These are songs from Nochatsa (Seeker of Songs)’s first album, Nochatsa 1. They are unassuming, purist artistically, and not even particularly ambitious sounding yet surprisingly good for what they are. Their beauty is in the sparkling lyrics and the delicate, quietly moving melodies delivered in pristine young voices. One feels that they are works of art solely for the sake of art, free from the ulterior motives that often muddies the waters. Created by students who have not yet gotten an exposure to the murky currents of the society and industry, they stand for the purest and loftiest quest for beauty.
Ocean, The Ocean
Prayer (기도) is based on a poem of the same name by Kim So Wol (김소월, 1902-1934), who is perhaps the best loved poet of the classic literature period, which comprises works of the modern Korean literature from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. Kim published countless gems of poems in his extraordinarily earthy language bringing out the beauties innate in the Korean language. He led a tragic life, however, of family misfortunes, failed business endeavors and persistent poverty, and took his own life by drinking poison at the age of 32.
Although many of his poems are written in languages so steeped in traditional vernaculars of Korea, Prayer is in a relatively plain style. It is a heartfelt recitation of a prayer to one’s supreme being that the sufferings of the unfortunate around him be reprieved, and solace and rest bestowed to them so they can find strength and comfort in the sorrow-ridden journey. It was a period of Korean history when things were bleak to the utmost for the nation, when such prayer couldn’t have been more appropriate. Coming from a poet who lived through this dark and trying time and delivered in a voice of childlike innocence, its message of pity and compassion gets to the listener’s heart.
The Land (산하) sings of love and compassion for the land and soil of Korea. The traditional Korean ethos is decidedly earthbound as they have lived in the Korean peninsula generations after generations tilling the same land for thousands of years. The landmass of Korea is thus inseparably intertwined with the lives of its people, which is often not the case in many parts of the world where migratory and transitional peoples have come and gone endlessly. This characteristic has brought about an unusually deep and ingrained love for their land in the Korean hearts, almost like an alter ego so that one cannot imagine the Korean people without the Korean peninsula. This song is a confession of this deep affection for one’s motherland, as well as the pity he feels for all the tragic events that have taken place in it, such as foreign invasions and occupations, a massive war, and bloody political conflicts among its people. Thus it goes: White and black hills, the Arirang hills I struggle over, where Arirang refers to the singularly Korean emotion as well as the folk tune that is the most Korean of all, much like a national soul expressed in a tune. So life in this land is a perpetual love song to embrace chants of tear and laughter.
Ocean, The Ocean (바다여 바다여) is a love song of the ordinary kind, expressing affection for the ocean as well as one’s sweetheart. One peculiar fact about Nochatsa is that there is a dearth of love songs in their works. If you think about it, this is rather extraordinary since love songs make up the bulk of popular music. Probably something like ninety per cent of the pop music relates to romance and love of one form or another, regardless of the period or region of the world.
Not so with Nochatsa, however. Nochatsa’s young idealism is so pure and selfless it seems they regard a romantic love as a luxury they should stay away from. So they have many songs about love for their land, tradition, brethren and family, but rarely those concerning love in the commonly assumed romantic sense.
Even the song titled Love Song is not the usual fare about romantic love but rather about vowing to distance themselves from it. So Ocean, The Ocean is a departure from this tendency in that it involves what seems to be a purely ordinary relationship set in the backdrop of the ocean. It may be as close to a love song as Nochatsa gets, free from references to their loftier concerns and ideals. The result is truly beautiful in every way, with a gentle, sadness tinged depiction of the ocean and the melancholic, subdued mood of the two people in it, which all escalate to a climactic evocation of *the ocean” toward the end.