Jung Mina looks to usher in modernized sounds of the gayageum

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 25, 2014 - 19:47
  • Updated : Feb 25, 2014 - 19:47

Ever since musician Jung Mina started learning to play the gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument, at 12 years old, she knew then it would play a significant role in her life and career.

With the aspiration of using the sounds of the gayageum with a modern-day twist, Jung differentiates herself from other classical gayageum players as well as solo folk singers by pairing her voice with the non-traditional techniques of playing while singing contemporary music.

“I think it’s obvious that one of the biggest things that sets me apart from other singers is that I sing along while playing the gayageum, but honestly, I don’t really consider my music that different from mainstream folk music,” said Jung during an interview with The Korea Herald at the C Cloud music cafe in Hapjeong-dong, Seoul.

“If you took my songs and simply replaced the sound of the gayageum with more traditional guitar chords, I think people would listen to this as just another modern-day folk album,” she continued. “The gayageum is just an instrument that has been a big part of my life since I was a kid; it’s what I know, which is why I have always chosen to keep the gayageum as part of my musical career.” 

Folk musician Jung Mina poses with her gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument, during an interview with The Korea Herald at the C Cloud music cafe in Seoul on Monday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

After making her professional music career debut in 2005 with her first EP “Tragedy,” Jung ― who has been working on her latest 10-track album “A Person’s Moment” for the past two years ― finally released her fourth studio album at the end of last month.

“Unlike many musicians, I actually prefer to write my lyrics first before I write any of the melodies,” she explained. “When I first started working on this album I wasn’t really sure where to start. I was desperate for inspiration. So one day I decided to go to a nearby library in Seoul and while browsing through some random books, I actually came to write the album’s lead track ‘Poor Woman’ based on a story I had read.”

Convinced that visiting another library and browsing through various books would help her keep her creative juices flowing, Jung decided to embark on a weeklong library tour across the country on her own.

“I just went around and visited all kinds of libraries all across the country,” the singer said. “But not only that, while I was traveling I always slept in a jjimjilbang (a Korean public sauna), and this allowed me to meet so many people from all different regions. ... it was all very inspirational to my music.”

Jung will showcase the tracks from her newly released album during a live show at the Hakchon Blue Small Theatre in Seoul on March 8.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)