What kind of music do you enjoy the most? Would your answer include jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, or hip hop? If so, then you are already familiar with “African-American music.” The word itself may seem unfamiliar, but you will surely slap your knees after hearing any of those who follow it say, “Oh, is it?” Recently, African-American music has gained huge popularity among many young Koreans. There is even a group of people totally infatuated with it at the University of Seoul (UOS). They are called Tru-Hz, Central Club at UOS.
The word “Tru-Hz” is a combination of the words True and Hertz (a unit of frequency) and implies the meaning “truly make a sound.” The UOS Times interviewed President of Tru-Hz, Gu Bon-seok (Dept. of Business Administration, ’13) to listen to their true story. He lets us know what kind of music they are creating and what attracted them to it.
An Introduction of African-American Music and “Tru-Hz“
It is often said that music reflects ethnicity. African-Americans have historically been treated as lesser beings by whites and went through countless hardships surely beyond imagination. Consequently, they sublimated this pain into a form of music which was highly tendentious of work songs. These songs embraced the joys and sorrows of the African-Americans and depicted their lives very candidly. This unique culture, also called “black music,” now has a huge influence leading the worldwide music market and has become beloved around the world. As noted above, examples of this music genre are punk, pop, jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, etc. However, it may be not valid to make these boundaries clearly distinct. Rather, it can be explained as a broad culture taking various spectrums.
Tru-Hz, formed in 2001, was officially registered as a Central Club of UOS in 2004. As you can see in the meaning of their name, Tru-Hz, they are trying to combine melodies or beats with frank and straightforward lyrics. They do not preen with attractive words but show themselves as they are. Singing about stories based on their true lives without being too dark or languid, their music often deals with these issues in a freewheeling way rather than being rigorous. This unrestricted way of writing free from formalities is Tru-Hz’s special feature. Thus, their lyrics are mostly based on what they actually really want to say with which you can easily sympathize and will probably be besotted.
Songs and Performances Based on Self-Production
Although the share of playing hip hop is still outstanding now in Tru-Hz, the seniors used to write and compose their songs all by themselves. There still are, of course, well-rounded individuals who are very skillful at diverse genres, but there are very few composers in recent years. Therefore, current members of Tru-Hz often put some beats and melodies collected online in their own lyrics. The members learn the way of writing from the seniors, instead. There is a process called “criticism,” which is a kind of correction and development of skills through communicating and reviewing each other’s lyrics rather than just rigid learning. Based on this practice, they weave their own feeling into one continuous story, creating lyrics.
Tru-Hz has a regular concert once every year, and it is the biggest event of the club. There is also a series of procedures for preparing performances. After scheduling a day to meet, they bring some beats or melodies with a topic and some of their feelings. They make a team, decide a direction for the song and finally begin writing. Their concert has been regularly held in a small club near Hong-ik University, and there are always many audience members who are almost all acquaintances of the performers. With such passionate support from the audience, performers and audience members can join heartily together. What makes this concert so special is definitely a stage of harmony and unity made by both the seniors and the juniors of the club.
Moreover, Tru-Hz performs at events at UOS including Daedongje, Yinhyangje, or celebrations and acts at collaboration stages with other universities and other clubs at UOS.
The Real Charm of the Club: Make a Sound? Vomit a Sound!
President Gu, asked what kind of a charm Tru-Hz has, answered that while on a stage, he feels like vomiting a sound rather than just singing. In fact, it is not easy to express our thoughts or feelings in daily lives. It can, however, be much easier through a song. Because a single word in the lyrics can be more representable than a long expression, he explained, singing on a stage is like vomiting something hidden in one’s heart. When facing a hardship, it can be directly melted into the songs. The songs, in this sense, can serve as messengers transmitting just a thought into a special sound. It is another attraction that the theme of their music is not only confined to one particular field like “love,” but also deals with broad issues that let us view various values in life from different, diverse angle.
There is, Gu said, one more thing that makes Tru-Hz so different from other clubs. They are a group of people who like being footloose and fancy free, departing from the standard pattern and pursuing what they really want to do. So far, this led to an active participation and continuous musical exchanges for the seniors. Having a time to listen to music once in a month, they would often share their knowledge of music and teach the juniors a valuable lesson. This serves as a practical guide for their successors and makes a forum for interactions between them.
They are people who feel really affectionate toward their activity; they not only play but truly “enjoy” their music, because they just like it. As they have done so far, it is expected that Tru-Hz will continue to make and go their own way.