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Korean Indie Bands to Rock North America

Galaxy Express(WEEKENDER EDITION) It’s the ultimate band roadtrip. Except this isn’t your typical, Americana garage-band straight from Smalltown, U.S.A., it’s post-rock indie group Apollo 18 from the capital of South Korea.

“We’re nervous in general about going to the U.S., playing at South by Southwest (SXSW), the clubs, the venue ambiance and the people inside those venues,” bassist Kim Dae-inn laughed. It will be the first time any of the band members have stepped foot on North American soil.

This spring, Apollo 18 and four of the country’s most-buzzed underground names will enter the American scene by touring some of the most prestigious festivals this March and April, shattering the idea that Korean music holds a mere wisp of a presence worldwide.

Apollo 18Kim and his bandmates, Galaxy Express, Vidulgi OoyoO, Idiotape and EE will go west to make a stand for Korean music either by DIY or with corporate backing. The move records both the marked increase of local bands at SXSW (March 16-20) and the official debut of Korean music at Coachella (April 15-17).

“This (rock) sound is originally from the U.S., so if you’re in a band, it feels right to go to America and experience it firsthand, be inspired by it,” Choi Hyun-seok, the guitarist for Apollo 18, said. The three-man group managed to expand their initial festival performance into a five-state, 14 gig roadshow using only their knowhow, Googling skills and an abundance of e-mail.

Previous years have seen one or two Korean mainstream bands play at the acclaimed Texas music event, one of the largest in the country with nearly 2,000 acts. This year, a total of four indie bands will play SXSW out of the 13 Korean groups that applied.

“This will take a lot of money, so if we go, we want to go for more than just the festival,” Kim said, referring to their decision to turn the showcase into a tour. Apollo 18, ever the hard rockers, took the grassroots approach so they could customize their own schedule independently. A rental van is in the works.

Though the group was originally invited to the 2010 showcase, a lack of funds and preparation delayed the band for a year. But their determination saw a rapid comeback as fundraising and money out of their own pockets will send them on their first overseas trip.

Art performance duo EE, who will debut at the legendary Coachella, was brought to the attention of the Western industry through Seoulsonic, a now-defunct concert series that was transformed into a multi-faceted music organization that aims to be the Korean Pitchfork Media.

Parent company DFSB Kollective refurbished Seoulsonic to focus on both local and international activities through “packaged” band tours, and Galaxy Express, Vidulgi OoyoO and Idiotape will comprise its first North American venture.

IdiotapeThe trio of bands will hit up Canadian Music Week, SXSW and hold a variety of shows from New York (The Knitting Factory) to Los Angeles (The Roxy).

“During the day, we would speak about and hear about how hip and how hot the Korean music scene was perceived overseas. But at night, perception and reality didn’t really mix too well at cocktail parties,” said Bernie Cho, president of the DFSB Kollective, a digital music distributor and promoter.

“Whenever we attended showcases sponsored and hosted by different countries’ governments, we were amazed by the live performances of international artists hailing from music markets comparable to and far smaller than Korea. Time and time again, we kept asking and were being asked the same questions. ‘Why is there no Korean night? Why are there no Korean bands here? Where is this cool Korean music people are talking about?”’

DFSB decided to take the matter into its own hands and, after studying other music promotion methods, decided to take Seoulsonic into the direction of group tours.

“Rather than have each act play on its own and get lost in the shuffle, we felt there would be strength and safety in numbers by bundling the bands together under the Seoulsonic brand,” Cho said. “All the bands represent a distinct style and flavor that show the diversity and dynamism of the AltROK scene.”

"It was never a matter of ‘if’ but more of a matter of ‘when’ Korean music acts would step onto the biggest music stages worldwide,” Cho said. “Spring 2011 seems to now answer the ‘when.’”

Vidulgi OoyoOPrevious Korean guests at the Texas festival are less optimistic about Western acknowledgement.

“Actually, there’s still not that much interest about Korea,” said Song Kyoung-kun of Gong Myoung, who performed at SXSW in 2009.

The group, who entered in the fest’s world music category, was featured on prevalent national radio network PRI during their stay in Austin, and regularly attends art markets in Europe to garner international recognition.

Though they often play abroad, Song said that many people still believe Korea to be somewhere between Japan and China, culturally. Indeed, this year’s SXSW will see nearly 20 bands from Japan and eight from Taiwan.

