A South Korean Storm: Jambinai

From left to right: IIwoo Lee, Bomi Kim and Eun Youg Sim

Formed in Seoul in 2009, Jambinai is one of the most interesting bands in East Asian underground music scene consisting of guitarist and piri (oboe) player IIwoo Lee, haegeum (a traditional Korean string instrument similar to a fiddle) player Bomi Kim, and geomungo (another traditional Korean string instrument of the zither family) player Eun Youg Sim. They make some really innovative music combining post-rock and traditional Korean music.

Lee, Kim and Sim met when they were studying at the Korea National University of Arts. After that, one day they met at one of their common friend’s gig and right afterwards, started thinking about how to bring a fresh breath into Korean traditional music. And Jambinai came to existence. The name of the band does not mean anything in Korean; it’s the way it is pronounced that the band likes.

Jambinai released their debut EP consisting of three songs in September 2010 and were invited to play at the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, one of Korea’s biggest music festivals, in the summer of 2011. In the same year, they won the second place at the EBS Hello Rookie Final which is an award show featuring the young blood South Korean bands. In 2013, their album “Differance” was chosen as the Best Jazz and Crossover Album at the Korean Music Awards.

The key to Jambinai’s innovative sound is the hypnotizing dark loops woven with traditional instruments, slowly building into a more intense darkness and finally reaching a climax of scorching and ominous metallic notes. Their way of crossing the borders of the past and present is irresistably provocative and captivating. Softer tracks and songs with vocals are also a part of their spirit, however, I prefer the tornado-like instrumental ones gradually getting darker and more intense.  While listening to Jambinai, one can visit the dark lands where the past and today meet making you forget the concept of time and take you to a fascinating trip.

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