[INTERVIEW – MANJU POCKET] The Misconceptions of Korean music: K-Pop VS K-Indie

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Today, there are many people who have a misconception that Korean music only consists of K-pop. We’ve heard so much about K-Pop and Hallyu, but little do we know that K-Pop actually came a long way before this genre of music became popular and widespread.

The Korean music culture has evolved so much so that every now and then, we hear Korean pop songs blasting from shops in the malls or along the streets, on the radio, television, so on and so forth. This scene happens not only in South Korea but also abroad in many countries including Singapore. Sadly, other genres of Korean music aside from K-Pop have not been equally as well received, such as indie music and Korean Ppongjjak.

Korean Ppongjjak is also a style of Korean pop music, but recognized as the oldest form of Korean pop music. Formulated as early as 1900s, Korean Ppongjjak is known for its distinct soulful and sentimental vocal style, and this range of music has been approached by not many musicians in the scene.

We were lucky enough to come across a unique contemporary pop music band based in Seoul, South Korea which blends Soul & Korean Ppongjjak to steal your heart.

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Introducing Manju Pocket, an indie ‘Ppongjjak Soul‘ band that consists of three members Yongsu Choi (Cajon, Guitar, & Melodion), Junhee Han (Piano, Melodian, & Bongos) and Manju (Vocals, Percussions, & Kazoo), whose style of music incorporates with Western Soul music, adding some tint of Blues and Folk to produce their own unique vocal style.

Like many indie bands, Manju Pocket also performs around the Hongdae area which is well known as the central of indie music scene in Korea. Joined by guest members Woonju Lee (Drums) and Daeho Oh (Bass), the band mostly holds live performances 2 to 3 times a week at live clubs such as Evans Lounge, Cafe Unplugged, Didida, and Freebird2, sometimes at music gigs and festivals as well.

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Manju (28), who learns the piano and violin since young, revealed that it has only been 3 years since she started singing. It was only recently when she called it quits with her stable office job which she had been working for the past 5 years, in order to pursue music as a full time career.

Said the vocalist, “Now that I’m an indie musician, I do feel a lot of difference in many ways as compared to my ordinary life as an office-worker.”

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She continued, “This may sound a bit bizarre, but I feel like I’m in a jungle now; having to survive each day, living for today, not for tomorrow. Although life is definitely not as stable as before, every day is dynamic and I’m quite enjoying it.”

Manju is currently fully involved in music, similar to Yongsu and Junhee.

Yongsu

At the age of 32, Yongsu already has 10 years of experience in the field of music, 8 years as a songwriter/composer, and 7 years as a band member in various bands.

Junhee

Junhee (30) on the other hand, has been composing since 5 years ago. He studied composition and music writing in university, and Manju Pocket is the first band that he has joined for about 3 years.

“Through Manju Pocket, I have become more outgoing and self-disciplined in many ways, like being more punctual, trying to care about my looks, and so on. I also try to practice and enhance my capabilities more to become a better musician,” said Junhee.

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On their thoughts about Korean music being perceived as just K-Pop, Manju Pocket feels that it’s just “natural” for people to think this way.

Given the amount of effort and capital put into agressive marketing of K-Pop around the globe, it becomes natural that idol music takes the biggest share in music market. Yet, there are so many different kinds of musicians in Korea, pursuing various styles and genres of music. When it comes to exporting Korean music and culture abroad, we do feel that non-idol musicians, especially indie bands, tend to be left out of this positive trend.

While it’s true that indie bands are not as recognized in the Korean music scene, the band members remains positive in their thinking, expressing that indie band music can become more popular to the public just like K-Pop. One possibility could be having more exposure through TV, like how people get to know idol stars and their music through variety shows and music programs.

On a sidenote, the setback for indie management companies could be the lack of capital or promotion power as compared to giant idol management companies, who get a higher chance for their artists to appear on TV. Not to mention TV broadcasting companies that lookout for stars who can attract more viewership to their channels. Because of these reasons, we often do not see much appearance of indie bands on TV and are likewise not exposed to their music.

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Having released a total of seven record singles, one EP album and recently their first full-length album [Night Walk], Manju Pocket showcases their creativity and versatilty in each release, writing their own lyrics and creating real empathy with listeners.

The band achieved outstanding results including ranking 1st place in Indie Music charts like Bugs and Mnet, as well as 10th place in All Music chart. Even famous musicians like Yeon Namgoong and K-Pop artist Jung Eun-ji (A Pink) have expressed their support to Manju Pocket, introducing [Night Walk] on their SNS and fan community.

In their latest album [Night Walk], the title song ‘Go for a Drink’ displays their distinct Ppongjjak Soul on a strong retro rhythm, which is a style first attempted by Manju Pocket. The lyrics is about a female trying to become closer to a guy and Manju’s vocals brought out the Korean traditional feel and tint of Soul in this song. Junghoon Choi, the vocalist of band Jannabi, also participated as featuring in this song too.

We often get inspiration from our everyday life as we pen down the lyrics for our songs. We try to elaborate the stories in as much detail as we can in the lyrics, and fortunately our fans often give us positive feedback as well. Songs like ‘Need Consolation’ and ‘From Train to You’ are much loved by fans thanks to the lyrics.

Though there are not many opportunities for indie musicians to get support, the band believes that the level and quality of Korean indie music is not in any way inferior compared to the many kinds of music abroad. K-indie includes a variety of music that could satisfy a wide range of listeners, hence with sufficient support, K-indie definitely has the potential to become popular to global fans just like K-Pop.

For those of you who will be visiting Korea next time, we definitely recommend you to go and see the live shows of Manju Pocket. You will find yourself grooving along to their tunes as they captivate you with their soothing vocals.

Special shoutout to Manju Pocket for being so spontaneous in this interview! Check out a special greeting video from the band below:

Find out more about Manju Pocket below:
http://www.facebook.com/ManjuPocket
http://www.fondantsound.com

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