Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Foot Warmer

"Play this, they love it" chimed in as the 'Beatles 1' compilation is pressed into my upward palm by a passing colleague. Heeding the advice, I enter the next box of a room, and sheepishly re-introduce the Beatles to yet another portable stereo. As the first sounds from McCartney's throat breathe air, a lucid dream figures in... lyrics to 'Hello Goodbye' are being spilled in chorus across the room. Reality hits, in truth these four walls situated in Daejeon, South Korea are flanked by a crowd of 7 year-old Koreans enthusiastically accompanying on lead vocals. As song reaches descent, said subjects begin shouting requests for every other tune on the LP.

Understanding accomplished facts,... the Beatles are beloved earth wide and the obvious, music transcends borders & languages; there lies a deeper recognition needing to surface. In the land of the yin-yang, music reins of vital importance.

With every girl bred on piano lessons, it's no wonder the majority have instrumentation mastered by the teens. Excused in as a symbol of discipline and brain stimulation, not all is cherry as one observes obedience standing in favour of creativity. Yet, having music breastfed in their youth, many serve it as a passion and interest carried through life. The preceding sentiment is most evident in the late night soju induced entertainment of the ever plentiful & popular, and now world renown Noraebong's (karaoke rooms). Where, in a past drunken state, I've purposely stumbled into an alternative room to behold a solitaire local enthusiastically exercising his voice. Present at our school itself, mothers of the children have their own scheduled choir practice, where they collaborate to belt out laughables like "La Bamba". The dominant presence of foreign music is not solely a sign of Western influence, but also stressed as a means of education in language pick-up.

In consistently squishing the rubber 'up' arrow, the green 28 catches the right-hand corner of the screen. A grabbing scene of 'Taekwondo' highlights, one subject seems to be taking it to numerous worldwide opponents. As the clips subside, a talk show emerges and essentially the setup is an interview with this burly 'Taekwondo' king. Minutes on, microphone in hand he gets up and starts delicately crooning some love ballads. In-take, this is not a one-off showing, there are countless exhibits of the behaviour. Conclusively, in this country whosoever face graces the TV bubble, appears liable to sing (from Taekwondo champs to cooks and the everyday hosts themselves). The kicker, this is no farce, although there is no album release or talent promotion, each is found to be showcasing a decent voice.

Witness a sporting event, and be taken aback that chants, dancing and singalongs garner the most action. With thunder sticks in tow and led by a conductor (not shy to distract against the game, see below), attendees bring more attention to cheerleading than any feet kicking turf or wooden sticks being swung. No matter the score, it seems employed in fans of either opponent to equally exercise three hours of non-stop energy. How so many routines and chorus's are memorized is for a foreigner to marvel. The thought is magnified when observing a 'new store opening'. This event cannot go unnoticed, rather it is a spectacle of mass proportions. First day of business, the owner of your new toiletries joint or restaurant will hire dancers who aim speakers to blast Korean hits out onto the sidewalk while they proceed with eight hours of choreographed moves on the stoop of the establishment in skimpy little outfits.

Music television and live outdoor performances are seemingly monopolized by boy bands and girl pop, which equates to focus on dance routines over sonic merit. One of the quote unquote 'artists' in this category named 'Rain' managed to prosper globally and quietly sold out 'Madison Square Gardens' a few years back. A growing fascination is the hip-hop culture, which again appears heavily influenced and formulated by overseas happenings. Further, in recent years focus has shifted away from local artists to spotlighting foreign acts. Hence, many Western and English bands are now hitting the scene and making Seoul a tour destination. Matter of fact, the increasing popularity garnered the creation of 'Pentaport' a third year established international music festival. With the festival playing out in a month, and hauling a healthy bill of Asian artists, I aspire to jump aboard and get on the cusp of the Korean music scene.

All this serious music chatter bleeds for comic relief, I leave with a foreign 'music video' take on Korean culture entitled Kickin' It In Geumchon

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