Korea Spirit Music Nature Dance

"Nature is the art I love the most."
By Greem Jellyfish


Greem Jellyfish, the unique Korean artist, dancer, handmade artbook artist, filmmaker and musician tours her motherland and visits the local artists, musicians, grandmas, galleries, artbook fairs, cafes, noise venues, dance and reggae music festivals; then the beaches and mountains, where she finally finds Hannah Ch’oe in the waterfall with the miracle lotion to cure her grandmother’s heart-ached skin.

When I told of meeting Korean Granny Shaman to Greg Fox and Hisham Bharoocha, both were excited about my experience and mentioned the documentary Intangible Asset No. 82. Smoking outside before we went to see Brian Chippendale's heavy live drum performance at 285 Kent Ave was a bizarre feeling. Those three drummers' live performances were my biggest inspiration to start playing a full drum set. They were my heroes. I watched their shows from the front row and moshed or danced like a crazy person. I listened to their albums in my headphones at the most private times, such as biking, running or making art. Feeling their beats was like some kind of god for my soul and got my body emerging into the unbearable stickiness of greatsome.

Greg Fox live at Noodle Beaches for Meeting Witches at Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics, 2013

There I was smoking with them in the late summer on the sidewalk on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, smoking and chatting about my Korea trip. Secretly, I was about to throw up inside, feeling all dizzy with adrenaline. We were getting scared by the chance that Brian would start playing, also the white blue NYPD's dolphin pineapple eyes car was across the street. To hear the live drums, to see the body hitting the drums synchronized, and to share this with the sweating audience next to me was like being in the group trance moment. Drums hit the hearts. There are unavoidable languages that tell the hearts of many. The Korean shaman said she was in a trance after she hit the drums for a while, it might have been over thirty minutes. She hit the traditional Korean drums with colorful decoration. She was sweating a lot. I was trying to understand what she was doing. I think she was practicing being the bridge, connecting here and there.

Greem Jellyfish playing Akai XR20 in the Seoul Metro, 2013

One needs a toy when she travels. I broke my right arm in half and the doctor prohibited me from playing drums. It was sad but I purchased my first drum machine after reading about Steve Albini from Big Black in Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad. Mister Albini would listen to the drum beats on his headphones in school instead of a walkman. I had no idea what the drum machine was at that time so I read the manual book from the first page to the end. I was mastering the machine and blessing the time with AKAI XR 20. Making a goal with the machine, "when I am back from travelling, I will have mastered the AKAI XR 20. I will make a whole album and have a lot of fun with friends!"

Still shot from Greem Jellyfish's film, Korea Spirit Music Nature Dance, 2013

I found the poem on the subway platform wall when I didn't get a reply text after sending over eighty text messages to this reggae musician at six in the morning waking up in a strange white room that reminds me of the heaven that the Hollywood movie refers to. I felt a little better about myself and didn't want to jump onto the train track.

King, Don't Cry, 일월오봉도 “Sun, Moon and the Five Peaks”
(일월오봉도, pronounced irworobongdo)

수선화에게 -정호승 Dear Daffodils -Jung Ho Sueng
울지마라 Don't cry
외로우니까 사람이다 Because you are lonely, you are human
살아간다는 것은 외로움을 견디는 일이다 To live is to endure the loneliness
공연히 오지 않는 전화를 기다리지 마라 emptiness don't wait on the phone that never rings
눈이 오면 눈길을 걸어가고 if snow, walk on the snow
비가 오면 빗길을 걸어가라 if rain, walk on the rain
갈대숲에서 가슴 검은 도요새도 너를 보고있다 even in the gal-dae forest, the black chested sandpiper is looking after you
가끔은 하느님도 외로워서 눈물을 흘리신다 even god is crying because of the loneliness
새들이 나뭇가지에 앉아 있는 것도 외로움 때문이고 Birds are sitting on the branches because they are lonely
네가 물가에 앉아 있는것도 외로움 때문이다 You are sitting on the water because you are lonely
산그림자도 외로워서 하루에 한 번씩 마음로 내려온다 The alive shadow comes down to the mind because the lonesome
종소리도 외로워서 울려 퍼진다 Because of the loneliness the bells cry vibrates

Greem Jellyfish in the Ung-Ddo Waterfall in Jeju Island, Korea, 2012

Many Korean monks, mothers, fathers, musicians, artists and particularly the 판소리 Pan So Ri** artists practice their works next to a waterfall, trying to fight against the waterfall, thinking clearer and singing louder than the waterfall. In the documentary journey film, Intangible Asset No. 82, an Austrian improvisational jazz drummer looks for the intangible element in music through Korean traditional shamans. One of the shamans who trains in 판소리 Pan So Ri says he practices his singing abilities against the waterfall, spending much time in the mountains, sleeping only two to three hours a day and studying nature. The Korean shaman tells the Austrian drummer, "음 Yin is the valley. 양 Yang is the mountain. 폭포 Waterfall is where they meet so there is such a strong energy. Release of energy when the water hits the rock then inspired by water." Being in the waterfall is too intense for me. I can’t really think or do much other than be hit by the clean strong waterfall. My mind, brain, body, and energy become so clear and alert.

