The sound of the world in KoreaThe first impression of the music by Second Moon makes one wonder about the origin of the sound. The serene voice of vocalist Lynda Cullin hints at an Irish Celtic sound, yet it turns to swinging jazz. Orchestrated by multi-ethnic musicians who play the violin, drum, Irish whistle and mandolin, the troupe takes listeners on a soulful journey from South America to Africa to Europe to Asia.
World music refers to a blending of music from Europe, Africa, South America and Asia with the regions’ ethnic characteristics. Famous artists who have visited Seoul include Cesaria Evora, the Buena Vista Social Club, Gotan Project and most recently Goran Bregovic, who performed here last month.
Second Moon’s breakthrough came before it released its first album. “In the West Sky” the group’s original soundtrack for the hit TV series, “Ireland,” gained huge popularity. Its exotic violin melody expressed well the emotional turmoil of the main characters and instantly captured viewers’ hearts.
Park Hye-ri, who composed the song, says, “I never thought that people would like this kind of song. The song was influenced by Gypsy folk music, which I have liked for a long time.”
Park Jin-woo, who plays contrabass, remembers the sensational popularity of the song. According to Mr. Park, most people thought that the song was by a foreign band. “When the first episode of the drama was aired, the members of our Internet fan cafe skyrocketed from 100 people to 3,000 people over a single night,” he said.
So how did the eight members meet? The group started after Kim Hyun-bo, the leader of the band, wrote the song “Half” for an album called “Drop the Debt!” in March 2003. The album urges wealthy nations to cancel debt held by developing countries.
“The song got good reviews, and it encouraged me to go ahead with making an album of my own with an ethnic fusion tone,” Mr. Kim explains.
Mr. Park arranged music for a commercial of Mr. Kim’s for the soft drink Pocari Sweat. The two worked together at Infro Production.
Its president, Park Ho-joon, also a professor of Applied Music at Dongduk Women’s University, introduced Choi Jin-kyung and Park Hye-ri to the two.
Cho Yun-kyung played on the 10th album for Han Dae-soo, Korea’s first hippie musician. And from there, Ms. Cho met Mr. Kim, who played the mandolin in Mr. Han’s band.
Mr. Han spotted Lynda Cullen at a bar in Itaewon where she was playing a monthly date with local Irish expatriates and introduced her to Kim.
Baek Sun-yeol joined the group through a friend who also knew Kim.
By late 2003, the seven-member group was formed. A guest sessionist, Valtinho Anastacio, came to Korea from New York a year ago after meeting Korean musicians there and was introduced to Kim.
“Hyun-bo is a genius,” says Mr. Anastacio, who is teaching percussion in Kyunhee University, as well as playing sessions with other groups in Korea. “He brought the music and equipment, and we finished recording my part in three days.”
Mr. Baek says the age differences and diversity of nationalities and backgrounds helps. “It bonds the band close together like family. I haven’t gone to the Army yet, and hopefully I can participate in a second album when I get back,” says the 24-year-old drummer, one of the youngest members of the group.
“Normally a sale of 10,000 copies would be needed to break even, but having done all the production and mixing on our own, 3,000 copies would be enough,” says Mr. Kim.
“We did not make the album expecting to make money, but we are looking to sell 6,000 copies. We all have aspirations to write movie scores. We also want to try adding elements of Indian music,” he said.
Their first solo concert in April was a huge success, and they plan another concert in October. All band members still continue doing their original jobs, such as making scores for commercials and playing in different bands, but Second Moon is performing together as a group at various venues around the country.
While they were making their album, they met late at night and rehearsed until dawn. Second Moon’s “The Boy from Wonderland” can be heard regularly on the Face Shop commercial.
The band does have challenges to overcome. The members of Second Moon want to be unique not only in Korea but also on the world stage.
“I want to go to Dublin and perform,” says Ms. Cullen.
This month, Second Moon is scheduled to perform Saturday at Mapo Culture Center in northern Seoul, on July 15 at the Morae Theater in Goyang-si in Gyeonggi province and on July 17 at Sound Holic near Hongik University in northwestern Seoul.
For more information, visit the band’s Web site at http://cafe.daum.net/2ndmoon.
Instruments: Irish Whistle, keyboard
Day job: Performs as a session member of the Jung Won-young band and won a bronze prize at the You Jae-ha Gayo competition in Korea.
Briefly: “I am just so happy because in this band I can realize the music that I have always dreamed of, and it comes out much better than I imagined with the collaboration of every member.”
Instruments: Drums, percussion
Favorite musicians: Radiohead, Bill Frisell
Briefly: “Believe it or not, Jin-kyung told me after writing ‘The Boy from Wonderland’ that I was the boy. I love Second Moon because we are like family.”
Day job: Majoring in postmodernism at Kyunghee University
Briefly: “I remember when we did an impromptu performance in front of the Busan station in the very early morning just for fun. Seeing people enjoying our songs, I am happy that I can be in this band.”
Instruments: Guitar, mandolin, Irish whistle
Day job: Band leader, writes scores for commercials and movies
Favorite musicians: Pat Metheny, Sting, Steve Vai and others
Briefly: “Current visa regulations restrain interaction with foreign musicians in Korea. They are here because they love Korea and music, not to make money.”
Instruments: Melodion, keyboard
Day job: Writes scores for independent films and musicals
Favorite musicians: Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman
Briefly: “When we finished recording and listened to our songs, we cried because we liked every one of them. It was so hard to pick a title song.”
Instruments: Contrabass, Percussion
Day job: Writes scores for commercials
Favorite musicians: Pat Metheny, Enya
Briefly: “When one member brings a basic melody, others improvise instrumental codes or further develop melody lines. Eventually the song is transformed into a greater piece.”
Instruments: Vocal, Percussion
Country: Grew up in Brazil and lived there until he was 22 years old, played in Japan for five years and in New York for 20 years.
Briefly: “It sounds mostly Irish, but you hear Africa, Brazil, tango and even elements of French music ― all these in one CD, that’s a lot. No other group in Korea does music the way Second Moon plays.”
Instruments: Vocal, acoustic guitar
Day job: Came to Korea as an English teacher but now plays music
Favorite singer: Astrud Gilberto
Briefly: “Other Korean band members are more Irish than me. Korean sentiment of deep feelings of rancor or ‘han’ is similar to Irish sentiment of ‘bron.’ It’s my home away from home.”
by Kim Tae-won, Kim Soe-jung