Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pop Planet Nights In Seoul

One of the discoveries I made during a weekend of pop shows in Korea was a Japanese band—the Fishmans.

I knew about the 90's reggae-pop group, and owned two of their CDs, but it wasn't until I heard their music booming in a Seoul club called Kuchu Camp—itself the name of a Fishmans album—that it clicked. Now, back in Tokyo, I don't know how many times I've listened to songs like “Night Cruising” and “Shiawasemono (Happy Guy)”, bewitched by the high-voiced, yearning vocals.

At the Kuchu Camp, on the wall behind the stage is a famous photo of the late Shinji Sato, the Fishmans' singer, with eyes that are playful, challenging, penetrating. His image watches over every show at Kuchu Camp. Right now, somewhere there must be someone listening to his lines, from “Shiawasemono”:

Kanojyo no koto dake wo yoku shitteru

I only know a lot about my girl

Soshite ongaku ga mune no naka de itsumo natteru

And music is always playing in my heart

Kanojyo no koto dake wo yoku shitteru

I only know a lot about my girl

Soshite itsu datte yume no naka made oikaketekuru

And she always follows me into my dreams


On Saturday night, at Club Ta, decorated with a Middle Eastern feel with cloth on the walls, I remembered what a great audience Koreans are, clapping in rhythm spontaneously to songs, and cheering groups they were seeing for the first time (as well as excellent local bands, like my co-conspirator Wonyul's blues-rock ensemble One Trick Ponies and the veteran, sweet pop unit Linus' Blanket).

Yuyake Lamp translated one of their songs into Korean, and the pronunciation must have been rocky because vocalist Yunn doesn't speak the language. But despite that, after, and even during the song, there was a roar of approval. Yunn blogged—when she was memorizing the Korean words, it felt like learning magical spells, but when she actually sang them on stage, they were like a real magic spell that brought the audience closer.


I loved the casual elegance of my Korean friends' daily moves, the way they put a hand over the heart as they poured a drink for you, or placed a hand over a forearm as they received a drink. We're friends so pour my drink with one hand rather than two, don't be overly formal, said one friend. There were a lot more hugs, handshakes and pats than I was used to back in Japan.

After a few nights that went by so fast of music by great bands—Ninon, Kounotori, Three Berry Icecream, Yuyake Lamp and the vocalist Mayumi Hozaki from Japan and Do-Lu, One Trick Ponies and Linus' Blanket from Korea—and drinks, laughter and talk with new friends until dawn, we from Tokyo and Osaka were all smitten by Seoul, wanted to stay longer and return again soon—as I knew would happen.

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