Sunday, August 08, 2010

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 50. Pipi Band/Pipi Longstocking

[Series Index]

Finally, the 50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists series kicks off in earnest. The series will progress by providing a fairly detailed look at each artist's music career, such that by the time this series is over the reader can have a workable knowledge of K-pop history and its major players. If you have have not already, the Korean high recommends reading the earlier parts of this series to place the ranked artists in proper context.

Just to remind everyone, this list is arbitrary and capricious to the Korean's whim, and reflects the Korean's many biases. But that does not mean it is completely off the reservation -- much thought went into trying to make this list as objective as possible. To help organize the ranking, the Korean divided the 50 artists into four tiers: Legends, Best of an Era, Strong Impact and Notables. As we start from the bottom, here is the first of the notable K-pop artists.

50. Pipi Band [삐삐밴드]/Pipi Longstocking [삐삐롱스타킹]

Years of Activity: 1995-1997

Lee Yoon-Jeong [이윤정] (Vocal - in Pipi Band)
Kwon Byeong-Joon/Goguma [권병준/고구마] (Vocal - in PiPi Longstocking)
Kang Gi-Yeong [강기영] (Bass)
Park Hyeon-Joon [박현준] (Guitar)

Cultural Revolution [문화혁명] (1995)
Impossible Mission [불가능한 작전] (1996)
Red Bean Fish Buns [붕어빵] (1996)
One Way Ticket [원웨이 티켓] (1997)
Pipi Band Pipi Longstocking: The Complete Best [삐삐밴드 삐삐롱스타킹 The Complete Best] (2004)

In 15 Words or Less:  La Resistance of the Weird.

Representative Song:  Strawberry [딸기], from Cultural Revolution


설탕에 찍어 딸기를 먹었어
Had a strawberry dipped in sugar
딸기밭에서 하루종일 놀았어
Played all day at the strawberry field
한참을 놀다보니 하루가 다갔어
Played for a while and the whole day passed
하루는 왜 스물네 시간일까
Why is a day 24 hours

수박 아줌마는 얼룩무늬 치마
Lady watermelon wears a striped skirt
참외 할머니는 귀머거리 할머니
Grandma melon is a deaf grandma
사과 외숙모는 친절한가봐
Auntie apple seems nice
딸기 내 친구는 사랑스러워
Strawberry my friend is lovely

좋아 좋아 좋아 좋아
Like like like like
좋아 좋아 좋아 좋아
Like like like like
좋아 좋아 좋아 좋아
Like like like like
좋아 좋아 좋아 좋아
Like like like like
딸기가 좋아
I like strawberry
딸기를 사달라고 졸랐어
I asked someone to buy me strawberry
딸기를 먹지 않고 웃기만 했어
I didn't eat strawberry, just smiled
나는 왜 이렇게 너를 좋아하는걸까
Why do I like you so much so
나는 왜 니가 좋은지 몰라
I don't know why I like you
그건 정말 몰라 (예) 나도 몰라
I really don't know (yeah) I don't know either

새빨간 딸기는 너무 아름다워
Bright red strawberry is so beautiful
포도 아저씨는 꿈꾸는 사람
Uncle grape is a dreamer
설탕에 찍어 딸기를 먹었어
Had a strawberry dipped in sugar

좋아 좋아 좋아 딸기가 좋아
Like like like I like strawberry
좋아 좋아 좋아 딸기가 좋아
Like like like I like strawberry
딸기가 제일 좋아 
I like strawberry the best
It's good.

Maybe they should have been ranked higher because...  Arguably, they kicked off the indie scene in Korea.

Maybe they should have been ranked lower because... While their indirect influence lived on, their direct influence was for the most part limited to just one album. Does this make them more influential than, say, Jang Yoon-Jeong [장윤정]?

Why is this band important?
The year is 1995, when K-pop was nearing its decisive turning point in 1996/1997. The pop culture scene just exited the oppressive mood of the military dictatorship that lasted until 1993, and was on its way to the heavily commercialized form of today. The mainstream artists were mostly dance "musicians" who peddled soulless music accompanied with catchy tunes, plagiarism and plenty of lip synch, or talented singers selling out their abilities to saccharine "ballad" songs. The underground music scene, whose resistance to the contemporary politics fueled much of its creativity, was fading along with its nemesis. The famous indie music scene in front of Hong-Ik University was not yet to be.

