Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Seoul Day 7: SPRINGDAY 봄날 bomnal

I signed up for another Airbnb experience session just before I flew to Seoul. I received another email from Airbnb with a list of stuff that might interest me and I thought this just might be a really good experience. 

I listen to a lot of music. And I sing a lot all the time. Once a week in choral practice, once a week in church service and everyday in my car. I work out my vocal cords a lot!

And so I thought it would be interesting to experience firsthand how a song is recorded, mixed and produced. 

It is an early session at 10:00am in the morning and so I got up early and started off as early as 8:30am, but the studio is quite a distance from my hostel and quite a walk from the subway station too. While I was walking there from the station, I was worried I'd get lost.

But thankfully I didn't and here I am at King Studio, and just in time too.

I was greeted by three gentlemen. Kingsman, the owner of the studio, Wildy his intern from Indonesia who interpreted all the Korean into English for me and Lee Jae Won, the photographer. 

Not bad eh? I even get my own photographer for the session to take all the photos for me. 

Here is Wildy introducing me to the work King Studio has done. They have done quite a lot for the entertainment industry for artistes including Jang Na Ra, Jung Eun-ji, Seo In-guk and VIXX. 

Then we walk into the studio. It's a small but cozy place. Their equipment is all there where the recording and mixing are done. The recording room is on the left. 

The session has its prefixed songs featured for every different day of the week. With me signing up for a Tuesday session, it's Blackpink's As if it's Your Last.

But if you zoom into this picture below, while the lyrics provided to me on the clipboard is Blackpink's one, the song on the screen is BTS's Springday. And by the way, that's Kingsman behind all the machines. 

So I asked since I'm the only one, can I do the song by BTS instead of Blackpink as I'm more familiar with it. They agreed and I was happy.

So here I am, still in the studio, practicing and familiarising myself with the song. 

After which, I got into the recording room. I really like this room! I feel so comfortable in it.

I tested the mic listening to my own voice and Kingsman asked me how I felt listening to it. I said, it's ok. He remarked that most people would find it uneasy listening to their own voice. I told him that I hated listening to my voice that I recorded using my phone but to me this sounded okay to me. 

We began recording and here are the lyrics with my pencil marks, marking the parts I need attention on. It's a struggle to read it because it wasn't printed so clearly and I wish the font were larger! I also had some problems with pronunciation of the language and there is one line with such a complicated rhythm, at least for me, that I had to re-do it SO MANY times. But Kingsman and his team were so patient with me. Thanks guys. 

I needed to be one fist away from the pop filter and I obviously can't see the lyrics without holding it up. But I really like this photo. Haha. Just like a pro but not.

After recording, Kingsman explained and showed me how adjustments can be made where autotune is used to fix those pitchy problems. And I had so many of them. Haha. I asked if autotune is always used for all the professional recordings. Yes, he says, everyone needs it. 

And that I find interesting. I thought the professionals would already be quite perfect. 

So here is what I have recorded. During the session when I heard it, I guess my mind was all over the place drinking in all the information and experience. I didn't really notice how I sang. Now that I listened to it, I think it's not good and I need A LOT of work on it. 

But nonetheless, I find this is an accomplishment. I've recorded a song in a studio!!! And a Korean song at that! (Click on Listen in browser)

Now the studio even have a mugshot of me on the wall.

Thanks to the three cool guys: Kingsman, Wildy and Jae Won. It was a wonderful experience for me. I have really enjoyed myself. Thanks again!

And I've decided that the word of the day is SPRINGDAY, the BTS song that I recorded today. By the way, it's a sad song pining for a lost love and while it's winter, he is looking out for spring to come. I have no lost love, and I like winter but I am going back to spring. Well, not really...more like year-long summer. 

After that, I took the train to meet my new hostel room neighbor for lunch. 

I must put a note here that when I'm in the subway in Seoul, it's an excellent place for people watching. The boys and girls all look so pretty. And this guy, I wished he had looked up. Haha. I accidentally had my phone flashlight turned on and he was the one who alerted me to it. Thank you!

I met up with Xiao Wen and here we are at 수문난성수감자탕 Sumunnanseongsu gamjatang.

Here she is...

...and me...

...each with a bowl of spicy pork ribs. Yumm...

After lunch, Xiao Wen went her own way and I went to Seoul Station...

...because I needed to go to a bigger Lotte Mart to buy stuff home for family and friends. I've stopped buying useless souvenirs like magnets and pouches and keyrings. Food is what work best. 

