Thursday, December 21, 2017

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 5. Sanullim

[Series Index]

5.  Sanullim [산울림]

Years of Activity: 1977-2008 (last regular album in 1997)

Discography (Studio Albums Only)
Collection of Sanullim's New Songs
Sanullim Second Album [산울림 2집] (1978)
Sanullim Third Album [산울림 3집] (1978)
Sanullim Fourth Album [산울림 4집] (1979)
Sanullim Fifth Album [산울림 5집] (1979)
Sanullim Sixth Album [산울림 6집] (1980)
Sanullim Seventh Album [산울림 7집] (1981)
Sanullim Eighth Album [산울림 8집] (1982)
Sanullim Ninth Album [산울림 9집] (1983)
Sanullim Tenth Album [산울림 10집] (1984)
Sanullim Eleventh Album [산울림 11집] (1986)
Sanullim Twelveth Album [산울림 12집] (1991)
Rainbow [무지개] (1997)

Representative Song:  What Already [아니 벌써], from Collection of Sanullim's New Songs

아니 벌써
What Already

아니 벌써 해가 솟았나 
What already, did the sun rise
창문 밖이 환하게 밝았네
It's bright outside the window
가벼운 아침 발걸음 
The light morning steps
모두 함께 콧노래 부르며
Everyone humming along

밝은 날을 기다리는 부푼 마음 가슴에 가득
Hearts filled with hopes for bright days
이리저리 지나치는 정다운 눈길 거리에 찼네
Streets full of friendly glances exchanged

아니 벌써 밤이 깊었나 
What already, did the night get old
정말 시간 가는줄 몰랐네
Really, where does the time go
해 저문 거릴 비추는 
Lighting the sundown streets
가로등 하얗게 피었네
The street lights are blooming white

밝은 날을 기다리는 부푼 마음 가슴에 가득
Hearts filled with hopes for bright days
이리저리 지나치는 정다운 눈길 거리에 찼네
Streets full of friendly glances exchanged

In 15 words or less:  The progenitor of Korean rock'n roll.

Maybe they should have been ranked higher because...  Members of Sanullim produced so many younger artists who would end up having hugely influential careers.

Maybe they should have been ranked lower because...  Did Sanullim have any influence outside of music, such as choreography, fashion or video?

Why is this artist important?
Sanullim is perhaps the most unique band in Korean pop music history. For most important artists in K-pop history, their musical heritage is traceable to an earlier example. Not so with Sanullim: their music is sui generis. Although Sanullim sounds broadly familiar, there is no clear precedent for their music even in the US-UK pop music. It is as if they absorbed the ambient music that floated in Korea's atmosphere in the 1970s and willed themselves into an entirely new existence.

Sanullim might be Korea's first garage band, as it was born out of three talented brothers--Kim Chang-wan [김창완], Kim Chang-hun [김창훈] and Kim Chang-ik [김창익]--noodling around with instruments in their home. They never played other people's music. The three brothers composed their own music and played their own. Even before their professional debut, Sanullim had a large library of their own songs.

Sanullim's debut was accidental, as they never intended to be professional musicians. Kim Chang-hun was originally a member of the band Sand Pebbles, for which he composed the song What do I do [나 어떡해]. Kim Chang-hun then left Sand Pebbles to join the band made up of his two brothers, which at the time was called Mui [무이], to participate in the first College Music Festival of 1977. In the competition, Mui came in first, and Sand Pebbles, playing What do I do, came in second. Three weeks later, the three brothers--now forming a band called Sanullim, the "Mountain Vibrations"--cut their first album and instantly became stars.

The poetry of Sanullim's lyrics is just as original as their music. The lyrics appear to be about trivialities, but upon a second look, they always leave a lingering impression. Kim Chang-wan recalls that Sanullim always tried to be objective and self-distancing. Kim Chang-wan noted in an interview: "As we composed, we thought: 'how can a person who is sad because he lost his love could be singing about anything? He would be too busy crying!' . . . Some might listen to Sanullim and think, 'how do they put so much emotion into such trivialities?' But we would think, 'how could you sing at all if you really lost your love?'"

Interesting trivia:  In addition to their regular albums, Sanullim composed three albums of children's songs, which are now considered a classic. Kim Chang-wan considers those albums his personal favorite, putting them above any of Sanullim's studio albums.

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  2. I'd wondered where they would rank - I fell in love with the Kim Chang Wan Band's album and then tracked down Sanullim, but it was hard to find anything outside of YouTube. I'm happy to say that most, if not all, the albums are now available on Google Play. Do you have any albums you especially recommend? My budget won't go to all of them! But sadly the Music for Children albums remain elusive. Are they available in S. Korea?

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