But whether it’s this year or not that Korea will rise from the trenches of the unknown, the experience for the collective bands touring will prove to be a learning one — particularly for other musicians here.

Lee Sang-yun, the drummer for Apollo 18 and the quietest of the three, said: “We want to go and show others that ‘Hey, we did it, so you can do it too.’”

Seoulsonic will hold a pre-tour party today at Club Mansion with Crying Nut, Rock Tigers, Telepathy and more. Visit www.seoulsonic.kr.

Apollo 18 will be holding a fundraiser concert at Live Club Ssam Feb. 26. To support their upcoming tour and catch guest performances by Art of Parties, Vassline, Smacksoft and others, visit www.ssamnet.com. Tickets cost 20,000 won.

For more information on EE’s upcoming show at Coachella, visit www.coachella.com.

Meet the bands

Apollo 18: The three-piece post-rock group will make you sweat, roar and jump in their intense live performances. Their DIY tour carries all the makings of a true band road trip, down to the scouring of Craigslist for empty beds and their enthusiasm for good eats while traveling the American South.

Galaxy Express: Arguably one of the more well-known indie rock groups in Korea, Galaxy Express has done it all: leave their record label, perform to thousands of fans at both Jisan Rock Valley Festival and Pentaport and, of course, won the 2009 Rock Album of the Year at the Korean Music Awards.

Vidulgi OoyoO: Literally translated into “Pigeon Milk,” Vidulgi OoyoO’s ambient, shoegaze rock will slip you into a rhythmic trance by the time you’re halfway done with your first drink. With such track titles as “Mosquito Incognito,” who wouldn’t be taken?

Idiotape: The pulsing electronics of Idiotape are irresistibly grabbing, with slow builds that reach a climactic intensity before falling back into a simplistic lull. Hints of disco funk add to the entertainment, resulting in an all out dance party.

EE: This art performance duo will not only don skintight costumes and sing in your face during their shows, they’ll make you love them. From residencies at the alternative culture space Platoon Kunsthalle to hitting up this year’s Coachella, this pair is not one to miss.

By Ines Min


EE [Total Art] Tapped As Korea's First Ever Act to Appear at Coachella

The Creators Project at Coachella

Coachella 2011. Music. Art. Culture. Community.

With the Coachella line-up announcement serving as the official kick-off to the annual U.S. festival season, festival organizers Goldenvoice can now reveal details for the 2011 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. The 12th Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is set for Friday, April 15, Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 at the beautiful Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA and the 2011 line-up includes headlining performances from Arcade Fire, Kanye West and Kings of Leon. While music serves as the centerpiece for Coachella, this year’s festival will feature an expanded commitment to art, culture and community via a unique partnership with The Creators Project—a global initiative that supports leading and emerging artists.

Art & Culture: In a major new addition for 2011, Coachella will partner with The Creators Project to enhance the cultural experience for fans. The Creators Project supports leading and emerging artists across the globe who use technology to turn their artistic visions into reality. Kicking-off 2011 at Coachella, The Creators Project will be the creative partner for the festival, collaborating with select headlining acts and curating a series of art installations on the grounds. By incorporating technology and visual art, the partnership will add another layer of creative expression to the festival. The Creators Project is a global initiative, launched in 2010, by Intel Corporation and Vice to identify leading artists who are pushing creative boundaries through technology, and enable them to showcase their works and artistic visions for millions of fans. Additional information about The Creators Project is available at www.thecreatorsproject.com.

This year, The Creators Project has selected 3 artists from Brazil, Korea, and China to appear on the Coachella lineup. Representing Korea for the first time ever at Coachella is the electronica duo, EE [Total Art].

EE [Total Art]

EE is a "total art performance group" that has a special and very effective knack for juxtaposing mainstream culture with the obscure. The brainchild of husband-and-wife team E. Hyun Joon and E. Yunjung, EE is considered by some to be the best technology-driven creative force to emerge from South Korea. EE's work takes their own culture, mashes it together with a sampling of timeless artistic reference points from around the globe, digests them, and results are spit out to create something far greater than the sum of its parts.



Featured Artist : EE [Total Art]
Artist Management : Foundation Records

International Digital Music Distribution : DFSB Kollective


10 Terrific iPhone and iPad Musical Performances

Anyone who has been watching the growing musical scene surrounding iOS devices probably wasn’t surprised to hear that Damon Albarn is going to release an album recorded entirely on the iPad.

