- von SWAN - Arts News from the Southern World (Brussels)
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BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (IPS) -- When Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah's parents realized the COVID-19 pandemic had started, they called her and asked her to return to Seoul from New York, where they lived at that time.
"They said you should buy the ticket right away," recalls the singer. "There will be a total lockdown and you may never get home. When I watched TV and heard that the borders were closing, I packed my bags and took the last ticket. I thought I would be back in three months, but not in a year." .
In Korea, under travel restrictions like most of the world, Sun Nah wondered how to fight the sadness that threatened to take over her. She began writing lyrics and composing music for what would become something extraordinary.awaken world(Warner Music), his 11 yearsºAlbum released in 2022.
The songs are an exploration of the life of an artist facing fear and despair, and their haunting beauty, as well as an experimental range of styles, could help Sun Nah expand her already sizeable international audience as she embarks on a " Tour of Spring". embarks " since March. With the memorable trackDo not misunderstandthe album also carries a message about the dangers of spreading misinformation and hate, the "other" ills of the pandemic.
Youn Sun Nah was born in Seoul to musician parents (and was named Na Yoon-sun). She learned to play the piano as a child, but she grew up following the regular curriculum. She graduated from college with an art degree in literature in 1992 and thought that would be the direction of her career. She didn't want to make music, she says, because she saw how her parents, a choir director and a musical actress, were overworked.
When the Korea Symphony Orchestra invited her to sing gospel songs in 1993, she took her first steps in the world of performing and recording, eventually moving to France to study music, she says. In Paris she took traditional French courses.liedand enrolled in the prestigious CIM School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, where he had to overcome some artistic challenges.
Since then, she has performed around the world, singing at the closing ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, contributing to a Nina Simone tribute album, and participating in the 2017 International Jazz Day concert in Havana, Cuba. (International Jazz Day is an initiative of legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and the United Nations Agency for Culture, UNESCO.) She is also the recipient of the Official Award of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, the Sejong Culture Award of Korea, and a host of other music awards and recognitions.
in conversation withSWANAhead of a recent concert in Brussels, Youn Sun Nah spoke about her career with self-deprecating humour, discussing the impact of the pandemic on her art and the meaning behind her songs.awaken world. He also talked about the experience of being a jazz singer in the midst of the worldwide phenomenon of Korean pop music. The edited interview follows.
SWAN: How would you describe yourself?
Youn Sun Nah: I am a Korean jazz singer. I studied jazz in France, traveled all over the world and I'm a bit confused, but I'm very happy with it.
SWAN: Do you live in France?
YSN:No, I lived in Paris for a long time, but now I don't have a place to stay in France. Whenever I go there it's just for sightseeing, so I go to different places. I could say that I live in Korea, but it is a nomadic life.
swan: let's talk about itawaken world, which premiered last January. They are on tour now to promote it, as that was not possible before during the pandemic.
YSN:Yeah, we couldn't really do the promo, butthis is life. My manager called in 2021 to say: you can come now, you can take the plane now. So I quickly bought a ticket and went back to France and recorded the album in Paris and then did a few shows.
SWAN: A lot of artists have had to find ways to move on during the pandemic and it's been especially difficult for a lot of musicians who couldn't tour, couldn't tour. Did you feel the same way?
YSN:As you know jazz is really live music and I think most jazz musicians feel the same way. They want to do as many shows as possible. I don't know if people listen to my music on platforms like Spotify or iTunes, but I feel very lucky to play music live. There are more than 400 jazz festivals in France, so it's a privilege.
SWAN: How was it?awaken worldAnd what does that mean for your fans, for you?
YSN:When I returned to Korea at the beginning of the pandemic, I was a bit optimistic that things wouldn't last long. Everyone was wearing masks, but we were able to move around, we just didn't get on the plane. So... six months, seven months, eight months. From that moment I was very depressed and I thought that maybe I should change jobs, that maybe I can never go back to Europe and perform. What can I do? I thought. All the musicians I played with were in Europe because I studied jazz in France and I don't know many jazz musicians in Korea. So I was a little homesick, even though I was at home. But in Korea we never give up hope, so I think it's in my DNA. I told myself: you should wake up and do something else; You can't let down the people who support you for a long time, you have to be able to present something to your audience. So I started writing some new songs. Without the musicians I usually work with, I had to do it all by myself.
SWAN: But do you usually sing in English?
