The Hongdae area in Seoul is well known for its unique atmosphere. It is especially the playground and land of opportunity for many Indie musicians. It is also the place that embraces their daily lives, songs, dreams, and so on. Among the dozens of music clubs clustered in the alley ways, a small live club is surely an eye-catcher.
Anyone who is interested in either watching or performing a live performance has been to Badabie, a music salon in Hongdae which means “Rain in the Sea”. The small, cozy and somewhat humid and musty basement salon is just one of the plethoras of live clubs in the area, providing live performances of Hongdae’s Indie musicians. Unlike other live clubs with high ‘barriers’, salon Badabie has a reputation for embracing bands of various performing experiences and music styles.
A poet’s dream blooms in the basement
The story behind Salon Badabie comes from its creator, Woo-joong-dok-bo-hang. Being his allias, it carries the poetic meaning of “walking alone in the rain”. It is no wonder then that the idea for Badabie also came from a poem. Introducing himself as a poet, there is a dreamy air in the way he tells his story. He looks back on his twenties as having been drunk most of the time.
Naturally, health or future life plans were low on his list. When asked what may have prompted such behavior, he simply added that it may have been due to immaturity.
One day, while under the influence of alcohol as usual, Woo scribbled some incoherent words on a piece of paper. And that was the beginning of an inspiration. The words read like a poem to him. Since then, he had begun writing poems. Wishing to share his ideas with others, he rented a basement on pure impulse. This is how Salon Badabie began.
The name “Badabie” comes originated from Woo’s favorite fairy tale about a little star and a flower that bloomed on a rock by the seashore. The story itself is the idea that salon Badabie aspires to. As the story goes, there was a little star that wanted to befriend a flower that had bloomed on a rock by the sea. One day, the star saw that the flower was weeping and felt pity for it. So in spite of violating the rules of heaven that compelled all stars to remain in the sky, the star visited the flower nightly to keep it company. Eventually the Jade King of heaven found out the star’s disobedience and expelled it from the sky. The star fell into the sea. The picture of the star falling into sea like a drop of rain seemed romantic yet sorrowful at the same time to Woo.
This was why Woo thought that the artists of Hongdae were like the star. Just as the star had adored the flower, countless artists of Hongdae also adored their dreams of romance. He wanted to create a space that resembled the sea that embraced the star and its emotions. Like the sea embracing the star, his space would embrace the artists. Ever since then, his basement has served as a playground and breeding ground for the hopes and dreams of many artists.
The land of opportunity, Salon Badabie
Badabie has hosted various live performances by indie artists, offering them opportunities. Woo says he loves art. Like a cultural complex, the basement provides various indie artists with opportunities to get the taste of performing live. For novice artists, such opportunities are rare and precious.
Every Tuesday, Badabie hosts a special stage for novice artists. Usually, any artist who wishes to perform on stage is required to pass auditions. However, Badabie made an exception for every Tuesday. It was a usual and surprising decision back then. Many starting artists came to the salon to grab this rare opportunity to perform live in front of an audience. Ever since, Tuesdays in Badabie are known as “Jeongshin Up Day,” which means a manic and exciting day for the salon.
There is no question how meaningful this stage is for novice performers. Badabie receives five artists to perform on stage each week. Regardless of their musical genre, they are free to perform. Other live clubs in Hongdae have followed suite, holding no-audition days. This has in turn, become a huge opportunity for beginning artists. Woo says he wants to preserve the reputation of Hongdae, which is the breeding ground for sowing seeds of art.
In response to the enthusiastic reaction from the audience, Woo began thinking that he should offer more opportunities to indie artists. That is why Badabie hosts a stage named “Don Quixote” every Thursday, where a single artist or team gets to design their own stage and perform the whole day. The performing artist plans the whole program from beginning to end. There is no restriction to what goes up on the stage, whether it be talk show, indie music performance, cooking concert, musical, or magic show.
Numerous pictures of visitors are attatched to the wall.
Sitcom for Badabie artists
Woo has a dream. It is a dream where everyone enjoys music and fine art. It has a taste of a circus scene, where various art events take place, he explains. There had been two touching events for him, when he could feel the real affection the artists had for Badabie.
In 2006, Woo had no choice but to work in order to afford the monthly rent. This was mainly because he always shared his income from the salon with other musicians. These musicians performed in Badabie and considered the basement Salon their safe haven. They used to hold wrap-up parties with audiences after performing, spending numerous nights in the basement. Badabie always welcomed those guests.
One day, the landlord of the building suddenly demanded a raise on the security deposit for Woo’s rent, notifying that he would have to vacate the basement otherwise. Woo could not afford the raise. He had already been working part-time to just maintain his livelihood. He explained the situation to the musicians of Badabie. He apologized for not being able to keep their safe haven going. Most of the musicians in turn, offered to help. They raised fund among themselves, also planning a special fund-raising concert.
A surprising number of various musicians participated in the concert. Eventually they were able to raise the necessary funds, and Badabie was saved.
The next crisis hit them harder. The rent just kept soaring and soaring. Woo had to overwork himself to maintain his salon. This was when one of the musicians, who went to medical school, noticed Woo was displaying some strange symptoms. He went to the hospital with Woo, only to discover that Woo had a brain tumor. Woo had been having hallucinations of walking on clouds. He went into surgery, with many musicians offering to help him again. Among them were now well-known musicians such as Yozoh, Crying Nut, Dearcloud, 10cm, Annyeong Bada, and Galaxy Express. The fund-raising concert “Badabie, Never Die” was held for eleven days from Sept.15 to 25 in 2011.
Dreaming a dream, Badabie
Through these ups and downs, Badabie has firmly established itself as a symbol of the Hongdae art scene. Recently, it has been planning various ideas to work towards its dream of making Hongdae into a large circus of “art”. Anything performed in this circus would belong to the artists. The general public will also be able to enjoy a sense of intimacy with art. In the long run, this would expand the scope of Korea’s cultural ground by breeding various artists, audiences and galleries. Why not visit Badabie this evening, and catch a glimpse of the future of Hongdae culture?