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Korean music rocks across Canada

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Shawn Despres, host of a weekly show
Shawn Despres, host of a weekly show "Sounds from the Korean Underground" / Courtesy of Shawn Despres

By Jon Dunbar


Canadian music lover Shawn Despres, who stayed in Korea for seven years, is now promoting Korean music in Canada.

Every Sunday night from 11 to midnight, Despres hosts a show "Sounds from the Korean Underground" on CFMU 93.3FM, a radio station in Hamilton, Ontario. It is a late slot, but that's early Monday afternoon (KST) for listeners here.

In Korea, he got to know and helped develop the nation's live music community. Last spring he moved back home.

But Despres has stayed in touch with Korea's indie music scene through the weekly music show.

"Korea's indie scene was a pretty major part of my life for seven years," Despres told The Korea Times.

While here he ran KoreaGigGuide.com, wrote about Korean music for The Japan Times and worked as an international publicist/tour booker with the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) to globalize Korean music.

He has managed English press campaigns and overseas tours with countless bands, including Apollo 18, Goonam, Crying Nut, Jambinai, Dead Buttons and Asian Chairshot. He also handled English publicity for Zandari Festa 2015, an annual music showcase festival held at various venues near Hongik University in western Seoul.

Despite being kept busy by the job hunt and a new baby daughter, he is still actively involved with Korean music, helping Victim Mentality on their return tour to SXSW in Austin earlier this month.

"Programming and hosting ‘Sounds from the Korean Underground' each week just gives me one more reason to pay attention to what's going on in the indie scene in Korea," he said.

As well as playing the best and latest from Korea's underground musicians, he's had phone-in guests including Juck Juck Grunzie, blues punks Billy Carter, melodic punks ... Whatever That Means and psychedelic rockers Galaxy Express.

Fellow Canadian expat Ian White of the hardcore band Yuppie Killer also stopped by during a family visit, and jazz vocalist Her So-young gave a live performance in the studio while touring Canada.

Despres' history with community radio dates back to 1999, where he got his start at CHRW at the University of Western Ontario. Five years split between there and CFMU of McMaster University before moving to Korea prepared him for helping promote Korea's music scene.

Unfortunately, Korea doesn't have campus radio as it exists in Canada ― nonprofit radio stations broadcasting to the larger community with volunteers producing a wide range of programming not normally heard on commercial radio, geared toward non-mainstream and diaspora audiences.

CMFU broadcasts in Hamilton at 93.3FM and online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. Despres also uploads audio recordings of his show to mixcloud.com/soundsfromthekoreanunderground.



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