The Korea Herald


Living the music

Swedish composer Ida finds path in Korea

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 27, 2013 - 19:07

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This is the 12th in a series on foreigners in Korean entertainment. ― Ed.

Ida calls herself a composer. She plays three instruments ― cello, piano and guitar. She avoids staying in a single genre, and has written everything from classical music to music for contemporary dance companies.

Ida came to Korea initially as a journalist about four years ago. She majored in peace and conflict studies and spent years traveling and working with refugees, living in places such as Bosnia and Japan. Now 28, she says she hasn’t lived at home in Sweden since she was 19.

But then she happened upon Korea, and even though she has tried to leave a few times already, she keeps coming back.

“Korea happened to me. I didn’t choose Korea. Korea chose me,” she said.

During her time here she has worked as a composer with a dance company in Seoul, but lately has been focusing on writing her own music, what she calls a transition time. One of her songs, called “New Birthday,” was recently released in Sweden in coordination with a friend’s book release.
Composer Ida. ( Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Composer Ida. ( Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Ida says she wrote the song for him three years ago, since he, a Korean adoptee, discovered he had been celebrating his birthday on the wrong day.

She explains that she writes about what she experiences in everyday life rather than things that inspire her. For one year she did a project called the Sleeping Experiment, where every morning she woke up, went to her computer and put a track together.

“And that was, that can describe how I function with my creativity. Because I think that everything is here, it’s kind of like I absorb energies and like, faces of people, of stories that I hear in my life. And then I process them and they come out again,” she said.

“And I really learned that from working as a composer for modern dance and doing this project that I did. If I see a dancer dance, I hear their music. … It’s very here. It’s my reality that comes out, somehow, in a different form.”

Also, she said she’s always had music. Ida remembers when she was 3 years old wanting to sing songs she wrote for her parents. When she was in school, she studied cello, but ended up quitting because of the pressure for perfection.

“I had to look at a bar, and play that bar. And I had to be perfect, and I couldn’t do that,” she said. “For me, music is something else. It’s my tool.”

Outside of her recent release, Ida has a documentary coming out soon on Swedish television about her life in Seoul. She says she never looks for work; work finds her.

For the documentary, they found her through her home page. For another job, they discovered her playing at a show.

“I used to work for other people and now I work for myself. So it’s a big transition,” she said. “But I know now, I’m 100 percent on the right track.”

She says some of the obstacles she faces here in Korea are also advantages. Even being a young girl, in Sweden people would take her seriously, but in Korea she has a hard time making herself heard.

“People won’t listen to me, actually. Even when I do other kind of jobs, like interpretation, I have to fight for being listened to. But on the other hand, I feel like it has taught me a lot too. I make sure I get listened to, and I guess, I find ways to be listened to,” she said.

And it some ways, it could be paying off. She said a year ago she won an award, “Remarkable Artist of the Year,” from a conservative organization, which made her think that people were listening after all.

“So, I think that I’m not being listened to, but maybe I’m being listened to. I just don’t know at the moment. But that’s my biggest frustration. Being listened to. Being respected,” she said.

To follow Ida, check out her website at Currently featured on her page is her latest version of “New Birthday,” which she did in coordination with Belgian DJ Julian Quintart.

By Emma Kalka (