Enter Pipi Band, who bucked the trend in every way. The band involved no dancing. The tunes were scratchy and strange. The lead (female!) singer was not terribly pretty, and could not sing. (There are unconfirmed rumors that she was brought into the band specifically because she was so bad at singing.) Their lyrics were at best nonsensical, at worst insane. They rarely appeared on TV. But they kicked and barged their way into public consciousness by the sheer force of their weirdness. Just one listen was all you needed to furrow your brow in confusion, and turn to your friend and ask, "Have you heard this song?"

This weird band became more famous. But the raised profile only appeared to goad the band into becoming even weirder and more resistant to the prevailing trend. On television, they would sing with a bullhorn instead of a microphone to mock other "singers" who resorted to lip synching. If a TV show compelled them to play canned music, they simply stood around and refused to play the instruments. Everything finally came to a head when Pipi Longstocking -- the changed name of the band after they replaced the vocal -- spat at the camera and raised their middle finger during a live telecast of a popular music program. Ban from television followed, and the members split up to go their own way.

Pipi Band is important because they kicked off two very significant trends in K-pop that live on today -- resistance to the new mainstream, and being weird. Although the corporatized, pre-packaged "bands" are currently the mainstream in K-pop, Korea still has a robust counterculture that involves true singer-song writers and artists who are willing to push the boundaries of normal. Although the band's direct influence was not much more than a flash, it did what every pioneer did -- pointing to the road less taken, although they themselves may have only taken a few steps toward it.

Interesting Trivia:
- Vocal Lee Yoon-Jeong is a daughter of Lee Gyeong-Jae, a prominent politician. She was a ballerina by training. Currently, she is a stylist for the recent crop of celebrities.
- The bassist Kang Gi-Yeong used to belong to Sinawi [시나위], probably the greatest heavy metal band in K-pop history. He has now taken the stage name of Dalparan ("Moon Blue") [달파란], and remains influential in Korea's indie music scene.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Dear Korean,

    You are awesome! Looking forward to reading the whole series!

  2. 아기다리 고기다리 던리스트! :D

    I remember one of my cousin being a huge fan of these guys, but didn't remember them quite well myself.

  3. Reminds me a LOT of an early Cibo Matto, even though it's in Korean and not broken English with a thick Japanese accent. Even so, the voice and image and music style is very Cibo Matto.

    Don't know Cibo Matto? That's fine, they're also a very niche group in the U.S.

  4. Put a smile on my face to see that PiPi Band made it to your top 50. I suppose the group can definitely be seen as weird in light of the exploding dance-pop scene in Korea at the time, but I thought they were a natural movement stemming from the post-grunge alt-rock scenes in other parts of the world. Definitely trailblazers in the Korean indie alternative scene, since their music is actually contemporary to similar music from other parts of the world.

    I have a soft spot for "Supermarket" myself. "딸기" is definitely one of their more different tracks, but clearly takes its funk-rap cues from Beastie Boys/Red Hot Chili Peppers circa early 1990's. Not a bad place to mind musical inspiration.

  5. Wow.. the music straight out rocked (not so keen on the "singer" as she reminded me of bad singers from local punk bands in the late 70's and early 80s).

    Who is the heir to this kind of music?

    I'd like to find some decent punk/thrash and some blues here in Seoul...

  6. 와우 지금 들어도 충격적이다

  7. Lee Yoon Jeong is now married, and together with her husband makes up the band EE. Their music is mostly in the vein of her solo electronic stuff, although less poppy.

  8. I'm listening to Pipi Band right now! Despite Lee Yoon-Jeong's crappy singing, I still can't help but love the tunes this band put out (although I still wish Lee Yoon-Jeong sang less crappy on a few of the songs).

  9. Just HAD to add that Lee Yoon-Jeong has a new band/project in the Korean Indie scene called EE. Lengthy english bio and video for their song "CURIOSITY KILLS" here:

    SERIOUSLY awesome band, as is PiPi Band, though the two are totally different


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