YSN:Yes, after I started studying jazz. You know, when I came to France I didn't know what jazz was. If I had known that, I definitely would have gone to the United States. Was he so naive... and maybe stupid? One day I asked one of my musician friends in Korea what kind of music I should study to be a good singer and he said: do jazz. What is jazz? I asked him. And he said: Jazz is original pop music, so if you learn to sing jazz, you can sing anything. And I was like oh that looks great!
I am a big fan of Frenchlied, then he said that one of the oldest jazz schools in Europe is in Paris, so go there. Excellent! I got there and what you study at school is American standard and everything is in English. In fact, I studied in four different schools at the same time, because I am Asian and I am used to this education system where you don't have to have free time for yourself. When I only had six hours of class, I thought, what am I going to do with the other eighteen hours? (Laugh.)
SWAN: Did that approach help with the album?
YSN:Well, I didn't know when I could record this album, so I just kept writing and writing. And fix it myself because I had a lot of time. But as you know, jazz is like... we've got to get together and organize right now. When I was finally able to fly to France, I just handed over all the material to the musicians. And they said oh, let's respect your results. And I said, no, no, do what you want. But they played exactly what I wrote, every note. That's embarrassing.
SWAN: Tell us about the inspiration behind some tracks likebird on the ground, the first song whose chorus is "I want to fly. I want to fly. I want to fly."
YSN:Well "bird on the ground" is me during the pandemic.
SWAN:Do not misunderstand, the second track, has an infectious melody, but the message is clear: the world "doesn't stand a chance with those who lie and lie." Tell us more.
YSN:During the pandemic, all I could do was watch TV or go online to find out what was going on. But sometimes the information was not true, and even if it was a lie, you ended up believing everything. Yeah, I thought the world doesn't stand a chance with people who lie.
SWAN: The sixth track has an intriguing title:My mother. (The text includes the line "How can you dry my eyes every time, my goodness?") What is the story behind this?
YSN:I don't usually spend that much time at home when I'm on tour. But with the pandemic, I spent a whole year at home spending a lot of time with my mom and I really had the opportunity to talk about everything, her life and what she was experiencing. She is my best friend and we have become even closer.
SWAN: And the theme song.awaken world?
YSN: I wanted this to be a dream and not real, but at the same time it's a reality, so for me it was kind of ambiguous. Where I am? I'm dreaming. No, you're wide awake.
SWAN:confused soul, track eight?
YSN:My soul was completely confused. (Laughter) And then one day I felt: everything is fine, everything will be fine.
SWAN: Speaking of music in general, K-Pop has become a global phenomenon. Are you in the wrong section? (laughs) More specifically, did the high interest catch your eye?
YSN:At every show, I'm really shocked or surprised that the audience says "hello" and "thank you" in Korean. Incredible! Many people also told me about their experiences in Korea and said that they spent a month or six months there. My parents' generation couldn't wait because the country was destroyed during the war, not long ago, and they had to build a whole new country. They worked very hard and thanks to them we have this era. People know Korea through K-Pop, through Netflix.
SWAN: Then there's this Korean jazz singer: you. When the public listens to your work, the "soul" appears. can you talk about it
YSN:When I arrived in Paris and, as I said, I didn't know what jazz was, I said to my parents: oh, I'll study jazz for three years, I think I can master it, then I'll come back. to Korea and maybe teach. After that I felt so stupid and so bad because I don't have swing, I don't have a voice like Ella Fitzgerald and I could barely learn a standard song. So I tried everything. AroundRose Honeysilva, I think I wrote down every moment that Ella breathed in and out. But...she couldn't sing like her, she sounded so bad. So I said: No, I will never be able to sing jazz, that's not for me. After a year I told my teachers that I'm sorry I made the wrong decision, I'm going back home. And they laughed at me. They said that? Youn, you can make your own jazz with your own voice. And I said no, I can't. Then they suggested some jazz records by European jazz singers like Norma Winstone, who is an English singer and my idol. She has a semi-oprano voice like mine and when she plays it it's like a whole new song. And I said, oh, can we call that jazz too? I didn't know.
So I learned to test my own voice and my own soul, with my Korean background, and the more I used my own voice, the more I did things my way, the more accepted I felt.
SWAN: What's next for you?
YSN:Well, everyone told me that this record is not jazz, but it is what I wanted to do. Herbie Hancock always said that jazz is the human soul, not appearances, so you can do whatever you want. We will see. I've wanted to make an album of jazz standards for a long time, so let's continue this tour until 2023 and then we'll see.. - AM. / SWAN
Youn Sun Nah's spring tour will run from March 9 to May 26, 2023, and includes shows in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginalschrift: Inter Press Service