With a population of 600,000, it was always going to be tough to sustain a music scene as vibrant as Seoul’s. Nevertheless, Jeju's music scene is booming and you are never (that) far away from a live option.
A combination of a diversifying population, the influx of “ munhwa ijumin,” or cultural migrants, plus the musical heart of the Jeju people themselves, means even in once remote rural corners of the city you have a good chance of stumbling upon a strummer. Particularly if you are looking for raw local talent in small cozy venues, Jeju has plenty to offer.
While these are concentrated around City Hall, the student entertainment quarter, you can now also find them further out. If you are out west, why not pop into "Acoustic Homz" in Yusuam-ri, a recently opened venue specializing in natural acoustic sounds. Turning back east, and just as rural, is "Cafe Seba," now a mainstay of the city’s classical and jazz scene since opening in 2011.
Continuing east, and dropping down to the coast, is the village of Woljeong-ri. Here you will find a beautiful seafront setting which has been populated by coffee shops and guesthouses. Plenty host live music throughout the year, but Goraega Doel Cafe comes most recommended for live jams.
▲ The Stepping Stone Festival at Hamdeok is the year's biggest live music event on Jeju, but concerts can be found throughout the year at the island's other venues. Photos by Douglas MacDonald
In a more urban setting, try out “The Stronghold,” a new coffee shop in Nohyeongdong which holds regular jazz nights for people wanting that extra “chill.” Another coffee shop-cum-music venue is "Elliott’s Chair" over in Gunamdong, in Gu, or Old Jeju. You can even catch some big names at their weekend concerts.
“Blue Hill” is popular for its monthly guest concerts and jazz-loving owners, while you could go to "Doors" for occasional live performances and requests. Not far from there is “B-dong 301-ho,” where the musician owner will oblige your requests all night in a cozy backstreet setting.
We can’t talk Jeju music without mentioning that stalwart of City Hall nightlife, “The Factory,” one of the best known and dependable live music venues on the whole island. It is now being pushed, however, by plenty of capable upstarts, so try out the nearby “Jeju Indie,” or the intimate “Space Marley,” down in the Jungang-ro shopping district.
Even Seogwipo is getting in on the act, with "Utopia Architecture Cafe" playing host to monthly acoustic sessions and in summer you can also check out regular live events at a number of guesthouses across the island, just check out their latest schedules.
This is all without even mentioning the beach, street and public performances every weekend in the summer season -- just head for your nearest beach or Shin Jeju’s Baojian Street.
So, turn the page for a proper introduction to all of these venues and never feel the need to go to Seoul for your music fix again.
▲ Photo courtesy The Stronghold
The Stronghold is a spacious coffee shop which opened in 2014 in Nohyeong-dong, the owner having previously run “Halryang8283,” a much-loved coffee shop famed for its freshly roasted coffee beans. The Stronghold now holds cultural events for Jeju residents and jazz concerts are held at 8 p.m. on the first and third Friday of every month. Music lovers need only buy a cup of coffee to enjoy great live jazz music. The owner also donates a portion of his profits to support disadvantaged Jeju children.
Aug. 1, at 8 p.m. "Secret Chord" (jazz)
Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. "Sajangnim Chingudeul" (jazz)
The lyrics “Drink up baby, look at the stars” by Elliott Smith are displayed at the entrance to this cafe run by singer-songwriter “Vague Blossom.” He built this cozy venue around his love of music and customers can enjoy beer, cocktails, or just an Americano, while listening to some of the exclusive house concerts it holds. The tranquil atmosphere and mood are the perfect setting for the concerts held there three to four times a month, often hosting leading bands and singers. Tickets sell out quickly so check their schedule to avoid disappointment.
Aug. 8, at 7:30 p.m. “Cho Dong Hee”.
Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. “Manggakhwa” (alternative rock). Tickets around 15,000 won
Jazz musician owners, Kim Ji-yeon, a vocalist, and Yang Jin-woo, a guitarist, wanted to create a space where a variety of musicians could reach out to new audiences. It is now renowned as a jazz club, but various musical genres are hosted such as at the monthly special guest concerts, the schedule for which can be checked on Blue Hill’s blog. An open audition concert, “Playground Day,” is held every Thursday at 9 p.m. with performers paying 5,000 won to perform.