Thanks to some rather spectacular apps, Apple’s mobile devices have shown an amazing potential for music creation. We’ve collected 10 top videos that show artists performing with iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Take a musical stroll through the gallery below to see some varied and innovative uses of many different iDevices, across all kinds of musical genres, and let us know your favorites in the comments.

#7 Applegirl002

Another YouTube star, Applegirl002, a.k.a Kim Yeo-hee, covers pop songs on her iPhone setup. Her amateur videos proved such a hit she landed a record contract and has since released an official music video.

Featured Artist : Kim Yeohee
International Digital Distribution : DFSB Kollective



Asia's Latest Miracle : South Korea Roars Again

Seoul-ful The capital's glittering cityscape reflects a very happening place (photograph by Jean Chung for TIME(WORLD SECTION/EXCERPTS) When I relocated from New York City to Seoul, South Korea's capital, in 1996, I found the city vibrant and fascinating, but also surprisingly provincial. Koreans preferred their fermented kimchi over any other food, and though I grew to enjoy the spicy staple, a longing for familiarity and the feebleness of my digestive system occasionally demanded a respite from the chili-laden cabbage. That proved challenging. Aside from some fast-food joints and wallet-straining restaurants at five-star hotels, foreign cuisine was hard to come by. It's why I have such fond memories of Lee Je Chun. While studying and working in Germany, Lee acquired a taste for things European, so in 1992, he opened the Jell, a shop that sold wine, cheese, pasta, sausages and other imported delicacies. The occasional chunk of cheddar I'd buy was a cherished reminder of a home far away.

A few weeks ago, I returned to my old neighborhood in Seoul for the first time in 10 years, and much to my surprise, Lee and the Jell are still there. But it wasn't the same place where I shopped in the 1990s. Lee no longer sells food: foreign goodies can now readily be found at supermarkets and Costco outlets. Instead, Lee has built a private club for wine lovers, where he hosts tastings for members who pay a $900 annual fee. In its earlier form, the Jell catered largely to expatriates; today the wine club's members are nearly all locals. Koreans have caught on to the pleasures of a good wine. "Korea has changed a lot," Lee says. "Koreans are opening their minds."

The results are striking. Thirty years ago, Korea was poorer than Malaysia and Mexico. Since then, its GDP per capita has surged by a factor of 10 to $17,000, more than double the levels in those countries. GDP growth was 0.2% in 2009, when much of the rest of the world was contracting, and is estimated to be 6% this year. Yet when I left Korea in 2000, it was an open question whether its success could continue. The embarrassing memories of the 1997 Asian financial crisis were still fresh, and Koreans were worrying that they would lose out to a rising China.

Over the past decade, however, Korea has reinvented itself — it's an Asian miracle again. Korea has become an innovator, an economy that doesn't just make stuff, but designs and develops products, infuses them with the latest technology, and then brands and markets them worldwide, with style and smarts. Samsung and LG, not the Japanese electronics giants, are dominating the hot new LCD-TV business. In 4G phone technology, Samsung is poised to become a leading force, while Hyundai Motor, an industry joke a decade ago, is a top-five automaker, its rising market share fueled by quality cars and nifty marketing. "'Made in Korea' used to be synonymous with cheap and imitative," says Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a start-up that markets Korean pop music internationally. "Now it's become premium and innovative." New industries, from online games to pop music, have emerged as powerhouses. Politically as well, Korea is stepping out of Washington's shadow and becoming an influential voice in its own right. Symbolic of that new role, Seoul is hosting the G-20 summit on Nov. 11 and 12, the first Asian country to do so. This nation is a global leader-in-waiting.

Part of Korea's success is simple commitment. Koreans spend some 3.5% of their GDP on R&D, compared with 1.5% in China and less than 1% in Malaysia and India. Innovation, however, isn't something that can be conjured up in government offices or corporate boardrooms. You can tell people to work harder or build a more modern factory, but you can't order them to think better or be more creative. That change has to take place inside people's heads. In Korea, it has. Koreans have become more accepting of diversity and outside influences and quicker to shed old prejudices. Such an outlook was brought about by a fundamental (and continuing) reformation of Korean society. Koreans are breaking down the barriers that held the nation back, a process fostered by political freedom and a passionate embrace of the forces of globalization." Says Cho: "Korea has gone from being a hermit kingdom, from a closed door, to open arms."

