The SsingSsing gigs that opened the 2018 K-music Festival were the ones that I was probably saddest to miss of all the events this year. Sometimes other commitments get in the way (in this instance, a long-delayed summer holiday) so this is the first of the second-hand K-music reviews of this season (there will be more).
I’m particularly sad to have missed SsingSsing not just because I’m an admirer of Lee Heemoon, the lead vocalist and mastermind of the group, but also because there may not be another chance: the band is said to be disbanding later this year, and this was their last concert in Europe.
Anyway, the Purcell Room gig (on 2 October 2018) was reviewed in the Guardian here, where it got four stars. “It’s fusion music that’s also enormous fun, and the audience were on their feet for much of the set,” says their reporter Robin Denselow.
An interesting point to emerge from the Guardian piece is the reason behind the cross-dressing: “the male shamans … need more than a single sexual identity because they’re channeling both male and female spirits”: SsingSsing has is roots in Korean shaman music and folk music from Gyeonggido, and turns it “into disco funk and reggae,” says Lee in the interview in the above video.
The below from 앤서방 captures some of the anarchic fun of the concert.
앤서방 also captured the spirit of their lively gig at Pizza Express Soho two days before the South Bank concert:
All good things have to come to an end, but the ending of this collaboration between such talented musicians, including Uhuhboo Project bassist and composer Jang Young-gyu, is particularly sad. But given the appeal of SsingSsing and Lee Heemoon’s parallel “Korean Man” project with Jazz ensemble Prelude, we can look forward to similarly inventive music-making from his future projects.
- Lee Hee Moon Company on YouTube – for videos of SsingSsing and Prelude
- The famous SsingSsing Tiny Desk concert om NPR
Photos by KCCUK and 앤서방