Who is Shin Joong-Hyun?: A self-taught guitarist from South Korea, Shin Joong-Hyun began his legendary musical career playing for U.S. soldiers in 1957. Over the next decade, he refined his skills as a guitarist (creating his own psychedelic sound based on American and English monoliths [The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, etc] and other composers such as Ennio Morricone [prominent spaghetti-Western composer]) and also worked as a producer. It was through his work as a producer that he finally gained mainstream success–after producing an album for The Pearl Sisters (a high school pop group from Korea). After this, he was able to present his own music to a vast audience.
His music–referred to as ‘psychedelic’ mostly–is hard to describe further. There are many different genres incorporated into his sound: folk, classic rock ‘n’ roll (for lack of a better term), and progressive rock to name a few. Instrumentally, his compositions are fair to all players (meaning, it’s not at all just about the guitar); organs are often prominent and used to play main melodies, percussionists often are left to create textures and transitions (instead of just providing a 4/4 beat as a loop-like foundation), and once in a while a flute or some other woodwind might be heard providing an ethereal atmosphere in the background during an extended bridge or sonic passage.
His music was not officially released in America until 2011 (Beautiful Rivers and Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea’s Shin Joong-Hyun 1958-74) .
Interesting Fact: Upon his success, he was asked to write a ‘praise song’ for the Korean president. He refused to do so, and instead wrote the masterpiece “Beautiful Rivers and Mountains” (a song about the beauty of Korea). This obviously did not sit well with the political leader. Hyun was harassed, surveilled, and sometimes physically abused by the government/police for years afterwards. This brought his career to a halt for some time.
Recommended Listening: “Beautiful Rivers and Mountains”