Thursday, April 14, 2011

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 30. Sinawi

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[Series Index]

30.  Sinawi [시나위]

Also Romanized as:  Sinawe

Years of Activity:  1986-present (last album in 2006)


Current Members
Shin Dae-Cheol [신대철] - Guitar
Lee Gyeong-Han [이경한] - Bass
Lee Dong-Yeop [이동엽] - Drum
Kang Han [강한] - Vocal

Former Members
Kang Jong-Su [강종수] - Drum
Kim Min-Gi [김민기] - Drum [TK note: NOT the same Kim Min-Gi who is ranked 31 in this list]
Kim Jong-Hyu [김종휴] - Drum
Shin Dong-Hyeon [신동현] - Drum
Oh Gyeong-Hwan [오경환] - Drum
Kim Geyong-Won [김경원] - Bass
Kim Yeong-Jin [김영진] - Bass
Dalparan [달파란] - Bass
Park Yeong-Bae [박영배] - Bass
Seo Taiji [서태지] - Bass
An Joon-Seop [안준섭] - Bass
Moda - Bass
Kim Hyeong-Joon -[김형준] - Keyboard
Kim Bada [김바다] - Vocal
Kim Seong-Heon [김성헌] - Vocal
Kim Yong [김용] - Vocal
Kim Jong-Seo [김종서] - Vocal
Sohn Seong-Hoon [손성훈] - Vocal
Lee Byeong-Moon [이병문] - Vocal
Im Jae-Beom [임재범] - Vocal
Jeon Chang-Gyu [전창규] - Vocal

Heavy Metal Sinawe (1986)
Down and Up (1987)
Freeman (1988)
Four (1990)
Sinawi 5 [시나위 5] (1995)
Blue Baby (1997)
Psychedelos (1998)
Sinawe Vol. 8 (2001)
Reason of Dead Bugs (2006)

Representative Song:  Turn Up the Radio [크게 라디오를 켜고] from Heavy Metal Sinawe

크게 라디오를 켜고
Turn Up the Radio

피곤이 몰아치는 기나긴 오후지나
Past the long long afternoon where the fatigue rushes in
집으로 달려가는 마음은 어떠한가
How is a heart that races homeward
지하철 기다리며 들리는 음악은
The music heard while waiting for the subway
지루한 하루건너 내일을 생각하네
Skips the boring day and thinks of tomorrow
대문을 활짝열고 노래를 불러보니
Opened up the front door and tried singing
어느새 피곤마저 사라져 버렸네
Before I knew it, even the fatigue vanished
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 따라해요
Turn up the radio and let's all follow the song
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 노래해요
Turn up the radio and let's all sing along

두눈을 감고서는 잠들려 했을때
When I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep
옆집서 들려오는 조그만 음악소리
The little sound of music coming from the house next door
소리를 듣고싶어 라디오 켜보니
Turned on the radio to hear the sound
뜨거운 리듬속에 마음을 빼았겼네
And I lost my heart in the heated rhythm
자리에 일어나서 노래를 불러보니
Got out of the bed and tried singing
어느새 시간마저 지나가 버렸네
Before I knew it, even the time passed by
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 따라해요
Turn up the radio and let's all follow the song
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 노래해요
Turn up the radio and let's all sing along

아침을 알려주는 자명종 소리마저
Even the sound of the alarm clock announcing the morning
쌓여진 졸음만은 어쩔수 없어라
Can do anything to the piled-up sleep
두손에 잡혀지는 라디오 켜보고
Turn on the radio that comes to my hand
하품과 기지개를 마음껏 해보세
And let's yawn and stretch all we want
방문을 활짝열고 노래를 불러보니
Opened up the room door and tried singing
어느새 졸음마저 사라져 버렸네
Before I knew it, even the sleep vanished
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 따라해요
Turn up the radio and let's all follow the song
크게 라디오를 켜고 함께 노래해요
Turn up the radio and let's all sing along

Translation note:  Is there a more elegant translation for 어느새?

In 15 words or less:  Greatest heavy metal band in K-pop history.

Maybe they should be ranked higher because...  Is there any other band that has three former members who ended up being on this list?

