Posted on October 27, 2017
Jamaican legend and eternal idol; Bob Marley. He became a household name by performing reggae music, which was, at the time, a new genre combining rhythm & blues with local Jamaican folk music. He sang songs about peace that had beautiful melodies and revolutionary lyrics. Despite being born in Trenchtown, a ghetto in the capital city of Kingston, Marley had big dreams and went on to become a worldwide hero. The aim of this month's Top 7 article is to introduce some of Bob Marley’s Korean sons and daughters: the ska and reggae musicians of Korea. Ah! before I go on, I need to make a confession. I don’t know all that much about the history (past or present) of ska or reggae. I mean, I love listening to it and seeing it performed live, but honestly, I listen to it the most when I’m at Reggae Chicken in Hongdae! The music goes well with their Curry Chicken and a glass of beer! Anyway, I digress….. So, the bands that feature in this Top 7 article and the comments I have made about them are just my opinions as a casual music fan. As a music lover, I want to listen to these beautiful songs with you all. Let’s enjoy them together
* Read Vol 1 + Vol 2 of our Top 7 Series using the links below:
I will start by dropping a quote about the band that I came across in a Youtube comment: ‘Your music feels like the traditional Korean taste of doenjang (a type of fermented soybean paste) and the exoctic scent of palm trees’. Vocalist Kim Ban-jang’s voice covers variety of styles and emotions from rough Pansori (a Korean genre of musical storytelling performed by a vocalist and a drummer) -like style, to a reggae-like lullaby style. If you only look at their lyrics, they might seem a bit boyish, but if you look a bit deeper they feel more like a wise man’s story. This band’s real merit is the strength of their live show--they are one of the best live bands around. They spead happiness with their Korean soul and infectious music. The party is always wherever they are playing. The drum and bass sounds bounce back and forth like a pingpong ball, and when combined with the sound of the vocalist’s delay effects they really show off the true beauty of reggae music.
Some people say that the content of reggae music is like a fantasy world, but I think the opposite is true. In my opinion reggae is often very good at describing the most realistic and frustrating aspects of the lives of real people. ‘Heaven’s not far away if you don’t hurt each other. You can’t hate someone forever in heaven...’ Their lyrics sound like advice from a beloved family member or close friend, sometimes feeling like a father’s comforting touch. These guys make beautiful music that flows from their hands right through our ears and into our souls.
If you listen to Rude Paper’s music when you are feeling good about life, you might end up making some hilarious dance moves. The duo play a variety of different music; you might call them a bridge between reggae and other genres. These ‘rude aliens made of paper’ sing intuitive lyrics with tough voices on various topics such as love, nostalgia, street life and democracy in modern society. They sing about even the heaviest of subjects, but somehow make it sound as if it’s just casual chatter among friends.
SKAWAKERs are a band based in the city of Busan (in the south of South Korea). The band members established their own record label called ‘Roots Records’ and self-released their first album <Riddim of Revolt> in 2014. As one of Busan’s best-known bands, they have attracted lots of fans from around the area and have even performed several times at the New Generation of Ska Festival and Rise Again Reggae Festival here in Seoul. As the name of the band suggests, they exist to awaken people to the joys of ska music. They try to make not just exciting music, but also music that touches the listener's mind. The song 'This is Ska' is a good song to listen to if you want to get to know what the SKAWAKERs are all about. The band sing songs about their thoughts and philosophy rather than worrying about their appearance or what others think of them. They sing about hope and romance instead of attacking others for their weaknesses. To the SKAWAKERs, this is what ska music is all about.
South Carnival is a ska band from Jeju Island that specialise in ‘island music’. Their music tickles the ears of listeners with its unique and energetic sound, tempting you to dance with its mysterious musical powers. In Korea, because most of the live venues are concentrated in the musical mecca of Hongdae (Seoul) it can be hard for bands to get good opportunities to play shows. However, South Carnival have carved themselves a niche here as the pioneers and guardians of the local Jeju Island music scene. South Carnival won’t stop making their music and forging a scene for others until the day comes when bands across the country have an active scene in which to ply their trade (not to say that Seoul is a perfect musical environment, by any means). The band is constantly pushing the boundaries and refining their unique brand of island music from the southernmost tip of the country.
Kingston Rudieska is a band with a somewhat melancholy sound, a certain charm and an ability to write songs with catchy melodies and exciting rhythms that are sure to stick in your head and get you dancing. They are a ska band whose music expresses the true grief and excitement found deep inside one’s mind. Despite playing a genre of music that is still very much a niche in Korea, Kingston Rudieska have make it to the main stage of several big festival here in Korea. The party feel the band brings to the stage has made them one of the leading representative bands of the Korean independent scene. If you listen to their songs just once or twice it may not seem like anything special, but look a little deeper into this ska party band and you will find a passion that roars like a tiger.
Happy People was selected for the Busan Music Lab Competition in 2015 and have steadily been gathering a fanatic fanbase after performing regularly all around Korea. They have also played shows in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Bangkok in Thailand. The band are based in the south east coastal region of Korea. They play various genres of music based on the characteristics of the reggae sound in a light style. I don’t think there is any special secret to living a happy life in this world…all you need is good music to listen to while you enjoy delicious food and the company of good friends. Take a listen to Happy People’s cover of Bob Marley's 'Stir It Up' and you will get some idea of what I mean.
Written By: Yesol Han
English Translation: Song Hee M. Roh