[Special] Interview With small o June 2014

Only a handful of people knew that a South Korean indie musician visited Indonesia last June. That musician was Oh Juhwan, the vocalist and founder of small o, one of the indie bands under FLUXUS. Considering that such visits made by indie musicians from the Land of the Morning Calm to Indonesia were still rare, RekON did not waste this opportunity and made an appointment with him. Due to his tight schedule, RekON could only meet him at the airport for the interview, right before he left Indonesia. Before proceeding to the interview, RekON will introduce who small o is to ONers who are not familiar with them.

small o is a folk band whose members are Oh Juhwan (vocalist), Go Hankyul (guitarist), Bae Sanghwan (Bassist), Park Jihye (Keyboardist, percussionist) and Lee Jiwon (Drummer). They were formed in 2010 but just released their first EP in 2013 after they were signed under FLUXUS. In 2014, they released their first album, Temper of Water, which consists of songs from their EP and some newly-arranged songs.

Two weeks prior to Oh Ju Hwan’s travel to Indonesia, small o had held their first solo showcase to celebrate with fans the release of their album. According to Juhwan, the showcase was very impressive considering it’s the first time small o did a solo showcase and there were many fans who came. There were also a lot of fan-taken videos from the showcase. To Juhwan, the show was quite satisfactory.


Left to right: Bae Sanghwan – Park Jihye – Go Hankyul – Oh Juhwan – Lee Jiwon

Korean Indie music lovers might be familiar with some of the small o members. Oh Ju hwan, Go Hankyul and Bae Sanghwan are also members of Eastern Sidekick (read our interview with them) while Lee Jiwon is also member of 18gram and Sunwoo Jeong Ah is a support musician.

Not only active in bands, indie musicians  also usually have something else to do besides music. Not only with his band’s schedule, Juhwan is also busy with occasionally being a model and a guitar tutor, traveling, managing his candle business – not to mention his many other activities. Music is still his priority, while other things are just his side activities.

Many of the things he does, such as reading a book, can be an inspiration in making a song. One of their songs 마의, was inspired by a book My Son written by a German author, Thomas Mark. In addition to books, inspiration can also come from watching movies, conversations with friends, political or social conditions in South Korea, and even dreams that he sees while he was sleeping. His trip to Indonesia this time has also been inspirational for him.

[스몰오(small o) – 마의 산(Into The Wild) M/V]

His trip to Indonesia this time was to feature in a show for a cable TV station, EBS. Juhwan hosts a music program focusing on music around the world called Atlas. Previously, he also did a similar trip to Japan. He made his itinerary longer than his previous trip; a week in Indonesia, a week in Kazakhstan and a week in Turkey.

In Indonesia, he visited Solo and Bali. He enjoyed a lot of local cultures, such as watching Wayang Orang, visiting an ukulele workshop and a keroncong associate. He even met with one of the keroncong legends, Ibu Waldjinah. In Bali, he surely enjoyed the performance of Tari Kecak, Balinese Gamelan and a visit to the dance sanggar (or studio).

From his one-week trip, Juhwan saw Indonesia as a beautiful country with people who tended to look relaxed and friendly, and he was very impressed by the performance of Wayang Orang. Music-wise, Juhwan said that Indonesian traditional music is very diverse. Strangely, he felt keroncong’s melodies resembled Korean traditional music. In sinawi (시나위), a type of traditional Korean music, there are also some similarities with gamelan especially the musical instrument jing (징) which is similar to kenong or bonang. Therefore, it’s possible to put gamelan’s sound for small o’s songs later in the future, as it has been done with Tibetan musical instrument in a shape of metal bowl for 코끼리.

MVI_1317 0158

Unfortunately, due to the tight shooting schedule, Juhwan only visited the places that had been designated by the show’s producers. As someone who likes surfing, he also wanted to visit Lembongan Island which has beautiful beaches and challenging waves. Aside from enjoying nature, he also expressed his willingness to come to Indonesia to do a music performance.

He’d heard from many people that Indonesian people are very enthusiastic music lovers. Surely RekON will also enthusiastically welcome small o‘s performance in Indonesia. It might be a challenge for promoters in Indonesia. If he was given the opportunity to play music here, the song he would love to play would be That Will Fall. According to him, the song will fit the Indonesian audience.

Overall, his short trip to Indonesia left a very positive impression for him. He did not even think anyone would know him or small o or even to interview him. He felt like it was a sign from God that he was doing something right with his music and small o. With this, he will work even harder in the future (this statement really touched RekON).

Finally, we hope Oh Juhwan can come back to Indonesia along with his bandmates and play their music. RekON will be very much looking forward to this!

Thanks for the pics, Ade! Also thanks to Ms Kim who acted as our interpreter.





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