Cho Yong-pil – Seoul Seoul Seoul
If you ask anyone born after 1990 what song they most associate with Seoul, they’re likely to respond with Super Junior and Girls’ Generation’s SEOUL, but those born prior to 1990 will respond with this song. Sung by the greatest star in Korean music history, this 1988 classic is still popular since it reminds many people of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, South Korea‘s great international coming out party. The lyrics express the flashy yet cold cityscape.
Love X Stereo – Soul City (Seoul City)
We found our inspiration for this song as we were riding our bicycles along the Hangang river. We integrated into the lyrics and melody images of the “real” Seoul, with its double-edged charms. The song starts off simply enough, but it gets more complex as it unfolds … sort of like the city itself.
HE6 – Come On Baby
In the 1970s, HE6 used to perform daily on the second floor of OB’s Cabin, a live music venue in Myeong-dong, right next to the Savoy Hotel. This song, one of their best known, combines a classic rock sound with Korea’s unique psychedelic feel. Prepare to be awed by some of Korea’s greatest rock legends.
Lee Sangeun (aka. Lee Tzsche) – The Secret Garden
This is the perfect song to listen to as you stroll about garden of Changdeokgung Palace – also known as the Secret Garden – on a brisk autumn day, with the fallen leaves at your feet. It’s a song that combines Lee’s beautiful, pure voice with youthful lyrics and a lovely, if mysterious, mood.
Kim Duk-Soo Samul Nori Ensemble – Binari
To get an idea of how influential this group has been, consider this – for most Koreans, traditional music is a dead art form, yet the first things supporters reach for during sporting matches are the buk (Korean drum) and kkwaenggwari (Korean gong). Kim Duk-Soo Samul Nori Ensemble took traditional peasants’ music, simplified it, and in so doing created an entirely new world of Korean percussion. So rhythmical, you’ll catch yourself dancing along.
The RockTigers – Kimchibilly
The RockTigers are pretty much Korea’s only “rockabilly” band. This song, their best known, mixes the 1950s rockabilly sound with Korea’s own kimchi sensibility. If you find yourself in the Hongdae district, you’re likely to run into them – the live music club DGBD (the successor of 1990s indie rock pilgrimage site DRUG) hosts monthly Kimchibilly Night concerts to promote Korean rock ‘n’ roll.
Used Cassettes – KTX
Used Cassettes is an expat band active in Seoul. This song beautifully expresses the excitement you feel as you board the KTX express train out of the city. There’s even a bit of poor Korean mixed in. Seoul Station – both the old one, now a museum, and the new one where the trains arrive and depart – is especially beautiful at night. Listen to XTC on Soundcloud.
The KillercutZ – Sunset Of Your Sky
KillercutZ are known for their unrestrained, powerful electronic sound. This song captures Seoul as the sun sets and the city raises towards the night. Best listened to as you watch the setting sun from up on high – try the observatory of the 63 Building, N Seoul Tower or Haneul Park.
Crying Nut – Myeong-dong Calling
This is a live performance of Myeong-dong Calling. Hear the official one on soundcloud belowCrying Nut gave birth to the Korean punk scene. One of their best loved hits, this song’s title parodies The Clash classic London Calling. Myeong-dong is Seoul’s best-known shopping district. The lyrics remind you of loves of years past as thousands of couples flood Myeong-dong on Christmas Eve. Hear Crying Nut’s Myeong-dong Calling on Soundcloud.
Dynamic Duo – Fireworks
Hip-hop group Dynamic Duo is known for their rapid fire rapping, witty lyrics, and novel art work and videos. This song, with its intense drum and base, really goes well with the Gangnam district, famous for its electric night life. Also good for when you’re setting off fireworks with friends on the Hangang river, a popular weekend activity.