While that’s all true, few people realize that it is also home to a robust musical sound-scape and was once considered the musical center of Korea. Busan boasts a thriving music scene loaded with different musical styles and a wide variety to appeal to every taste, from punk to jazz and ska, metal to indie and electronic, hip-hop to grunge and DJ — the list goes on. It could even be considered enough to rival Seoul with its Hongdae area.
Busan hip-hop is a genre that began as a study in heavy club rotation, setting itself apart from the glamorized style of the western hip-hop culture. The man who had the most influence in making the Busan hip-hop scene what it is today is fellow expat Chad Kirton (aka Fusion). His instrumental prowess has helped to set the backdrop for the ever-branching path of the Busan hip-hop scene. He says the Busan scene is rapidly growing, with more venues and events being placed at the forefront.
Chad Kirton (aka Fusion) performs hip hop in both English and Korean
Rock and Metal
For the rockers among us, Busan has been the musical Mecca of Korea for quite a long time. It was huge a decade or so ago and continued with the Busan International Rock festival, showcasing Korea’s talent alongside International artists like “Strapping Young Lad” from Canada, “Dark Tranquility” and “The Haunted” from Sweden, “Deicide” from the US, “King Ly Chee” from Hong Kong and many more. As the vocalist in Busan based metal act FatalFear, I can say this scene is well known to those involved, but to most it exists beneath the surface. “FatalFear” (Deathcore-Metal) had the privilege of playing alongside the titans “Arch Enemy” in Seoul at the tail end of ‘09, lending even more credence to the Busan alternative scene. So the word is definitely breaking out, it would seem.
Offer Klaxon plays at Club Realize in Kyungsung
There is also a scene for electronic music in Busan, one that is quite well known around Korea. While there are a few venues linked to this scene, the one that stands out above all else is Vinyl Underground. Probably Busan's best known venue with a wide spectrum of artists under its belt (national, international, and local) The Vinyl scene was started in 2002 by Mr. Fudge, Sundance Kid, DJ G, and Electron. It’s one of the largest in the city (not huge, but a fair size) and is a favourite of expats and Koreans alike. It has featured notable artists such as; Audio Tsunami, Accomplice, Espionage, Professor, Soulja, Judonomi, Miego, Mech Tech, Punn, Moa, Brian Kelly, Candem Proyect and more.
Jazz and Blues
If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed or different, perhaps some Jazz, Blues, or acoustic would do the trick? There are a lot of artists that can be placed under this umbrella, and the list is in a constant state of flux, seeing groups mix and swap artists, with western musicians coming and going.
Page One plays every Tuesday night at Monk's in Kyungsung
With all of this, and even more collaborative groups out there such as; “Super Color super”, “Allive”, “24 Crew” and the upcoming “Korea Music Collective” gaining momentum and recognition, the above scenes may all be uniting to form an even stronger and more well-organized scene that is sure to be here for years to come.
There are enough styles and genres accessible Busan to suit just about anyone and their musical tastes, I truly believe it can help you to adjust to life in Korea with a little bit more at your disposal, hopefully making some new friends in the process while experiencing a bit of the Korean-fusion culture that should help to clear up any homesick-blues. So go and let it all out, shake your booty, bang your head, pump that fist, and breathe a sigh of relief. Let’s keep on “rockin’ in the free world” of Busan’s diverse music scene!