Maybe they should be ranked lower because...  Was there ever a time when Sinawi even grazed the public consciousness with its music?

Why is this band important?
It goes without saying that Korean pop music was imported from outside of Korea at some point or another. But on some level, it is not terribly surprising that certain types of pop music succeeded in Korea better than others. Trot has a certain level of smiling melancholy that connects with the pathos of Korea's traditional music. Same with folk rock/ballad, with their maudlin calm. Even rap is vaguely reminiscent of pansori, in which a single performer stands on the stage and alternately narrates and sings.

In this sense, among pop music genre, heavy metal may have been (and may still be) the most foreign music to Korean ears. There is simply no precedent for screaming into the mic and ear-piercing tunes. And the men in leather pants, with their flowing long mane swinging on the stage!

Which makes the presence of Sinawi in Korea's pop music history all the more remarkable. I mean, just watch this video:

Can you imagine ANY Korean you know rocking out like that with that kind of hair, clothes and makeup?

Sinawi is remarkable because of its relentless pursuit of the rock orthodoxy. It utterly dedicated itself to rock and heavy metal, popularity be damned. Although Sinawi never got anywhere near the top of the charts, it quite literally opened up a new frontier in Korean pop music. The universal language of rock was alive in Korea, and Sinawi provided a meaningful starting point of heavier rock sound in Korean pop music.

Another remarkable thing about Sinawi is its current and former rosters read like "Who's Who of Korea's Rock Legends," many of whom unsurprisingly make this list. Dalparan is the stage name for Kang Gi-Yeong, the bassist and leader of Pipi Band. Kim Jong-Seo pursued a solo career after Sinawi and became a de facto face of Korean rock. And as described further below, former bassist Jeong Hyeon-Cheol got kind of famous also.

Interesting trivia 1:  Shin Dae-Chul, guitarist and the leader of Sinawi, is the son of Shin Joong-Hyeon, Korea's "godfather of rock."

Interesting trivia 2:  Kim Jong-Seo was slated to be Sinawi's original vocal. But only one week before Sinawi's debut concert, Kim disappeared. Kim reappeared one day before the concert, but the band had already fired him. Kim Jong-Seo would come back to rejoin the band for Sinawi's fourth album, which became much more pop-oriented under Kim's influence. Kim then had a falling out with Shin Dae-Chul, who wanted more orthodox rock. Sinawi disbanded and would go into a five-year hiatus until Shin could reorganize the band with entirely new members.

Interesting trivia 3:  Also joining for Sinawi's fourth album was a 17-year-old high school dropout bassist named Jeong Hyeon-Cheol -- who later would take on the stage name Seo Taiji. Seo recalls his days at Sinawi as the time when he really learned music. Officially, Seo was pushed into a solo career after Sinawi disbanded after the fourth album. Seo was closer to Kim Jong-Seo, and was not particularly inclined to stay with Shin's insistence at orthodox rock. According to an unconfirmed rumor, the final straw for Seo was when Shin told his bassist -- 13 years junior -- to go out and buy cigarettes for him. Seo, reportedly, took the money and never returned.

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


  1. I think "suddenly" or "in a moment," while not a literal translation, might be a more elegant way to express "어느새."

    That unconfirmed rumor about Seo Taiji would be hilarious if it's actually true.

  2. More quality Korean music, nice.

    TK, have you done one on Eulji mun dok?

  3. Never heard of them. Nothing coming out of Internet either... you sure you got the right name?

  4. oops, i meant sinabro, and one of their songs is eulji whatever.

  5. Wow, Sinabro! It will take some ubersuperduper fan of K-pop to recognize that band. The only reason why the Korean remembers the name is because long time ago (in his teenage music nerd era) he retraced every band that won the Collegiate Pop Music Festival (대학가요제). And yes, their title song was Euljimundeok.

    Probably will not be covering them in this series. :)

  6. I'm pretty much a fan of aggro-music from classical (Bach!) to punk/thrash stuff.

    I gotta say.. those guys rocked. I'd happily pay to see a band like that at some venue here in Seoul.

    Think I'll go see what's findable on the intarwebs..


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