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Jinbo the Superfreak Braves Uncharted Territories in Korean Independent Music

Joo Hahn, also known as Jinbo the Superfreak, is charting undiscovered territory. He's an independent hip hop/soul artist in Korea who has embarked on an exploration of the world of Korean independent music. Active as an artist since 2006, Jinbo has observed that scene in Korea differs tremendously from the environment in the US that he studied as a student at Musicians Institute.

"The major population of music listeners in Korea is passive. They just go to websites like melon, bugs, mnet, etc and check out the top 100s. They don't have enough magazines like Billboard, Spin, Complex, XXL, and websites like Pitchfork, Allmusic, XLR8R, etc so TV appearances still play a major role in terms of getting your music recognized."

Jinbo promotes his music online with an active blog that documents his music, the creative process and his personal life. He has also been reviewed by internet bloggers and his fans actively discuss his music online in Korea's predominant web portal - Naver.com. Only active as an independent musician for a few years, Jinbo has relied on these channels to promote his work and has found success using them.

"What pulls my attention is the whole nature of music changing as many independent/internet-oriented artists emerge and impress their listeners. You get recognized if you are good no matter what nowadays. So if you build your own musical universe and it's amazing... it will be discovered and appreciated by itself more and more in the future."

Despite the dominance of mainstream music in Korea, Jinbo has been making waves on his own. Jinbo's debut LP, Afterwork, was recorded and engineered in his bedroom and released independently in 2010. Practically home-made, Afterwork earned Jinbo a Korean Music Award (KMA) in the category of "Best R&B/Soul Album" in 2011 - not bad for a project competing with albums produced by mainstream studios with massive production and marketing budgets.


Jinbo, Afterwork album cover

Jinbo's success with Afterwork calls attention to the possibilities. Is a new frontier of independent music in Korea waiting to be forged? Perhaps no one can answer that. But what Jinbo has learned from his new career provides us with a little insight.

"It is not easy," he says, "You have to work your ass off." Although the process is difficult, he offers a little hope. "The rewards are sweeter, because it's all yours although it might be small."

Reflecting upon the realities of his career, Jinbo points out that the independent process has educational qualities. "The whole independent process guides you to become more of an artist than just an entertainer," he says.

Collaboration, to Jinbo, is key in this environment. For those considering the same path, he advocates that artists "team up with people who you think are awesome and do whatever is cool, without any fear." He reminds artists that "it's really important to be surrounded by people who are like you. That way you can keep your artistic visions and dreams. They are the fuel to run your engine."

For more information about Jinbo the Superfreak, visit jinbosoul.com.


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