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What’s so great about the K-Indie scene?

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While South Korea’s music scene blossoms, K-Indie slowly makes its path towards global  recognition.

It is no longer a secret that South Korea is a country of many talents. For a long time,  outsiders believed that subcultures and diversity were unknown concepts for South Koreans.  However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps it was the passion for music or the  eagerness of sharing day-to-day life in art, but South Koreans are experts in creating remarkable  films, showstopping stories, and colorful songs.  

As time went by, K-pop became the headline of South Korea’s music scene, and its  success has opened a huge door for foreigners to learn more and be interested in South Korea’s  art. However, K-Indie started to take shape dating back to almost 1987, after the end of the  military regime. Since then, other factors like the economic slowdown from the 90s and the rise  of the underground artistic scene strengthened the development of K-Indie.  

The power of K-Indie helps you picture that soulful street of colors and lights or puts a  name to your emotions when it’s hard to speak. It might remind you of coffee afternoons or it  might show you the way it portrays the struggle of a society that tries to communicate its worries  and thoughts through songs.  

From Hongdae to the world 

K-Indie became a strong wave of fresh sounds and emerging talents. The medley of  mellow beats, rock power, soul smoothness, or R&B strength takes infinite shapes that show the  huge talent of these artists, and it has been creeping into other genres, even K-pop.  

As many might know, Indie stands for independent music, films and labels, that’s why it  encompasses even more genres as it might not be a genre itself. These Independent bands and 

solo artists come from diverse backgrounds and have different stories that gather under this  umbrella of sounds. 

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No longer the misfits, they found a place in charts and awards.  

In an article from the Rolling Stone magazine (2020), which talks about the rise of  different music genres in Korea besides K-pop, it’s mentioned that in the Gaon Digital Chart “the  song Your Shampoo Scent in the Flowers from Busker Busker was the third most popular song  in Korea for the first half of 2020”. Even the song “Cherry Blossom Ending” from Busker  Busker had the spot of Number One song in the Top 100 Song of Past Decade from Melon, as it  is also stated in the article.  

If you would like to learn more about K-Indie artists, these are some you can check out  based on their genres: 

  • Hyukoh: Indie Pop and Indie Rock. 
  • The Black Skirts: Indie Rock 
  • 1415: Indie Pop – Indie Folk 
  • Kim Il Du: Indie Folk 
  • OH CHILL: Rock – Grunge 
  • Billy Carter: Punk- Indie 
  • Kiha and the faces: Indie Rock  

The list is massive, you might need a lifetime to listen to every K-Indie artist that already  exists and the ones to come. They took over playlists in Spotify and even the international music  entertainment media. Every Korean has a memory related to K-Indie bands and its sound might 

deceive you, because behind nostalgic melodies hide student activists and even political protests.  Therefore, K-Indie has a major societal impact than we believe.  

This impact has also reached independent journalism. Magazines and fanzines dedicate  their content to promote and talk about these artists after they realized that in the mainstream  media there wasn’t enough representation of independent bands, festivals, and even films. For  instance, Platform is a South Korea-based alternative magazine, in which you can find articles  about upcoming local events, art, cinema, and more. They even host their events and offer  amazing live music experiences. Korean Indie is also a great option if you’re looking for  another independent magazine, this one focuses its content on rising talents from the Indie scene  and showcases related to independent genres, their main informative channel is Instagram where  they are most active.  

Furthermore, you can find articles about K-Indie in the Korean Herald, Rolling Stone  Magazine, Vice, Elle, among others, which also talk about current events being held in Korea  that focus on independent acts and experimental genres.  

Here are some Festivals that include K-Indie in their lineups: 

  • Busan Rock Festival: Oct 2- Oct 3. This festival contains acts of various genres such as  rock, metal, and indie. International and local acts perform their hearts out in locations  that will get you out of your daily routine.  
  • Seoul Fringe Festival. Usually held in August. Artistic Freedom is their focus, this  festival gathers all types of artistic expressions: be it Music, Visual Arts, Asian  Independent Films, or Performing Arts. Regarding Music showcases, you can find Rock,  Korean Classical Music, Indie, among others. 
  • Seoul Jazz Festival: Usually takes place in May. Artists from around the world gather at  this amazing festival to share their joy and passion for Jazz. The public is just as diverse  as the range of bands that perform during this event.  

These artists and everyone that is behind the production of independent content, hold in  their hands the future of South Korea’s countercultural development. They try to overcome the  fear of speaking up their concerns regarding inequality, human rights violations, stereotypes and discrimination through this philosophy, as Vice magazine (2021) describes K-Indie: more than  just an aesthetic. The fact that they’re being listened to and supported, opens the door for new  talents that might be interested in producing their sounds, words, and thoughts given the  opportunity.  

It doesn’t matter whether you speak Korean or not, K- Indie has this magic that allows it  to communicate through melodies and chords. This Alternative Scene connects people from all  over the world to the South Korean experience and shows you the other side of this country’s  cultural evolution. If you’re sitting alone with your coffee in hand one of these nights, you might  want to tune in to your favorite K-Indie band.  

Powell, T. (2021, August 18). The Guide to Getting Into K-Indie, South Korea’s Next  Global Culture Movement. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/3aqygb/guide-korean-indie music-spotify-playlist 

Kim, R. (2020, December 9). K-Pop Is Only Half the Story of Korean Pop Music. Rolling  Stones. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/kpop-korea-culture-trot-indie genres-1100124/ 

Cha, E. (2020, December 1). Melon Reveals Top 100 Songs Of Past Decade (2010–2019).  Soompi. https://www.soompi.com/article/1441242wpp/melon-reveals-top-100-songs-of-past decade-2010-2019 

Earl, J. (2022, January 22). A Very Brief History of Korean Punk. Platform.  https://www.platform-magazine.com/music/a-brief-history-of-korean-punk

Written by: Paola Andrea Martínez Pineda

Words from the author: “Profesional en Lenguas Modernas con énfasis en Comunicación Digital. Redacto contenido relacionado con el periodismo cultural y el aprendizaje de idiomas, para redes sociales y blogs. Me interesa hallar la convergencia entre la música y mis gustos por la cultura coreana.”

Editted By: Angie Páez

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the WTO or its members. Las opiniones expresadas en esta publicación son de los autores, no necesariamente reflejan el pensamiento de Haneul Ssem.

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