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On a small island, a young indie band struggles for stage spaceThe Weekly speaks with local jazz troupe Cafri about the challenges of Jeju's music scene
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승인 2012.03.09  15:40:46
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▲ Cafri performing at The Factory, a bar near Jeju City Hall. Photo by Song Hannim

Four members of Cafri position themselves on stage. With sheet music on the floor, lights are dimmed to set the mood. For a moment the bar is filled with an anticipating silence. The guitarist walks up to the mic and shyly mumbles the name of the piece they are about to play. “Elephant Walk.”

During an open mic night at a bar near Jeju City Hall called The Factory, many bands or individuals come to show their talents. It definitely is more of a fun, daring stage rather than a professional one. Some are pretty good and some are decent, but it’s hard to get rid of the thought that they are amateurs.

Starting off with shy introductions, the members of Cafri seemed like any other amateur band. However, as soon as their saxophonist hit off a soulful, jazzy note, that thought was proven wrong. Their jazz flow was captivating. And everyone at the bar turned their heads to the stage. Amused at what these rookies brought to the stage, we indulged ourselves, smoothing into their music with a sip of our cocktails.

They named their group after their favorite beer, Cafri. And when asked how they became a band the answer was simple. “We wanted to play music and perform on stage,” said Kim Ha Eun, the saxophonist.

The band’s journey started off in October 2010, with only two members, guitarist Jo Young Wook, 21, and Kim Ha Eun, 20, on sax. “There are only a small number of musicians in Jeju. But that made it easy to find our other talented members,” Kim told The Weekly.

Cafri is now composed of five musicians: Jo, Kim, Yang Jun Mo, 19, on drums; Lee Ju Won, 20, on bass; and Yang Seo Hyeon, 18, on keyboard. Everyone, except Yang, had already graduated high school.

“Since we were in high school, the lack of time and venues made it hard for us to get together often. So for a performance like this we practice two to three hours tops or just hit the stage right away,” Jo said.

You would think that this would mean that their performances would be problematic. However, it was the complete opposite. Turns out these young musicians have been playing their instruments for an average of 10 years and their talents were clearly demonstrated on stage.

However, living in Jeju, there are restrictions that hold these indie bands of young talented musicians from spreading their wings. Jeju is the major hub of tourism in Korea. The whole island yearns to show off its uniqueness to the world. But it is taking baby steps when it comes to promoting its own music culture.

While there are a number of big annual performances and concerts with well-known musicians invited from the mainland, we don’t see many local musicians. Plus, only a few venues exist for an indie band like Cafri to practice and perform.

“Before we found out there were open mic nights at the Factory, we had only been able to perform a couple of times,” Kim said.

Kim and some of the other band members who have recently graduated high school are planning to move to the mainland to pursue their dreams as musicians. For Yang, the youngest member of Cafri, she finds it disheartening to say goodbye to her band members.

“I will have to practice by myself after they all leave,” she said. “It is hard to maintain a band like this in Jeju. To me, they were my only outlet.”

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
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