Wee Yin wanted Korean spam and I told her that 선영 Sun Young had told me that this brand is the most popular in Korea, Spam!

But Wee Yin wanted this one, which I finally found it here in Lotte Mart. I was looking out for it the smaller supermarkets and convenient stores but couldn't find it. 

So here's my stash. I'm worried if I can fit all of these in my medium-sized luggage and 20-kg limit. 

With two big bags of food, I grabbed a taxi home this time and after depositing them all in the hostel, I walked out to the 순대국 sundaeguk restaurant again to have another bowl of blood sausage soup and rice. Yummm...

I am going to miss Seoul very much. 


Monday, December 30, 2019

Seoul Day 6: MUSIC 음악

Back in Kuala Lumpur when I booked my accomodations using Airbnb, the app immediately showed me a list of stuff I can do in Seoul. It's Airbnb via experience packages.

And this caught my eye immediately - a music walk in Hongdae with a musician.
It sounds so perfect and so romantic, in the art sense of course. And so I signed up almost immediately. 

I had wanted to go to Hongdae anyway to listen to buskers and get into the music scene there. 

And I was really looking forward to this. 

My session with the musician is supposed to be at 1:00pm. But I did not have enough sleep last night because someone's alarm went off at 6:30am and I was up since then. 

But since I didn't have any plans to go anywhere in the morning, I decided to just go chill out in a cafe.

I got off at the Hongik University subway station and arrived at the Gyeongui Line Book Street. The "line" was supposed to be a train track line, which was dismantled and they built bookstores along the way making it a book street. 

I walked across the road and settled in Abiachae cafe to have an Americano. 

I caught up on my reading and the music in the cafe was also quite good. I was even able to Shazam a few good songs. 

I fell in love with IU's Love Poem. I just checked the lyrics...quite deep. And oh, it's her newest song. 

Take a listen here:

Zozno the musician arrived at the cafe sharp at 1:00pm and we started off with the music walk. We first stopped by this cafe called the Unplugged. 

This is one of the cafes that musicians who desires to start their career in music go to. In Unplugged they can freely play their instruments and engaged with other musicians. They might even find members to start a band from there. 

And exactly that, Zozno said that some of such musicians do release albums and they would present or dedicate them to Unplugged's manager who supported them while they were exploring their talents in the cafe. 

Zozno asked me to pick one from a stack of such album and I picked this one by Mind Attic. Why did I pick it? I was captivated by the group's name. 

The cafe also has a small concert hall in the basement where musicians can take part in open mic sessions or even have their own concerts if they can garner enough fans. 

Next Zozno brought me to Magic Strawberry Sound, a music production house for independent musicians. From the list of artistes or groups listed on the wall, I only know 10cm. I need to check the rest out...oh I just checked and I do have a song by Cloud. 

Then we made our way to his own studio where he shared his story of how he began as a musician in an independent band call 좋아서하는밴드 or in short Joaband. 

He told me his story of how they began their journey as street musicians, how they grew and how they released their albums, and how they engaged with their fans. 

He then asked me what kind of instruments do I play, which is nothing! Haha. I said I used to play the piano and cello but "used to" is the keyword here. 

You could sing, he said since I did tell him I am in a choral group. Off the cuff, I suddenly have no idea what to sing! I haven't thought about but it dawned on me to check my playlist. So he played the ukelele and I sang my three favourite songs from my playlist:

The Call - Regina Spektor

A Little Braver - New Empire

Sempurna - Andra and the Backbone

Then it's time for Zozno small little concert for me!

He told me the story and background of each song he sang and to me his songs are very down to earth and depicts the reality of life. 

From his stories I learnt how much the life of a musician goes into their music and for singer songwriter their lyrics. I suppose that would be the difference between a singer songwriter and just a singer who sings.

Like this song titled Lilly, Zozno wrote and sang about making friends across different countries and because of these friends, the countries that didn't mean much to him now do.

릴리 Lilly - 조준호 Zozno

He also shared with me this video one of his friends made for his band, which he is no longer a part of by the way. And I really, really love this video. 

옥탑방에서 (In a rooftop house) - 촣아서하는밴드 Joaband

The song is about Zozno who lived in a rooftop house and had so many memories there. But he had to leave because the place will be torn down. He was so sad that he had to leave it behind and was not even able to pass it on the next tenant to build his or her own memories. 

The video storyboard spans the life of him from childhood to youth and adulthood.  Zozno appears in the end of the video singing with the band. 

