SsingSsing, the Korean Folk Band Taking the World by Storm

by KnowingKorea

NPR (National Public Radio) has a network of over 1,000 radio stations across the United States, and is well known for its high-quality cultural programming. Among these programs are their Tiny Desk Concerts featuring artists across all sorts of genres and cultures.

Recently, they were joined by Korean band SsingSsing and their unique style of music called ‘minyo’ inspired by traditional Korean folk. Their distinctive flair, dramatic gestures, and flamboyant cross-dressing costumes come together to make them immediately memorable. The band was not always so flamboyant, however, as they revealed their costumes were once a lot more subdued, but as they began to add more color, the members kept trying to outdo one another.

"In Korean traditional art, male shamans, called baksu, have the body of a male,” singer Lee Hee-moon explained to NPR, “but as mediums, they need more than a single sexual identity, because they're channeling both male and female spirits. When I act a female character and sing, I have to overcome the fact of my being a male sorikkun (singer), and try my utmost to bring a more neutral, unisex feeling to the performance."

Beyond NPR, SsingSsing were also booked for the 2018 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and held a series of concerts across Europe, Australia and the United States, taking Korean folk music around the globe.