The beautiful cherry blossoms that glorify our campus this time of year have officially marked the start of spring. April is the month when we KAIST students are filled with warmth and hope (needed especially after the grueling midterms) through strawberry parties, the Spring Festival and the wonderful weather. This year, however, this burst of spring can also be felt through something else: Busker Busker.
Busker Busker is a three-man indie band that initially achieved fame through the TV audition program Superstar K. The group is composed of Beom-June Jang, Hyung-tae Kim and Brad Moore, who gathered to create music and promote street performance culture in Korea (their name comes from the word “busking,” which is the act of performing in public places).
After the end of the show’s season, the band released their self-titled debut album in late March of this year. Since then, the band has acquired national fame in snowballing fashion. Except that for Busker Busker, the particular snowball is made of cherry blossom petals. The album screams of spring awakening and the scintillating delight it brings. Perhaps it’s in part due to their perfect debut timing that matches their album sound, but Busker Busker has definitely won the hearts of Korean listeners.
Busker Busker can be said to be the love child between the contemporary band The Black Skirts and the 80’s Korean folk band Dongmoolwon (which translates to zoo). The vocals are loud and very out there, with whimsical guitar melodies that generate a vibe of Korean nostalgia and emotion. Something that sets this band apart from other artists is that they only use pure Korean for their lyrics, and their sound has almost no engineered sounds. It’s perhaps unfair to say that this is a characteristic unique of Busker Busker as many Korean indie bands possess this trait as well, but Busker Busker seems to be distinct in that they achieved such immense popularity. With the Auto-Tuned, digital sounds and nonsensical English lyrics of K-pop that currently dominate the Korean music scene, Busker Busker is definitely something fresh, at least in the perspective of the general public.
The Korean music scene has been suffering from idol groups that have a business-oriented mindset towards music. It’s not a music scene but rather a music industry, where most musicians on the billboard charts are focused more on making money rather than making music. Although this can be said for music industries all over the world, Korea’s ranks among the more serious.
The fact that Busker Busker is loved so much represents something more than just a public craze over a group that will soon become disposed of after a couple of months. Busker Busker’s popularity symbolizes what music should really be about. Rather than downloading one or two songs by an artist, people are downloading and enjoying an entire album that is compactly filled with genuine songs that have their own colors. This is not to say that the public has a bad taste in music, but this behavior has been the tendency of many people, including those who consider themselves “intelligent listeners” of music, if such a statement can even be made. And this album that everyone is listening to was created by the musicians themselves, something very rare especially in Korea. Busker Busker’s music can be heard almost everywhere; cafés and restaurants are constantly playing the band’s songs, and people are singing them at Karaoke and even in classrooms, together. This is what music should really be about: gathering and uniting people through the shared feeling of love and excitement for a common goal.
If you haven’t listened to this potential album of the year yet, perhaps because you don’t want to jump on the bandwagon like everyone else, then you’re certainly missing out. The band does have some points to improve on, such as lyrical creativity and depth, but nonetheless their debut album rightfully deserves the current craze. So give them a chance and take part in what will hopefully turn into a revolution in the Korean music scene. Because at long last, spring is finally here.