Five Korean Musicians or Groups to Check Out (non-K-pop)

If you’ve visited Life’s an Adventure 2 before, even as the most casual reader, you’ve probably noticed that I love Big Bang. I do! It was through Big Bang that I was introduced to K-pop while living and working in Ulsan in 2006. Yes, I’ve been a Big Bang fan since their debut! After I moved to Seoul in 2007 I grew to like a wide variety of Korean music because of the different concerts, music festivals and bars with live music in Seoul. I still love K-pop and Big Bang will always have a special place in my heart but Korea does have a lot more to offer than just pop music (as many think K-pop refers to). There are good hip hop, R&B, rock, alternative, punk and ballad artists in Korea. I would have loved to explore more musical genres and artists but I ran out of time. Hey, there’s only so much you can do in three years! Hmm… maybe I need to go back to Seoul on a music tour…

K-pop literally means Korean pop music and it can be used to describe a single genre (I have a problem with this as K-pop isn’t one single genre) or the entire Korean music industry. But it’s most often used to describe Korean artists and groups that would probably be classified as hip hop, R&B, rap, as well as – of course – pop. I’m certainly no expert on music or classifying it but K-pop does span more than one genre. Even one group can be classified differently for different albums (iTunes classifies Big Bang differently on different albums for example). And no, I certainly don’t like it all… the artists and groups that I would call “bubble gum pop” usually don’t work for me. And I tend to like male bands/singers/groups over female ones (in any genre or language). I always have – my iPod is 80% male (minus the audio books on it).

So it might surprise you to learn that before I moved to Korea, I generally listened to a combination of alternative, punk, 80s, R&B, hip hop and yes, even some country music (new stuff of course, not the tear-in-your-beer crap… I mean, stuff). Yeah, my musical tastes have always been all over the map! So once I added K-pop to my musical shelves, I tended to prefer those K-pop artists and groups that lean more to the hip hop/R&B/rap flavour over the more cutesy bubble gum pop variety. And every once and a while I was able to find a great Korean alternative or punk band as well.

Now I’ve already written a post about my “Five Must-Hear K-pop Groups,” and one about “Korean-Canadian and Korean-American Musicians” so I won’t rehash them (but please, feel free to read my older articles if you haven’t already). What I would like to do is introduce you to some different music that you might want to check out from Korea. Please note, the musicians are in no particular order. I like and recommend them all!

Five Korean Musicians or Groups to Check Out

1. No Brain (노브레인)

Yeah, they appear as an honourable mention in my K-pop article, not because I consider them to be K-pop artists but because they have a song with Big Bang. I was first introduced to them when I saw them perform live in Seoul. They have such fabulous energy live that I immediately started dancing and was hooked! Seriously, once the festival was over and I got some sleep – hey, it was a two-day festival and sleeping on a raised platform with seven other friends with limited blankets (we booked the tent with the sleeping platform but it had only four blankets) leads to a very tired Cindy – I looked them up and added them to my must listen & purchase list. If you don’t already listen to them, I recommend you check them out… like now!

2. Nell () 

This was another band I was introduced to at a music festival in Seoul, actually, I think it was the same festival. Yay, live music! And while this may sound corny, their music just spoke to me. I fell madly and totally in love with it – and randomly learned that the Korean word for love is only used when talking about people and things that are alive, not music. Best of all, they recently released a new album – Slip Away – which is available on iTunes and which is amazing! Check them out!

3. Clazziquai Project (클래지콰이) 

I actually fell in love with the ballads of Alex – one of the three members of Clazziquai Project – first but as I explored Korean music more found the smooth jazzy electronic beats of Clazzaiquai and was hooked. You can never get bored with their music which I love! I’ve never seen them live but I can imagine they would put on a fabulous show.

4. Crying Nut (크라잉넛) 

When one of my Korean friends heard I liked No Brain, they lent me a Crying Nut CD and it was super fun punk rock music to listen to. I wasn’t lucky enough to see them live in Korea but they were one of the altROC bands that recently played in Toronto at 2K12 Korea Night. And I can safely say, they rock live! So much energy! I love watching live music where the bands actually look like they are enjoying performing and Crying Nut were all about that. Huge crowd favourite for both their music and fun antics.

5. Yellow Monsters (옐로우 몬스터즈)

I really didn’t know much about Yellow Monsters before 2K12 Korea Night – where they also performed – as they are a relatively new punk/alternative band (they hadn’t formed by the time I left Korea). But my research for the concert hooked me on their music, and their performance that night sealed the deal. They were my favourite band of the night – and that’s saying a lot because there was some great music. I literally went home and bought some of their stuff off iTunes. Fabulous music and wonderful performers! Plus they have a great connection with the crowd while live.

Honourable Mention: Pia (피아)

I’m not sure how I was introduced to Pia, a fabulous heavy alternative rock band, but I’m glad that I was. 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

9 thoughts on “Five Korean Musicians or Groups to Check Out (non-K-pop)

  • May 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    노브레인, 넬, 클래지콰이,크라잉넛!! 저도 알렉스 좋아했어요!!

  • June 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I knew about Crying Nut through the concert we had in Toronto (couldn’t stay to listen to them live but did hear their song in the beginning). Oh and also Clazzique Project (as you mentioned I know the group through Alex). I borrowed their CD from the library and they have a lot of great songs.

    Anyways, this was my first time listening to the other groups and I must say I like NELL a lot. Nice music!

    • June 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      Toronto libraries have Korean music!!! Really??? Wow, I didn’t know that.

      But happy I could introduce you to some new music. I really like Nell too – I listen to them a lot when writing. They’ve replaced Nine Inch Nails as my fav writing music.

      • June 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm

        Yep they do. A lot of the branches in TPL do including one in Bathurst/Christie Koreatown. So for anyone who wants to check out Korean music before they go buy it or just in general are curious about it, they should definitely borrow them. They have new kpop music (such as Mr. Simple or Be Mine) as well as Indie and Rock k music.

        Nell is definitely a group to listen to!

      • June 3, 2012 at 9:57 pm

        Wow, thanks. Will definitely check out the music at the library 🙂 I never would have guessed!!

  • July 24, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I really like Nell already. Thanks for introducing the other ones to me 🙂

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