What happened at our “Korean Indie Music 101” panel

Last weekend at Toronto Kpop Con (TKC), ATK Magazine hosted its 3rd panel about Korean indie music. The idea came to me after being invited to participate in a similar panel at KCON LA in 2014 that unfortunately didn’t happen (they did the panel the next year, just not that year). So when I was invited to create a panel for the first TKC in 2015, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about.

Each year I’ve tried to get different people who have different perspectives, and I’ve always found it vital to have at least one musician on the panel. Because how can we talk about Korean indie music, without a Korean indie musician. This year’s panel included a musician – Shinae from The Barberettes; a music writer – Cy; and a music fan – Carmen. Each brought something different to the panel and it was a fun discussion.

Unfortunately, we had a late start because of technical difficulties. The free wifi was useless for Skype or any of the other programs we tried for the video call (it kept dropping the connection) and there was no other internet connection provided. While the staff person responsible for the panel eventually offered her phone as a hotspot – which I greatly appreciate – I had specified (several times) I was using Skype for one of my panelists and needed both it and the internet for my panel so it was disappointing that they weren’t prepared. We were finally able to connect with Shinae but without video. So while we could all clearly hear her, the audience couldn’t see her/meet her. Definitely disappointing.

Thankfully, it was the only issue and once we got going, the panel was fun and it looked like the audience appreciated it and learned something is the notes some of them were taking was any indication.

What we talked about

Each member of the panel introduced themselves and their connection to the Korean indie music scene to start everything off. We then had a fascinating discussion over what exactly is Korean indie music? What musical genres does it encompass? Personally, I found Shinae’s answers incredibly enlightening and I listened to the videos we filmed of the panel afterwards to learn more.

The next topic was about connecting with Korean indie bands – where can you find them? While we spoke about this at length (you really should watch the two videos… hint, hint ^^), I do want to highlight a couple of places you can look for music.

Bands you already like – follow them on social media because not only will you find out what they’re up to but they often talk about other bands (labelmates, bands they plays gigs with, bands they like, bands they’re friends with).

YouTube – Cy mentioned this and YouTube is great at recommending who to listen to next. Their choices don’t always make sense but it’s often a fun way to explore new songs.

Google Play/Bandcamp/Soundcloud – they also recommend music based on who you’ve listened to, what you buy, etc. Plus they’re great places to explore music before you buy. Just don’t forget to support the artists and buy the music you like!

Websites/blogs – not to toot our own horn but websites like ATK Magazine, Korean Indie, KultScene, etc. talk about music and can be great places to discover new bands and/or albums to listen to.

Our next point was supposed to be Korean indie music in North America. Unfortunately, because of the delay due to our technical challenges, we skipped this section of the panel because time was starting to run short and I knew that everyone wanted to share their recommendations.

So who did they recommend?

We asked each of the panelists to recommend 5 Korean indie musicians/groups to listen to. Of course, they all came up with some great recommendations and wanted to recommend more because limiting it to just five was hard. So, although their lists are by no means exhaustive, they are a great place to start if you’re new to Korean indie music or if you are just looking for someone new to listen to. And don’t forget to listen to the panel videos for more info (part 2 for the recommendations) as they all explain why they think you should listen to their choices.

Shinae’s 5 to listen to

  • (Album) Rollercoaster – Absolute (2002)
  • Sunwoo Junga (선우정아)
  • Echae Kang (강이채)
  • Kim Gan Ji X Ha Heon Jin (김간지 X 하헌진)
  • Sowall

Cy’s 5 to listen to

  • Big Phony
  • SLEEQ
  • Vismajor
  • Samuel Seo
  • Feel Ghood Music

Carmen’s 5 to listen to

  • We are the Night / Rocket Diary
  • Lucite Tokki
  • Biuret
  • Rumble Fish
  • MoT

Unfortunately, we were running out of time so I didn’t have any time to talk about my suggestions, but here they are.

Cindy’s 5 to listen to

  • No Brain
  • Galaxy Express
  • HEO
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio
  • National Pigeon Unity

And it goes without saying that you should check out The Barberettes. I’ve seen them perform seven times live and they impress each time.

Final Thoughts

Despite the technical issues of absolutely useless wifi, it was a good panel and I was impressed by how closely those in attendance were paying attention, right down to asking the panelists to spell the musicians/bands they were recommending so they could write the names down. Huge thanks to Shinae, Carmen and Cy for participating on the panel. I also want to thank the staff/volunteers running the panels, who were all friendly and helpful, especially Shedona who used her phone as a hotspot so we could Skype in Shinae from Korea and the volunteer (whose name escapes me) who recorded the panel for us. Thank you!

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 on the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival. 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.

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