The last scene is where his matured grown-up self telling his young self that even though he had to leave, life has been okay to him grown up. He reassures him and his young self in the end smiles in much relief.

Very well done! I would love to meet the music video producer.

I finished the music walk and concert and Zozno walked me back to Hongdae where he showed me places where buskers will sing. 

Thanks Zozno!

But it was still daylight and obviously there wasn't any buskers yet. 

I wanted to have dinner but I wasn't too keen in the restaurants in that area which look very touristy and would probably not welcome a solo diner. 

And so I settled for this small Burger 4.5 outlet which happens to serve really good burgers. I ordered one with lettuce, tomato, avodacado and wasabi and it tasted superb.

The sky turned dark but it was still early at 5:20pm! And I found only one busker singing solo. And he wasn't very good, being pitchy and all.

I find that it really takes a lot of courage to be busking. Even if you think you may be good enough, would the public think so? 

I wouldn't be able to do it, but I think if given the chance and proper equipment, I might just try it.

By then I was really too tired and I decided not to wait anymore. It will probably take another 4 hours for the area to be active with buskers. I don't know. I didn't think I can survive the wait and so I headed home. 

The word of the day? 

Obviously it's MUSIC 음악 eumak!

It was a tiring but lovely day. 


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Seoul Day 5: SEOUL 서울

형래 Heongrae, 완용 Wanyong, and I are to meet up today and I'm excited! 

While I would also choose FRIENDS 친구들 chingudeul as word of the day like yesterday, but because the day was really a full day of exploring the city, SEOUL 서울 would be the perfect word to sum it up.

Note: This is a very long post by the way, probably the longest I've ever written -  worth 10 posts if I were to break it up!

Anyway, since we are only meeting up at 1:00pm, I decided to go attend a church service this morning. 

I decided to go back to my roots and attend a Methodist church. So I hopped into a bus. But I think my GPS was acting up and so I was a bit confused but since I saw a church by the road where it's supposed to be, I quickly got off the bus. 

And here I am. 

It took me awhile to find the sanctuary that is on the 3rd floor. There were no directional signs.

I took a seat and waited for the service to start at 9:00am as stated in the church website. But the longer I waited, the more I wonder where all the people are since it's already almost 9!

I looked around and a lady asked if I'd like a bulletin. I took one and only then did I find out that I'm in the "wrong" church! Oops!

I was making my way to 창천교회 Changcheon Methodist Church...

...but I must have taken the wrong bus and ended up in 신천교회 Sinchon Presbyterian Church!

I texted my husband to tell him about it and him being the witty one said it's because it's predestined. Haha...sorry, inside joke!

The service was lovely although I don't understand most of it.

The choir was awesome. They did a reprise of JS Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring after the service, which I can only catch a bit of it here:

This is the 55-member Hallelujah Choir. When I checked the bulletin, they actually have one choir for each of the three services on Sundays. Wow!

The odd thing though was that no one came to greet or talk to me. In all the churches I have visited, newcomers and visitors are always welcomed. For the first time, I didn't experience that. 

Then it's time to meet up with 형래 and 완용. We began with lunch here in 황금정 Huanggeumjeong for 삼겹살 samgyeopsal or BBQ pork belly.

We must have been so hungry because we forgot to take any pictures of the food!

After lunch, we went to 북천 Bukchon Hanok Village. 

This is a residential area and these hanoks are really people's homes. And with the influx of so many tourists, they must be quite frustrated with the noise and the crowd.

Don't the houses look so, so lovely?

Hoping no one will come out the door.

And hearts to you!

We also went up to the Bukchon Observatory for the sky view. We climbed three floors up and paid ₩3,000 per person. It comes with simple coffee...

...and a view of the Hanok rooftops. 

As we were leaving, we saw this chimney with the word 코리아 Korea, which of course we must have a picture with.

Ah! Finally we see some street food and I got so excited. I'm a street food person!

A little further down the road, 형래 wanted to try Egg Drop. 완용 and I were like, really? We are already so full! But with his sad face, I said, ok let's get one and share, which we did! It was good!

Then we saw an elderly lady selling 달고나 dalgona by the road. It's a traditional Korean candy made from baking soda and brown sugar. 

We bought one...

...and 형래 said that if you can break out the molded shape of the candy without breaking it, you will get another piece free. Just as he was saying it, he tried to show me but broke the candy in pieces! No matter...we ate it all up anyway.

