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BUSAN, South Korea - When one first thinks of Busan, one might automatically jump to the tired labels of “Korea’s city of beaches” or “the vacation town,” as it is known to the locals.  It is widely thought of as a place to unwind, let your hair down, and relax on the sand with a cold one.

A Quick Guide to Busan Music

BUSAN, South Korea – When one first thinks of Busan, one might automatically jump to the tired labels of “Korea’s city of beaches” or “the vacation town,” as it is known to the locals.  It is widely thought of as a place to unwind, let your hair down, and relax on the sand with a cold one.

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.
Hip Hop

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
There are a lot of promising young artists coming up, including ?? (Su-Gu) and ??? (Gae-Ag-Dang).   Kirton usually performs along with his two contemporaries “Ollie” and “Dave” all across Busan. You can catch Kirton as the DJ “Midnight Rider” on Busan EFM 90.5fm and (Chadfusion) on   He and others in Korea are trying to “unite the Hip-Hop scene”. With the recent visit of The Waygook Movement from Daegu, Pinnacle and the Antidote, along with many others from Seoul and neighboring cities, it seems unity is in the air. Forget about that LA vs NY nonsense.

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 are so many bands, like; “Unchained” (Grunge) “Lied” (Post-Grunge) “Rock Van” (pop-rock) “Nachopupa” (Punk with Irish folk twist) “SouthBay” (Punk, though they recently disbanded) “Moon-4-Chun” (Progressive rock/metal) “Gwamegi” (Hardcore)…and that’s just to name a fraction of the offerings around town. You can usually catch them playing alongside each other as almost all venues will play a mix of genres, although the likely spots to catch them playing are “Club Realize” in Kyungsung,  “Rock House” in Seomyeon or “Monk” in PNU.

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
Let’s have a look at the venues for this particular section.  The “Moo Monk” (Kyungsung) is seemingly a perfect fit for these styles, though bear in mind that there are two “monk” clubs, with the one in PNU playing hard rock, while the one in Kyungsung is more specific to Jazz, Acoustic, and occasionally Blues. There’s also Crossroads (PNU), OL’55 (Kyungsung) and many more, the latter even offering an "open mic" night that is really a "pot luck" of styles, and is almost always worth a visit.  I myself have frequented the OL’55 open mic night on and off for the past 8 years, providing me with an eclectic range of entertainment.

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!




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