Cry Freedom

The reason why Kim chose to follow his dream is intimately linked to Korea's political changes. The country was largely ruled by dictators for 26 years, until massive street protests forced free elections in 1987, and even after that, the government still intervened heavily in the economy. But Korea has become a much more democratic society over the past decade, driven by Presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun, the first leaders to come from an opposition party, and the market-oriented economic reform made necessary by the 1997 financial crisis. That, says Kim Se Joong, founder of software start-up JellyBus, has emboldened Koreans to take more risks — a crucial ingredient to creating an innovative economy. "When the government was big and had a strict system of control, it was difficult to succeed without the support of the state, so parents pushed their children to reach for stability, by working in Samsung," says Kim. "Now the government is smaller and intervenes less. People feel they can become successful, whatever company they work for. The economy of a country is very reflective of the politics of the country."

Kim Sang Hun takes this thinking one step further. The CEO of NHN, owner of Korea's most popular Internet search engine, Naver.com, says the emergence of new innovative industries like his would have been impossible without Korea's democratization. He remembers the harsh times under the dictators, when police were frequent visitors to college campuses and Koreans were restricted from traveling abroad. "Now the younger generations have become more individualistic and free; they go to Europe on backpacking trips," Kim says. "I think openness is necessary [to have creative industries]. People are not scared to say their thoughts."

Freedom has been an important factor in the career of hip-hop star Tiger JK, who performs as the one-man act Drunken Tiger. The story he told me shows the link between Korea's new openness and its ability to innovate. Back in the 1990s, Korean popular music, or K-pop, was popular only in Korea. Its highly stylized, color-by-numbers dance acts were tightly controlled by the industry, and created all the excitement of a sing-along with Barney. Tiger JK had no interest in playing along. After spending his teenage years in Los Angeles, he returned to Seoul in 1995, hoping to break into the hip-hop scene. But his chatty raps and freewheeling shows were too unusual for Korean music executives. Producers of TV shows promoting new music scolded him for diving into the audience during performances. He even got booed.

Tiger JK peddled recordings of his raps at alternative clubs and built up a following at college campuses with his rebellious shows. About five years ago, other, more famous K-pop stars started seeking him out to praise his music — then adopted some of its elements, like shout-outs to the crowd. TV producers began asking him to dive into the audience. "They were waiting for me to do something wild," he says. Last year, Drunken Tiger won some of the country's most prestigious music awards. Tiger JK says it's because he's become "safe." Actually, it's because Korean society has become as audacious as him. K-pop today is considered the cutting-edge force in Asian popular music. Exports of K-pop nearly doubled in 2009 to over $31 million. "Korean artists became the freedom warriors" for young Asians everywhere, says Tiger JK.

Above all, Korea offers a counterpoint to those political leaders — like China's — who believe "state capitalism" is superior to free enterprise, or that they can create an innovative economy without civil liberties. Of course, that doesn't mean the Korean system is perfect. Despite its progress, Korean society still remains too wary of foreign influence and too biased against women in the workforce. Businessmen complain that too much red tape clogs their way. The outdated education system is so rigid that parents flee the country in droves to put their kids into high schools in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Korean economy is still not a fair place where everyone is governed by the same rules. And North Korea hovers as a relentless threat.

However, the Korea I know is a country that confronts its challenges. I asked my old friend at LG, Sue Kim, what Korea will be like in another 10 years. With more and more Koreans gaining international experience, she believes the great globalization of Korea will continue. South Korea has 75,000 students enrolled at U.S. universities — third highest, behind giants India and China, according to the Institute of International Education. "I think you'll find a much more cosmopolitan Korea," she says. "I think Koreans will bring in more diverse ideas and backgrounds. We're going to extend our presence more globally. We're going to continually grow, and you're going to see a much better country in 10 years." I don't doubt it.

By Michael Schuman (with reporting by Lina Yoon)

Read more : http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2029399-1,00.html

Featured Artist : Drunken Tiger
Featured Commentator : DFSB Kollective (Bernie Cho)


K-Pop Online: Korean Stars Go Global with Social Media

2NE1 pose on the red carpet at the MTV World Stage VMAJ 2010 in Tokyo (photo courtesy of Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)(WORLD SECTION) As a child, Dong Young-bae used to hide from his parents to dance to cassettes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. He says he was too shy to tell anyone he wanted to become a famous singer and dancer. Not anymore. Today the 22-year-old South Korean singer and dancer known as Taeyang is in the spotlight as an international pop star. Thanks in no small part to a long-standing trend in Asia that renders all things Korean cool, Taeyang is going global, riding the so-called Korean wave all the way out West.