Our next stop was to the art galleries in 인사동 Insadong. 

First was to the Fifth Exhibition Hall. I am not sure about the name of the artist but I am quite fascinated with her work.

I am not an art person. And it has been ages since I've been to an art gallery. But this visit was a eye opener to me. It made me actually stand in front of an art piece and really look at it for a long time. Had never understood why people do that, until now.

I like this piece because I love music and I see that the circular keyboard represent music that connects us all as human beings. And there are five hands, three people, but where is the other hand? Possibly there is one person with only one hand? He has music nonetheless and is a part of the collective music as well. 

This artist is very fascinated with the human hand. Almost half of her paintings and art exhibited are on hands.

This I find fascinating. There are two roses - one withered and one fresh. Between the two roses are three words: 고마워 gumawo thank you, 사랑해 saranghae I love you, and 미안해 mianhae I am sorry. These three words bring life. They revitalise relationships. They bring back love.

And this one is interesting. It's an 이런약국 ireonyakgug This Drugstore that has these drugs, which one do you need: 우정 ujeong friendship, 생명 saengmyeong life, 사회적평등 sahwijeokpyeongdeung social equality, 사랑 sarang love, 자유 jayu freedom, 여유 yeoyu abundance, 안전 anjeon safety, or 정의 jeongui justice.

But this is the one that really struck me. When I first saw it, I was captivated by the sculpture of a hand and a mold of another hand trying to connect with the hand. 

I was then told that this piece of art in made in response to the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, where the ferry carrying 476 passengers bound from Incheon to Jeju capsized. Out of the 304 who died, 250 were students from Danwon High School. Take a read of the event, it's very devastating. No one would have died if things were done right. 

When I knew that, the art piece really speaks out. You can see the hand trying to reach for the hand that is no longer there but what is left is a mark of someone who tried to reach out but has failed. What they have become are now flowers you throw into the water in remembrance of the dead.

Let's observe a moment of silence...

Next we went into a gallery that features the aroma of the four seasons.

I did really try to smell if the fragrances depict the seasons. Maybe...I don't know...

The next gallery is by this one artist who is also very good though I find her message isn't strong like the first one. 

I like her depiction of bubbles...

...and she painted peaches, strawberries and cherries on real table cloths...

...and they really look real, and three dimensional. Tap on the photo to view it larger. 

Our next stop was to 쌈지길 Ssamjigil but we didn't stay long since I'm no shopper.

We were tired and so we decided to have tea in a hanok. 

I can't remember what 완용 ordered (완용 if you can remind me, I'll update it here :)

형래 had chrysanthemum tea. 

And he ordered this concoction of herbs for me but he forgot I'm Chinese. Haha. All these is common to me. But the tea is good and refreshing though it did taste a bit on the medicinal side. 

It's dinner time! And we made our way to Gwangjang Market. It is packed with people. 

We passed by many food stalls but 형래 said we'd go to a proper restaurant. 

I'm so fascinated with the variety of food and especially the little aquarium of living octopuses. Hmm...

Here we are, in a restaurant. And we ordered too much, don't you think?

We had 녹두빈대떡 nokdubindaeteok mung bean pancakes, 육회 yukhoe steak tartare/raw beef, 마약김밥 mayakgimbap seaweed rice roll and of course 막걸리 makgeolli!

I then asked 형래 about the living octopus I saw outside and he said they will chopped up to smaller pieces and suggested that I try it.

And here it comes. Watch this vid if you dare...

...and see how much they enjoyed it...

...and the fact that I actually finished it! Wriggly wormy octopus and all.

And I was enjoying the makgeolli a bit too much...

...but with 형래 and 완용 being seasoned drinkers, they have no problems with it. I'm the only one with a red glow in the face. 

I really thought we ordered too much food, but we finished it all! Everything!

After dinner, the night is still young and we took a very nice evening walk on our way to 청계천 Cheonggyecheon stream.

This stream is the place to be when you are dating.

But for Christmas...

...it is all lighted up...

...all along the stream...

...and more.

잘생겼다 서울 Jalsaenggyeoda Seoul - Handsome Seoul...

...pretty girls...

...and a lovey dovey couple. 

It was such an amazing day but soon it's time we part ways.

I won't be seeing 형래 and 완용 for awhile now until I return or they come visit me in Kuala Lumpur.

Thanks you two for being my friends and making this such a great trip for me with so many memories to keep!

Hope to see you again real soon!