LIFE&STYLE

International busker a hit on the subway

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 15, 2014 - 20:40
  • Updated : Jul 15, 2014 - 20:40
Busker Aancod Zaccarelli (www.facebook.com/aancod)
It’s rare to hear anything louder than a station announcement in the subdued environment of the Seoul metro system, but one musician’s attempt to introduce a little funk to the daily commute has received an overwhelming response on social media.

Traveling busker Aancod Zaccarelli is dodging surveillance cameras and evading station security in his quest to bring music directly to the people. A video of him singing g.o.d’s “One Candle” in perfect Korean at Seoul National University Station has received over 400,000 views since it was uploaded to YouTube on July 2.

In the clip, Aancod’s initially cautious audience bursts into laughter when they hear the dreadlocked guitarist sing the first words of g.o.d’s K-pop classic. By the end of the song, the entire platform has joined in.

Aancod told The Korea Herald that he chooses to busk in the hushed confines of the subway system, rather than a more orthodox setting like the Hongdae area, because of the challenge of transforming a potentially hostile audience of commuters into a spontaneous sing-along.

“I like to shock people, and I like how in the first 30 seconds people look down on me, like ‘What is this crazy foreigner doing?’” he said. “They usually give me dirty looks, but about halfway through the song they start smiling and clapping along. I just love seeing that change take place.”

So too, it seems, do South Korean netizens, who shared the video of Aancod’s performance over 10,000 times on Facebook the day after it was uploaded. The busker ― who learned Korean as a teenager while attending an international high school here ― says he did not expect that particular performance to be anything more than another day at the office. However, he believes that his recent popularity is due to more than just the spectacle of a foreigner singing in Korean.

“The fact that I’m a white person speaking and rapping in Korean, and the fact that it was done in the subway, are two really unusual things about the video. But I also think people liked the energy. Everyone sang along and it seemed like a really beautiful moment.”

“One Candle” is currently the only song Aancod knows in Korean, but he works hard to engage his subway listeners by reading the crowd and encouraging audience members to participate. His music, with its cheery reggae rhythms, is well suited to the confined acoustics of the subway.

“Down on the platform, that’s the best kind of reverb. It’s like singing in the bathroom, it’s so pleasurable because your voice just launches and vibrates out there.”

Aancod is coy about revealing which stations in Seoul he prefers to play at, although he tends to avoid the better-served lines. Playing in the subway carries inherent logistical difficulties, given your captive audience is getting on a train every few minutes.

“Line 2 is the worst. I really don’t tend to play there, because the trains come so frequently that it’s impossible to build up any sort of crowd,” he says.

Subway stages also come with the threat of killjoy authorities, and Aancod has twice been ejected by station security since he began performing in Seoul three weeks ago. The singer tries to avoid such wet blanket public officials by studying security camera placement and adopting an attitude of confidence. The key, he says, is never to look like you’re sorry for what you are doing.

Aancod, who holds a British passport but has only lived there for three years, has already used his busking to travel through Europe, South Africa and Japan. Seoulites can expect to hear his music gracing their platforms until the beginning of August, when he departs for Japan.

To follow Aancod on his travels, visit www.facebook.com/aancod, and to watch his performance of “One Candle,” visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_UoACEUZqA#t=38.

By Nick Gowland, Intern Reporter
(ngowland@heraldcorp.com)