Seekers of Songs (노찾사) in the 80s - The Home I Cannot Return To (갈 수 없는 고향) and The Wind Whooshing (바람 씽씽)

Mountain Verdure

Seekers of Songs (노찾사 - Nochatsa) was a group of college students who got together for the love of music in the early 1980s. Students from a few different colleges came together to share ideas as well as write and perform their own music. With a youthful enthusiasm and passion for music, they created enough material to release as a full LP album in 1984. Thus came the first batch of Nochatsa songs which included these two among many other beautiful works. Their songs had the unadulterated passion and idealism characteristic of the young minds, as well as an unquenchable longing for social changes. They followed it with three more original albums, becoming probably the most famous student act in Korean history.

갈 수 없는 고향


저 멀리 저 산 마루에 해가 걸리면
쓸쓸한 내 맘에도 노을이 지네
물결따라 출렁이는 그리운 얼굴
혼탁한 강 내음이 내 맘을 적시네
      
갈 수 없는 그리운 그리운 내 고향
나는 가고 싶지만 내가 갈 수가 없네
      
이따금씩 지나가는 기차를 보면
내 고향 밤하늘이 그리워 지네
뜨겁던 지난 여름날 더운 바람속에
설레이던 가슴 안고 서울로 서울로
      
갈 수 없는 그리운 그리운 내 고향
나는 가고 싶지만 내가 갈 수가 없네
      
갈 수 없는 그리운 그리운 내 고향
나는 가고 싶지만 내가 갈 수가 없네
내가 갈 수가 없네
내가 갈 수가 없네

The Home I Cannot Return To


The sun hangs over a hilltop in the distance
The twilight drenching out my lonesome heart
Missed faces undulating on the river's waters
Its mixed scents starts to seep into my heart

Home, my sweet old home I cannot return to 
I keep dreaming of going back but sadly I can't

Gazing at the train passing by occasionally
I find myself missing the night sky back home
That I left coming to Seoul with a fluttery heart
In the hot wind of a scorching day last summer

Home, my sweet old home I cannot return to 
I keep dreaming of going back but sadly I can't

Home, my sweet old home I cannot return to 
I keep dreaming of going back but sadly I can't
But sadly I can't
But sadly I can't


바람 씽씽


바람 씽씽 부는 추운 날에도
살펴보자 살펴보자
봄이 어디에 숨어있는지

지금은 찬바람 속에
추운 나무 한 그루 외롭게 서있네

흰눈 펄펄 날리는 겨울날에도
귀 기울이자 귀 기울이자
봄이 어디서 숨쉬고 있는지

지금은 흰눈 속에
추운 나무 한 그루 외롭게 서 있네

난 그 나무에게로 달려가고 싶지만
어머니가 말려요 밖은 춥다고
난 그 나무에게로 달려가고 싶지만
어머니가 말려요 밖은 춥다고

바람 씽씽 부는 추운 날에도
흰눈 펄펄 날리는 겨울날에도
나서 보자 나서 보자

너의 손과 나의 손을 마주 잡고
힘찬 휘파람 불며 나서보자
너의 손과 나의 손을 마주 잡고
힘찬 휘파람 불며 나서보자

바람 씽씽 부는 추운 날에도
흰눈 펄펄 날리는 겨울날에도
바람 씽씽 부는 추운 날에도
흰눈 펄펄 날리는 겨울날에도

The Wind Whooshing


Even on a cold day with the wind whooshing
Gotta keep looking around
For the spring lurking somewhere out there

Out there in the cold wind
Stands a lonely tree all alone

Even on a winter day with the snow falling
Gotta perk up our ears
For the spring breathing somewhere out there

Out there in the thick snow
Stands a lonely tree all alone

Though my heart is dying to run to that tree
Mom stops me that it's cold outside
Though my heart is dying to run to that tree
Mom stops me that it's cold outside

Even on a cold day with the wind whooshing
Even on a winter day with the snow falling
We gotta go out and look around

Holding your hand firmly in mine
Let's head out whistling our way along
Holding your hand firmly in mine
Let's head out whistling our way along

Even on a cold day with the wind whooshing
Even on a winter day with the snow falling
Even on a cold day with the wind whooshing
Even on a winter day with the snow falling


Nochatsa 1

The 80s started with another opportunistic military regime coming to power following the assassination of the incumbent military dictator by one of his henchmen. The beginning of the decade was marked by a huge anti-regime uprising in the Cholla province and the government’s ensuing crackdown which was every bit as large scale and vicious. Nochatsa (노찾사), an acronym for 노래를 찾는 사람들, which translates to Seekers of Songs, started their activities in this rather oppressive environment. In line with the student movement tradition, Nochatsa members were full of liberal and progressive ideals, but they had to tread a fine line to have any chance of releasing music in such environment. This made their first album largely free of explicit political statements, albeit with some vague references and metaphors still showing through, and therefore with the purest artistic content of their four original albums. Nochatsa 1 thus came to be the most highly praised of their works and contained beautiful musical gems brimming with innocent idealism and desire to bring good to the world, while staying free of even the remotest of commercial concerns. This type of music was not unprecedented, as Kim Min Gi had already blazed the trail more than a decade earlier with Morning Dew, and Hahn Dol (한돌, 1953-), an obscure songwriter at the time, was also following suit in similar line of music. Yet Nochatsa was a significant addition in this folk movement in view of the wider grassroots base. Many of their members also went on to become major artists in their own right, including Kim Kwang Seok (김광석) and Ahn-Chi-Hwan (안치환) to name just two. As a fledgling musical act, they received inspiration and guidance from Kim Min Gi for their musical direction, yet they wrote the majority of their songs. All this created a memorable catalog of songs, both historically important and well received by the public, now ranking among the top hundred of all time greatest albums.

Nochatsa 2

The Home I Cannot Return To (갈 수 없는 고향) is a Hahn Dol composition. It is a lyrical and purist folk song typical of Hahn Dol’s work, in the frequently encountered theme of longing for one’s home. Sung by Park Mi Sun (박미선) of Ehwa Women’s University, it is a ballad much like an art song in its clean and innocent style far removed from prevalent pop music trends. The lyrics recounts the narrator leaving her home to come to Seoul, presumably for a factory job which was one prominent social phenomenon of the era that appear in many Nochatsa songs. Even under the tight control of the government, one can see they tried to hint at the injustice and sufferings in the middle of capital-vs-labor struggles.

The Wind Wooshing (바람 씽씽) is an ensemble number involving all the females members, one of the playful songs making up a sub-genre of the Nochatsa songs. Its lyrics depict the cold and windy fields and a tree standing in it all by itself, a metaphor for the trying realities of the time facing the student groups fighting against the iron fist government. It captures the ambivalence of their situation, wanting to go out and join the tree on the one hand and mom stopping them saying it is cold outside on the other.

I got to know Nochatsa songs belatedly in the 90s, and have been a fan of them ever since. Their songs have a special appeal for me, probably because of the quality of the songs, as far as I know. While they may not be a standout in any music aspect, the heartfelt lyrics and melodies are no doubt top notch. The songs are intrinsically good at the most fundamental level, which may be the most important thing in moving the listener’s heart.

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