Greem Jellyfish dancing at Jeounsimsa Temple in Mt. Mudeungsan, Korea 무등산 중심사, 2012

** (판소리 Pan So Ri) (I thought 판소리Pan So Ri was one of the mere boring Korean traditional sounds. However, when I heard the live 판소리PanSoRi for the first time at the dinner table after the shaman ceremony, 판소리 Pan So Ri is actually really funny, silly and too truthful and exaggerated. Singing of our real lives, about how cute he is and how sexy she is, how broke I am, how smart I am, how rich I am, how to look for love- lust, friendship, love, work, and desires just like rap tell our urban real life stories. So Pan So Ri is traditional Korean rap.)

A Song at Halla

Nature is the art I love the most. It’s so colorful, beautiful, philosophical and dreamy. Nature is the music I admire the most. Its sound harmonize with birds, wind, dogs, chicken, rain, bugs and animals. All the creatures of nature are my dearest lover, father, mother, daughter, son, friend and teacher. 산탄다. 산을 오래 탄사람에게 배울것이 많다. Perhaps, Frank Hurricane is so great because of that. His music has the deep colorful layers of feelings and stories.

Lichens are not neon but they are very bright like neon. They have small, cute, detail oriented, complicated shapes. I tried to detach them from the rocks but I realized I never tried. Stones are usually hard on the knees when I fall from the skateboard. Lichens are like paper flowers spread all around the rocks, what may look like jellyfish in the ocean. They don’t have any suffering or sad emotions. When I see lichens on the rock, on the stone, on pyramids in Mexico, in the mountains in Korea, in the forest in the Catskills upstate. I sing a song of lichens.

Hannah Ch'oe singing Lichens

~/~ Finding Hannah Ch’oe in the waterfall with the miracle lotion to cure her grandmother’s heart-ached skin ~/~

“My grandmother gets sick and sad easily and I was looking for a lotion to heal her heart-ached, malnourished skin,” said the Korean singer-songwriter Hannah Ch’oe, who was founded at the Halla Mountain’s waterfall on Jeju Island. “When I was sick and so bored in the hospital, all I wanted to do was go to a mountain and find the perfect waterfall to be inside. That would be the best treatment for my scars. Then I thought, if I could turn the experience of being in the waterfall into music, what would it sound like?” So she visited the perfect waterfall at the Halla Mountain on the Jeju Island and made the thirteen minute song “Analgesic, Narcotic, Hypnotic Lotion". Her songs do sound in a way like Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme, Natura Bisse or La Mer: hypnotic, fresh, elegant and have the strong feeling of a mountain waterfall.

She’s best known as the front-woman for DUST, the Brooklyn house dance band, and for the release of Onset of Decimation (Mannequin label), and as the drummer and the vocalist for METH and BEEF, the Brooklyn avant-garde, experimental noise punk metal bands. Her first solo album has a very different direction from her other bands.

Dust live featuring Greem Jellyfish, Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics, 2013

"I am often frustrated and confused. My personality is very submissive and shy; I have many dislikes and disadvantages. I have never gotten into a fight in my life. I hate myself for it but I disappear from the fight scene and cry by myself, trying to forget. So it is natural to scream as a form of artistic expression, taking my anger out from my guts to music. I hit the snare drums really hard and scream like I’m dying to the bass and guitar’s crying. However, when I broke my arm, I had to stay at the hospital and stay home alone for over a month. I usually go out every night, checking out my friend’s live music and taking advantage of living in the center of culture city, New York but I couldn’t do it anymore. It was a transitional moment in my life. I was making music because I had too much in me but being sick sucked and I couldn't make the music the way I make other things, which was with many friends partying. I also realized how lucky I was to only break my arm. There were so many more sick people in the hospital whom I'd never thought of before. Then I wanted to make a song for the sick people who don't get much attention. I also wanted to make songs that my grandmother could listen to. My grandma pressed the stop button when I played my noise projects.”

Meth / Beef live during Noodle Beach for Meeting Witches, Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics, 2013

From Sex Magazine #4 Summer 2013
Labelled Music