BUSAN, South Korea – Few people know that Busan’s indie scene back in 80s and 90s was truly a thing to behold. This was back during a time when Korea was taking in the western brand of music in a big dose for the first time. Even less well know is that many of the Korean indie bands now wowing fans in Seoul actually perfected their chops right here in Busan during that era.
In the early 80s, college bands based out of Pusan National University (PNU), Dong-A University and Pukyong University started making a name for themselves locally, mostly influenced by big-named western acts like Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Metallica to name only a few. The Korean youth grabbed a hold of it and made it there own.
Going into the 90s, the bar culture began to blossom with PNU at its center. Waves of young people headed out into the night knowing they could take in a good show every weekend. This was the time when Busan local bands that grew up on the “Seattle Sound” started to appear. Performing at the bars like Shiva, Nirvana, Rich Doll, The Crossroads, and Monk, they earned popularity and an expanding fan base while turning out their own interpretation of the western sound. Bands such as, Ann with ska punk, Pia with hard core metal, Rainy Sun with alternative and Every Single Day with melodic rock started filling local night spots with anxious listeners.
Sadly, much of our homegrown talent, whether musicians, doctors or engineers head north. Most of the great acts originating here are now under contract with indie labels in Seoul. This trend continues to plague Busan as our great diversity of musicians is lost seeking a chance at fame and fortune in the big city. Not unlike artistic talent in America heading to New York or L.A.
Fortunately, the scene in Busan is still strong. Along with Korean acts such as bluesmaster Lee Byung-hoo, Lady Goodman, Southbay and the Cosmic Comics, a growing number of expat bands are keeping the scene alive —and with a wide variety of styles.
Last year’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ truly highlighted that diversity with both Korean and expat musicians coming together to fight it out with a selection of their own original songs. Every night the event was filled to capacity. So much so that scores of eager fans were being turned away at the door.
There is no doubt that the 2nd wave of the Busan music scene is upon us. What makes this time so exciting is the mix of local and international talent coming together to give Busan the awesome sound it deserves. So, get on out there and enjoy some of the best music in all of Asia.
Roy is lead singer and songwriter for the band Lady Goodman. They can be seen in crowded bars around Busan.