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Beginnings of a Musical Adventure in South Korea

October 22, 2010

I arrived exhausted in Seoul on Wednesday evening and immediately made my way over to a dinner date with Suki in the Hongik University area. Suki, whom I met at some musical evenings in Paris this year, and who is a music aficionado, wanted to show me around the neighborhood, which is full of bars and musical joints.

We had a dinner – actually, I did, since she had eaten already – at a Korean barbecue, and then headed over to one of her favorite joints, an underground music bar with a huge screen that shows music videos all night. You select the music you want to hear, and if they have a video, they put it up. I selected Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. No go on the Van Morrison – too old, no doubt – but the Chili Peppers was great.

The area reminded me very much of Tokyo, although until then I had been surprised at how western the city looked to me compared to the other places I have been in Asia (Singapore, Shanghai, Malaysia and Japan).

There was no open mic, however, but on my walk back to my hotel I did find a musical joint that seemed to be a cross between open mic and karaoke, with recorded music backing and people from the public singing and hitting a tambourine and another percussion instrument. But I was so exhausted after not sleeping on the flight and having an early rise the following morning, that I opted out. In fact, I have an open mic lined up for Monday evening on my return to Seoul – so standby, and I keep my fingers crossed on it.

I am now writing this post from the town of Mokpo, which is the nearest city to the Yeongam Formula One circuit, where the race takes place this weekend. Last night I scoured through the main bar and music area of Mokpo, which turns out to be right next to my hotel. The main street is called Rose Street, and it has all sorts of cafes, bars and musical joints of one kind or another.

(My hotel, by the way, is called the Charmant, and my room overlooks Love Square, and the hotel sits next to a “sexy girls” venue of some kind. This is par for the course accommodation here at the Grand Prix.)

Unfortunately, my explorations of Rose Street revealed no place for me to play last night. I did find one place called “Live Cafe,” which had a stage all decked out with speakers, drum set, mic and other musical apparatus. But there was no band and no public at all. The owner indicated there would be no music last night. But I will try it again this weekend, as it looks promising.

I also found on the Internet a bar called Moe’s Bar and Grill. It is run by a Californian, but it turns out that while it seemed to advertise live music on the internet, there was none. Not surprise, actually, as there was no grill either. Just booze. A nice place, though, and I enjoyed a beer there, along with some of the Australian track marshals for the Formula One race. The nice bartender woman from Mongolia told me I was welcome to play music if I wanted to, but the atmosphere did not seem entirely right – too many people having a nice talk around the bar and probably not wanting to have some guy interrupt them with his songs.

I have not given up on Mokpo, though, and tonight I will explore all of the areas that have been set aside in a festival to celebrate the Formula One race. There are concerts with Korean bands and other festivities. Maybe there will be a corner of a stage or some other place where I can get in a song or two.

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