With thousands of old and new LPs stacked high on the walls, Doors feels like a cozy living room with its wooden chairs, tables and soft lighting. Inspired by the music dens of Hongdae in Seoul, the bar attracts music lovers both young and old. The impressive record collection is available for all and customers can request songs through the night.
237, Jungang-ro, Jeju-si
8 p.m. until late
Indie Pub B-dong 301-ho
▲ Photo courtesy Indie Pub B-dong 301-ho
Opened by vocalist Chae Dong Won of former indie band “B-dong 301-ho,” this pub celebrates independent, low-budget labels. Customers are encouraged to chat with the owner in this intimate atmosphere and he will play indie music for you all night long. Requests for your favorite songs are taken and you can even bring in food to share with friends. Guitars are always at-the-ready, so why not try a little impromptu performance?
Opening seven years ago and now virtually run by members of Jeju expat band, Kundalini Trio, The Factory is one of the oldest and most loved of Jeju’s music venues, particularly among the international community. Whether it is their open mics held every Wednesday night or their special concerts throughout the year, The Factory is a good bet if you want to hear a few chords or just request your favorite songs. They also hold monthly live “painting concerts” at which a band joins artistic forces with a painter to produce a work of art for auction.
Opening in 2012, Space Marley is a hive of energy and inspiration. The owner, Park Jeong Soo, was moved by Bob Marley’s famous lyrics, “one love, one heart,” but the bar is not just about reggae music, welcoming all music lovers and performers. Request a song from the 3,000 LP collection, listen to a 100-year-old antique gramophone, or witness one of the free (for a drink!) monthly live concerts. The bar also holds regular art exhibitions and the walls are adorned with art from guests.
Chilseong-ro 34, 2F, Jeju city
070-7743-3849 / 010-3432-8560
6 p.m. - 2 a.m. (Closed on first and third Sundays)
▲ Photo courtesy Indie
Dedicated to independent music, this bar is also an arts venue. Owner “Zero” says he opened Indie to help out fellow musicians and artists by providing a space for performances, plays and exhibitions. The walls of “The Playground,” as the owners nickname it, have paintings of Axl Rose, Slash, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. Its regular weekend shows have been popular since opening in late 2013, as have the open mics held every Wednesday from 9 p.m.
Aug. 16, at 8 p.m. “Dokgeonoin” (band). Tickets 10,000 won
Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. Song Ji-yeon (vocalist). Tickets 15,000 won
Aug. 29-30, at 7 p.m. each night, Jeju indie acts from hip hop to rock will perform
Located in the quiet town of Seonheul-ri, Cafe Seba is renowned for its jazz and classical concerts. Owner Kim Sewoon is a pianist and she opened Cafe Seba to share music and culture with her neighbours. They quickly grew in popularity and now regular performances are held with renowned artists traveling from the mainland to perform. The ticket price of around 10,000~20,000 includes one free drink.
Aug. 16-17 Drummer Mihyun ‘Mischka’ Seo and pianist John Nam
In Yusuam-ri, Aewol-eup, Acoustic Homz opened this summer as a music cafe with all furniture handmade by the owner to optimize the acoustics. The venue also provides accommodation to musicians, hoping to introduce acoustic music to as many people as possible. Check their blog and SNS for their full schedule.
The coastal road at Woljeong-ri, northeast Jeju, has boomed in popularity in recent years and coffee shops have sprung up along the seafront. "Cafe to be Whale" is one of the best and regularly holds eclectic performances from Jeju and mainland acts.
Located in the heart of Seogwipo City, just off of Leejungseop Street, this unique cafe aims to provide a haven for musicians and artists and has been holding small music concerts monthly since April 2014.
Gigs can be found at many guesthouses, particularly through the "Wigg" online community (see wigg.co.kr) and the “Emotion Platform Project.” Participating Seogwipo guesthouses include Dandihera, Lucid Bonbon, and Santa Garry. Independent guesthouses such as Jeju Stay Biuda also hold music concerts throughout the year.
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