BUSAN, South Korea – Hajimama is ENERGY – with a strong hoard of fans known as "The Family" that turn out for most every show and let it go on the dance floor. When “Haji” hits the stage with their driving sound and occasional diddy, people move up front and dance with half in the crowd knowing the songs by heart.
The band was founded by Collwyn Craig and Dan Panozzo back in 2007 and has been rockin’ it ever since.
Tonight marks the debut of their new CD, Abandon Seoul. It was engineered by local recording guru Michael Laveck. Laveck has recorded several bands of varying genres. With Hajimama he brings out their garagey, get-up-and-go style and driving rhythm section to digital life. Keen ears will notice that the band has been influenced by early British punk and American artists such as Fifteen and Iggy Pop.
The title track of the new release is a direct challenge to Seoul's dominance in Korea with a call to get out of smog central and enjoy the good life in Busan. Bring all that entertainment and culture with you while your at it.
Dan (left) and Collwyn of Hajimama
A few tracks later, on "Ahjoshi Sarang," new sensation Heo Soonsu duets with Daniel, singing a heartfelt commentary on the state of marriage in the ROK. After hearing that particular cut, local music critic Shane Ebel said, "I'm going to play this at my wedding."
This song, packed with Korean slang, exemplifies the Haji vibe that has been embedded in the band’s DNA since they formed– a tongue and cheek love affair with Korea.
Perhaps the freshest and most tasty new song is "Gochujang,” the Korean word for chili paste. Another duet sung by Soonsu and Daniel, this track’s peppery sexual tension is palpable — If you don’t know the slang meaning of gochu in Korean, you can take a guess.
This sophomore release ends its trip through various musical styles with 90's rock bizarro love story,"Smurfette,” which highlights Collwyn Craig's soulful picking and drummer Andrew Kiely's versatility.
This reviewer would be remiss if he didn’t mention Hajimama's legendary bassist Im Gook. Also a renowned painter who once graced the cover of Haps, Im Gook has a knack for melting your mind when he kicks into gear.
If nothing else, the Abandon Seoul can help your sex life. "It makes a great gift for the wifey, and also can be used as a tool for solving lonely people's problems," quipped Daniel.
This review was written while listening to "Abandon Seoul" for my fifth time at a bar with several patrons who had never seen or listened to Hajimama before. The feedback was great. Several Korean students started tapping their feet, and smiled cheekily at the lyrics. Expat Rosalyn McNally was beaming, and said she couldn't wait to hear the next song. And finally, I had to sell my complimentary copy to one new fan. I’ll snag another one Saturday at the show.
Hajimama's Release Party will be at the Basement in PNU June 11 with Self Made Hero is opening. Haji will go on at 11pm and closing the night will be Jake and the Slut. The new CD will also be on sale. To listen to Hajimama and get info on upcoming shows check out their MySpace music page or add them on Facebook.
You can check out their previous release, Banned in North Korea, here.