In praise of Busker Busker

As an indie act it can be really difficult to get yourself noticed by the public. You might have to rely on your specialist fans. However there comes a time when an indie group is able to permeate the mainstream music media and get attention. This ladies and gentleman is the wonder of Busker Busker.

My colleague Sasha mentioned Busker Busker in her brilliant K-indie recommendations and she was right to add them in.

The band was created by Beom-June Jang who is the lead vocalist and guitarist to create a group and culture of busking on the streets of Korea. His vision was to create festivals and events that showcased local artists.

The group was formed via Sangmyung university where Beom was a student alongside another student Hyung-Tae and final member American Brad Moore was a professor of English. In the beginning there were many more members due to the fluidity in the band. Many members came and went when they were available. The final three however was decided as they were the only members eligible to take part in TV audition program Superstar K-3 in 2011. The band eventually became the runners up but had gained immense popularity and coverage during their time as contestants.

Following this, many people assumed that the group would immediately be active releasing their music. However the band took an hiatus to focus on their music and their direction. Furthermore Brad returned to the US for the Christmas holidays.

During his time away Busker Busker found a replacement drummer to perform with them at the Superstar K-3 Top 11 concert tour. Following his return the band set about creating new music and eventually released their début album ‘Busker Busker 1st album’ on March.

The album was well received and they featured on popular music shows such as Mnet M! Countdown, which sees many K-pop groups on a regular basis.

During the first three weeks of release, their album sold over 50,000 copies.

Why are they important?

Due to their unorthodox start and music preference (indie) the path to wide recognition is not normally an easy one. With the Korean music industry fixated on producing the next big idols, it is a real achievement for a small acoustic group to stand amongst them.

Busker Busker doesn’t focus on teaser images or heavily produced single. Rather, their sound is stripped and focused on delivering pure emotion and good story telling.

You can just imagine them playing to you in your own living room with just their drums, and guitars.

You could also say that their success was due to the move away from idols. It seems the Korean public wanted something fresh and easy to relate to.

Boem’s voice is rich and emotive which conveys love and loss beautifully. It is a voice that is instantly recognisable and blends well with the acoustic nature of the music.

For me, it is interesting that a foreigner has gained success in Korea through music. Brad Moore, like many other foreigners was in Korea to teach English but has now been catapulted to fame. He is on the same stages as those of Korea’s largest idols and has become respected through Busker Busker.

Is this the dawn for the foreign population in Korea? I’m not so sure.

He has been afforded the privilege through his links in the entertainment industry. He is linked with Busker Busker and is reliant on their fame and that of lead vocalist Boem to gain entry into a rather closed system.

Furthermore he is only known for his foreignness. He is Brad Moore the foreign drummer of Busker Busker.

But I think it works and adds a sense of exoticness to their appeal.

My favourite song on their 11 track album is ‘Yesou Night Sea’

The song is romantic, orchestral and quintessentially dreamy. I could see this being played during a kiss/romance scene in a K-drama.

The song itself is about a lover walking by the Yesou Sea at night and wishing their lover/love interest was there with them to experience what they see.

The song starts with the simple acoustic guitar denoting the simple need of the person for their lover but grows into a full blown orchestra piece once their longing becomes too much to bear. Finally the song ends the way it began with the acoustic guitar indicating that either the lover showed up or that they gave up on their wish to have them near.

For me less is more and this song is the perfect example of it. Every time I hear it I always wish I was there experiencing the night sky whilst listening to the song.

Busker Busker are a breath of fresh air in a stale market.

Yes K-pop for us international fans is a welcome change from the drivel we hear on the radio. But with the over saturation of the market and lacklustre production it can become just as boring.

Indie groups such as Busker Busker provide great relief and remind us that you don’t need too much noise to make your voice and point heard.

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