Duo a rock in Korean music sceneThere are stars who burst onto the music scene like a disturbingly colorful pinata burst ― for example, Britney Spears in her Catholic schoolgirl uniform. Then there are those who softly knock at the door, molding the format for their characteristic brand of melodies one day at a time.
Throughout the late 1980s and during the whole of the ’90s, a handful of superstars, including Lee Seung-hwan and the group Seo Tai-ji and Boys, spun the Korean music industry around like a LP on a turntable. Amidst it all, the duo band of Bom Yeoreum Gaeul Gyeowul (meaning Spring Summer Fall Winter) have steadily provided Koreans of all ages with classic adult contemporary hits like “Everybody is Changing,” “The Road I Walk” and “Bravo, My Life!”, never deviating far from their signature bluesy-rock-meets-Korean-standards melody lines and simple, soulful yet optimistic lyrics. Not as shocking as Seo Tai-ji, the one thing BYGG has been throughout the years is a trustworthy companion.
“Although the Korean music industry is at a shaky crossroads at the moment as the market shifts from the CD market to MP3 and content sales, I don’t believe music will ever disappear altogether. People need music to console and empathize with them,” said Jun Tae-kwan (drums, percussion).
Jun and his bandmate, Kim Jong-jin (vocals, guitar), met during university years as part of a group of music-loving friends. Many of them are now influential figures in the music scene, including Jang Jee-ho, the bass player for the band Light and Salt. From 1986, the two played as session musicians for prominent artists such as Kim Hyeon-sik, Kim Soo-cheol and Jo Yong-phil. Then in 1988, they released their first album, titled “Everyone is Changing.”
During the mid- and late 1990s, the two were largely thought of as technically-skilled session players. With their debut album and hit single under the same title becoming a mega hit, however, they gained the respect of the public as a band with their own songs. Although the two relied heavily on instrumental music (three of 10 songs on their first album were instrumentals), the public embraced their ballads, which were sophisticated but catchy, with a hint of fusion jazz, blues, rock and folk. The debut, released by Donga Records, was the label’s greatest hit that year. “People call this kind of music adult contemporary now, but back then, there was no word for it, so they dubbed it fusion jazz,” said Kim.
Their following albums went on to do very well both commercially and critically, but during the late ’90s, the band had slowed down. A 1999 best of album was released by Donga Records without the approval of either of the band members, they say. In 2001, five years after their sixth album, the band released a seventh titled “Bravo, My Life!”, marking a successful comeback with their single of the same title.
“The footsteps on my way home one late afternoon mark my awkward past days filled with regrets. It wasn’t all good but it wasn’t all bad. Bravo, bravo, my life. Bravo to your courage for surviving. Bravo, bravo, my life. Bravo to our future,” the song goes. The lyrics hit a chord with audiences both young and old, especially those who had seen the band grow up with them, and the single became a hit on radio and TV.
The band is making an effort to reach as broad a spectrum of people as possible. From next year, the members want to concentrate their energy on touring in Korea in places other than Seoul where performances by popular musicians are rarely seen. “The situation is getting rather ridiculous. The music scene, especially on TV, is so teen-friendly. Other age groups are left out of any form of musical enjoyment,”said Kim.
The band plans to go to the culture centers of remote cities around the country and perform their songs. “It is going to be one of the first efforts by pop musicians to go to these cities and towns. Everything is so concentrated in Seoul. We’ve been visiting some of these culture centers funded by the regional governmentS and were surprised at the great facilities they had there,”he added.
BYGG is starting their tour at Busan’s Gyeumjung Culture Center. “We hope to have four concerts per month next year. It’ll be a busy year,” said Kim.
by Cho Jae-eun