Taeyang, who is better known in South Korea as the voice of the Korean boy band Big Bang, released his first solo album, Solar, online last month. It hit No. 2 on iTunes' R&B sales charts in the U.S. and No. 1 in Canada — a first for an Asian artist. "In the beginning, it was hard to believe I had fans buying my album so far away," says Taeyang, whose name means "sun" in Korean. He says he didn't do any promotion in North America for the album, which was recorded in Korean and targeted fans in South Korea and Japan. "The world is smaller now." (See TIME's special report "The Best of Asia 2010.")

For many artists in Korea's booming music industry, social media like YouTube and Twitter have become crucial tools to reach audiences in formerly hard-to-access markets like the U.S. and Europe. Korean artists are bypassing traditional outlets like radio and television, "aggressively steering their efforts to go international via the Internet," says Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based agency specializing in the international marketing of Korean pop acts. "Social-media-savvy K-pop stars are now tweeting, YouTubing and Facebooking their way up music charts across and beyond Asia." (Watch TIME's video "TIME 100 Poll: Moot vs. Rain.")

It's working: allkpop.com, an English-language, U.S.-based Korean pop blog that caters to international fans, generates more Web traffic than any Korean music portals in South Korea. "Korean artists are now out there," says Johnny Noh, who runs the site. "People like [Korean artists] and want to know more about them." The blog's monthly readers more than doubled in the past year, from 1 million in 2009 to 2.2 million today. (See 10 things to do in Seoul.)

DFSB Kollective was the first company to begin direct distribution of Korean music acts on iTunes, in 2009. It began with more than 50 Korean artists in the alternative, hip-hop and electronica genres; now there are hundreds of Korean artists available in the online music store. Within a few hours of the Aug. 25 iTunes release of Solar International, an extended version of Taeyang's album that includes English versions of his singles, the album reached No. 3 in Japan, No. 5 in Canada, No. 11 in the U.S. and No. 15 in Australia on the R&B/Soul album chart. It will hit on-the-ground music stores in the U.S. and Canada later, while no release date has been set for Asian markets. It's the first time a South Korean album has been promoted offshore and online exclusively through social-media groups, according to YG Entertainment, Taeyang's Korean R&B and hip-hop label. (Comment on this story.)

People in the Korean music industry are watching and learning. YG Entertainment plans to release the first album of girl group 2NE1 offshore and online. The group became famous after releasing the single "Lollipop," with Big Bang, which was featured in an LG cell-phone ad campaign last year. Since then, 2NE1's international exposure — particularly in the U.S. — has been growing. Black Eyed Peas producer will.i.am saw one of their videos and immediately wanted to work with them, says Choi Sung-jun, chief operations officer at YG Entertainment. They have been collaborating for the past couple of months in Los Angeles and London. (See TIME's 2006 profile on Korean pop star Rain.)

K-pop's online buzz has become a way for artists to make a name for themselves at home. Kim Yeo-hee, 22, became a YouTube star in March when she posted three videos under the name Apple Girl. In her first video, Kim played music with the applications of four Apple iPhones and sang Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable." Two days later, her name became the most searched word in all major Korean search engines. In May, Kim released her debut digital mini-album. She is now preparing a single for release in September. Kim, who went from making music on iPhones to selling her own music on iTunes in less than six months, says, "I wanted to become the Korean version of Justin Bieber. But I never imagined so many people could be interested in what I do.

Of course, once your face becomes known overseas, you still have to control your image. On a recent day this month, Taeyang was working nonstop at the YG studio in Seoul to get ready for his upcoming concert that might be streamed live on YouTube. The young celebrity massaged his shoulder, yawned and, with bags under his eyes, looked through the photos that will appear on his new album. He frowned at an image of himself in which his well-groomed goatee had been Photoshopped out. "Call the printer and tell them to change the picture," he told the designer. He gestured to the photo of his digitally clean-shaven face. "I want to look a bit tough," he said. "In the U.S., like this, they'll think I'm too nice."

Featured Artists : Taeyang, Kim Yeo-Hee
Featured Commentator : DFSB Kollective (Bernie Cho)