom to choose any song he wished was also daunting. He confessed that one of his greatest adjustments as a performer in South Korea was developing a repertoire. In the past, solo performances meant just playing the piano.

“Before defecting, it wasn’t something that I had to think about,” he said. “There was so much variety. The variety was a complete surprise to me.”

Unaware that musicians are accorded high status in North Korea, South Koreans often ask Kim some startling questions, such as whether the country has pianos or profess surprise that North Koreans play classical music.

Thanks to his father and mother, who worked as a language instructor, Kim lived a life of privilege in Pyongyang. He was exempt from mandatory assignments on agriculture fields or labor recruitment initiatives after the school year that most students are obliged to complete. Mostly foreigners, not the general public, attended his performances, so his knowledge of national affairs was limited. Kim said he was unaware that his countrymen suffered from severe food shortages until after he defected.

“I had heard talk about people starving and dying, but I couldn’t believe it was true,” he said.

After he defected, Kim heard that his father grew ill and died. His mother defected to the South shortly after he arrived.  Kim secured her release through a broker, and she now works as a Korean languageinstructor at Hanyang University.

During his first performance in Virginia, at the Castleton Theatre House, Kim played a version of “Arirang” as part of a human rights concert. At the Pilgrim Church concert, he also played the beloved Korean folk song, along with the Clayderman tune that eventually led to his defection and a few North Korean tunes. Kim cautioned that he had no political agenda, but just wanted to give the audience a taste of North Korean music. He would like, however, to use his talent to help other defectors. He also dreams of having a combined orchestra of performers from North and South that would perform at the DMZ and Geumgang Mountain. He believes “what the military and politics cannot accomplish, music can do.”