Story by: Rob McGovern, Photos by:
Kingston Rudieska played the main stage of Jisan Valley Rock Festival, and the nine-piece band will be back again this year. An exciting, energetic band that fills any stage, literally and metaphorically, Kingston Rudieska are stepping up to represent ska in Korea.
Groove Korea caught up with the kings of K-ska to ask them about how they got together and if they have anything special planned for this year’s Jisan festival.
Groove Korea: So, how did you get together?
Kingston Rudieska: Choi Chul-wook and Oh Jeong-seok met in 2003 while playing in indie bands and we eventually got together as we were all involved in the music scene around Hongdae, Seoul at the same time. Some of us played jazz and some played punk. There was all kinds of music that go into ska, and it helped to widen the spectrum of our music.
A musical genre that originated in 1950s Jamaica isn’t exactly the kind of music people might immediately associate with Korea. How did you get interested in Ska?
Actually Choi Chul-wook was in a ska-punk band originally. In the 90s, ska punk was really popular and it still is. We really like the roots of the music and we love that it makes everyone, regardless of age or sex, jump up and down and dance.
We also found a more profound and hidden side to ska, and along with reggae, jazz and blues, we are interested in the historical backgrounds and traditions of each kind of music. We were influenced a lot by Jamaican band The Skatalites.
In an interview, you said that you are the only real, original ska band in Seoul. What is the difference between you and other bands that call themselves ska? What makes you original?
We don’t remember when and who said that, but terms like “original” and “authentic” sound like marketing jargon, and to us it doesn’t mean anything. We aren’t Jamaican, we don’t play New York ska or Japanese style ska.
We are experimenting with our music, while at the same time, making sure we don’t lose track of the roots of the music or disrespect its origins. We can’t recreate truly original ska because of our origins, even though we are playing music from abroad. It’s the same with movies and literature. However, we believe that we have our own ways and ideas to help us create our music. And our environment influences us too, so in this way, yes, we are original.
Last year you played at Jisan. How was it compared to the small clubs of Hongdae?
Both are good. Small club gigs are good because we are literally closer to the audience, we can see their faces as they react to our music. Big stages and big festivals like Jisan Rock Fest are also good, because open air concerts, surrounded by nature, make people happy.
Are you planning anything special at Jisan this year?
That is the one of the biggest festivals in Korea so we are planning to arrange our songs in a new way and put together a show that we can’t really do in small clubs. So yeah, we are looking forward to Jisan again.
You have performed with the Mimi Sisters and others in the past. Can fans look forward to another performance with them at Jisan, or any other collaborations?
It’s a secret! It is always interesting to work with other musicians and create something new. So yes, we will continue to collaborate with other musicians and create new experiences for our fans.
You have collaborated with various other bands and also traditional forms of Korean music. How did you find ska mixed with pansori in particular, but also other forms of music?
We have performed lots of times with Jang Goon and pansori singers. People may think it is difficult to mix these various types of music together, but we are collaborating the roots of these kinds of music. We don’t find we have any problems assimilating aspects of other kinds of music into our own style. The important thing for us is being open minded and respectful to these other genres of music, it wouldn’t work otherwise.
We have had all kinds of musicians in the band, people who like jazz and punk, so we have always collaborated in some way. Ska was affected by other kinds of music like R&B and Jazz, but more importantly, it was informed from an attitude of enjoying music, having a creative spirit and a positive mindset.
Jang Goon played music with Kim Ban-jang of Windy City in a dub/reggae band called I&I Djangdan. We have plans to try some interesting things in a similar scene with Kim Ban-jang.
What are you planning for the future?
We have performed in the club scene for seven years without really taking a break, and we are proud of that. While continuing to play, we are planning our new album this year. We are going to steadily work it on and hopefully it won’t take too long to complete.
Has anyone ever used the term K-Ska to describe you? Is Groove the first?
It is! K-pop is booming, but we hope that K-ska can become a popular. Actually we think that once it becomes well known, it will become the most popular genre of music. We are sorry that more people don’t listen to it, but that is just because they haven’t been introduced to it.
The members of the band are as follows:
· Choi Chul-wook (leader, trombone)
· Lee Suk-yul (lead vocals, conga drum, percussion)
· Oh Jeong-seok (trumpet, flugelhorn)
· Kim Jeongg-gun (trumpet)
· Sung Nak-won (tenor sax)
· Seo Jae-ha (guitar)
· Son Yong-sik (bass)
· Hwang yona (drums)
· Kim Oek-dae (keyboards)