The Korea Herald


Foray into world music

By Korea Herald

Published : June 4, 2012 - 19:47

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Korean artists offer diverse musical genres such as Brazilian bossa nova, Irish folk and Jamaican reggae

Breaking the cultural barrier and giving up on potential fame, some indie bands and soloists here are bringing diverse musical genres from different parts of the world to Korea where K-pop culture predominates.

For singer songwriter Na Hee-kyung, one of the Korean artists pursing world music, Brazilian bossa nova was something that made her heart beat. “I first learned about the word ‘world music’ by reading an interview piece on Korean singer-songwriter Yoon Sang at age 12. I didn’t really know about Brazilian bossa nova but I was soon mesmerized by its rhythm and melody,” Na told The Korea Herald in an interview.
Na Hee-kyung (Sony Music) Na Hee-kyung (Sony Music)

“The sound of Brazilian music has made my heart beat since then. It makes me free,” she added.

In 2010, the artist released her first album under the stage name “Bossa Dabang” but soon left for Brazil to learn what the music was really about. She traveled around the Latin American country alone, meeting many local musicians including Roberto Carlos, one of the first generation bossa nova musicians and even held a concert at Vinicius Bar in Rio de Janeiro, known as the temple of bossa nova. She was the first Korean to ever perform there.

For many Brazilians who heard her singing melodies and rhythms of bossa nova and samba, Na might have looked like a foreigner coming to Korea to learn gugak or Korean traditional music. However, it was their openness that captivated her even more.

“The Brazilian culture is about accepting the difference. They were surprised first at seeing me sing bossa nova, but accepted me as I was and loved my music,” she said.

After spending two full years in Brazil, she returned to Korea and released a new album consisted of Korean songs mixed with Brazilian rhythm. In her album titled “Stay a While,” Na rearranged five songs including Yoon Sang’s “I Love You” and Kim Hyun-cheol’s “A Train Ride to Chuncheon” which originally featured Brazilian rhythm.

“I wanted to add Brazilian music to Korean songs that I loved to listen to and that pulled me into the world of Latin American music,” said Na who holds a concert on June 9 at Caf Veloso in Hongdae area in northern Seoul.
Bard (Sony Music) Bard (Sony Music)
Cover of Windy City’s new digital album “Janchi Reggae” (Mirrorball Music) Cover of Windy City’s new digital album “Janchi Reggae” (Mirrorball Music)

Meanwhile, Bard, an indie band, has been connecting Korea and Ireland through music.

The two-member band that became known to the public with its participation in the OST-making of drama series “Gung” and “Ireland,” has been recreating the sound of traditional Irish music in Korea since five years ago. Based on Irish music performed on real Irish instruments such as Irish whistle and Bodhran, the two Korean artists added their personal stories on 12 tracks in their new album “Road to Road” released last month.

“Korea and Ireland have many things in common. Both have some kind of ‘han’ or deep resentment rooted in people from their experience of being colonized by foreign countries for many years,” Kim Jung-hwan, a member of the group, said.

“Irish music is sometimes exciting but also romantic. It is also easy for anyone to perform at any place,” he added.

Being Korean is something that even artists pursuing world music never want to lose.

Another band pursuing Jamaican reggae, Windy City also released its new album last week. In its digital single titled “Janchi Reggae” meaning Reggae party, the band attempts to blend their Korean culture with reggae music.

“We felt that we have something very Korean inside of us wherever we travel and tried to represent us being Koreans within the reggae music,” the band said.

By Cho Chung-un (