Recreation Music Live

If you’re traveling in Korea, the express bus is the way to go. Within four or five hours, it is possible to reach virtually any place in the Southern half of the Korean peninsula. Generous reclining seats make for a comfortable travel experience.

What’s even better is that the bus driver is required by law to take a short rest every two hours, usually at a recreation area or hyuge-so (휴게소). There are bathrooms, coffee machines, ash trays, as well as convenience stores and small restaurants. And then there is the music…

Traditional beat music, so-called “teuroteu” (트로트), the Korean rendering of the English word trot, is a “sentimental love song style” that dates back to the early 20th century, when Japanese enka boomed in colonial Korea (on the politics of “trot”, see a paper by Son Min-Jung). Compilation tapes of these old time favorites are usually sold in small cabins, too.

For me, these “recreation songs” evoke a very peculiar atmosphere: a kind of nostalgia, longing for departure in a short moment of content with the state of things—a fitting soundtrack for a place in-between.

Anyway, this time on the way to the Tongyeong International Music Festival the bus had its regular stop at the recreation place around 5 pm. But the sound I heard on the way to the bathroom was slightly different, maybe a bit louder and less synthetic. Still, it was so similar to the familiar tunes that I turned my head only when I hurried back to the bus.

Between the people passing by I saw her, way in the back: A mid-aged woman playing the guitar and singing her song. I should have stayed for a moment, but I was afraid that the bus would take off without me. So I just shot a picture from afar:

One-woman band at an unnamed hyuge-so

— 23 March 2013 (土)


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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