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[Herald Interview] Following the call of a creative mind

Composer and pianist Steve Barakatt talks about his new venture into business world

Musically, Steve Barakatt has little left to prove in Korea.

The New Age composer and pianist from Quebec, Canada, is so adored by Koreans that he finds himself returning again and again to give concerts, collaborate with top local artists or just to meet fans.

From “Rainbow Bridge,” one of his earliest hits from the late ’90s, to his 2011 work “He is from Seoul, She is from Pyongyang,” his music has gained popularity that not many other artists ― Korean or non-Korean ― have achieved here.

“Rainbow Bridge” appeared on many TV dramas, radio programs and commercials. “The Whistler’s Song” was long featured in weather reports. In high schools, “Flying” was the opening tune for English listening ability tests.

“California Vibes” still plays before every announcement on the high-speed KTX trains.

“It took me a while to really realize how special it was the way my music reached the people of Korea in their daily life,” Barakatt said in an interview with The Korea Herald. “I said, ‘Wow … this is exceptional.’” 
Steve Barakatt. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)
Steve Barakatt. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

From that moment of realization, it was the creative and daring mind within him that took charge, once again driving him from his comfort zone into totally new territory ― the world of start-up businesses.

This year, he set up his very first business venture ― Rainbow Bridge Story ― in Hong Kong.

“Over the years, I received thousands of letters and messages telling me that my music was part of their wedding ceremony, part of the time they were studying in the university, their first kiss and their first date,” he said, explaining why and how he started the company.

Just as his music connected with people and became part of their story, he says he wants to help other companies reach their customers on a new level.

“Companies make great products, but a lot of times, their experience with customers ends at the very moment the customers buy their product. They lose contact with the people,” he explained.

That’s where Rainbow Bridge Story comes in.

In essence, his company will partner with existing brands of, say, jewelry or chocolate and introduce a line of products with Rainbow Bridge Story packaging, using Barakatt’s music of course, for those looking for that extra-special gift commemorating a wedding anniversary, first baby or any other special event.

“We (Rainbow Bridge Story) become someone who takes care of the experience, collects it and shares it,” he said. “For brands of jewelry or flowers, we become a very nice extension of their will.”

For a start-up with a brand new business model, Rainbow Bridge Story seems to be off to a good start. It has signed a partnership deal with Lotte, a major Korean conglomerate that runs hotels, department stores and other businesses.

“Korea is our first market, but we will definitely expand to Japan, China and the rest. And the world, why not?”

Asked whether his new venture is taking a lot of his time and energy from music, Barakatt said he is still a composer.

“Yes, it’s true that I do many things. Strangely, as it can look, it’s for me one thing. It’s the same creative part (of me),” he said.

“I am still part of where I stand (as an artist and musician). It’s just a new extension. A new project to reach and communicate with more people,” he added.

In fact, Barakatt hasn’t slowed down musically. He’s halfway through what will be one of the major compositions of his career ― a symphony based on Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” the second-most popular book after the Bible.

In November, he will hold a historic concert in Moscow, marking the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As UNICEF Canada’s goodwill ambassador, he wrote the anthem for the organization in 2009.

He will return to Korea in December for concerts and plans for more next year, which will be the 20th anniversary of his first visit to Korea.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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