Friday, June 29, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC’s “I AM a Singer” Season 2 (6)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

There's something in common between the show’s host Lee Eunmi and Han Young-ae who joined NAGASU season 2 on the second night of the second round (6/10/2012) after the band Baekdusan was eliminated and Park Wangyu graduated with honor.  Both of them are ex-singers of the legendary blues rock band Shinchon Blues (1986~present); Han was one of its original members (Eom Inho (leader/guitarist/singer), Lee Jungseon (guitarist/harmonicist/singer), Kim Hyunsik (singer), and Han) and Lee joined the band as guest singer in 1990 after Han’s departure.

While watching Han’s surprising special performance on the Voice of Korea (5/11/2012), I personally wished the NAGASU producers would cast her and was very happy to hear the news that she was joining the show.  Han made her recording debut at the age of 22 in 1977 as a founding member of the Sunflowers (해바라기, Haebaragi) that consisted of Lee Jungseon, Lee Juho, Kim Youngmi, and Han.  Last April, she marked her 35th anniversary as a recording artist at 57 (in Western age, and 58 in Korean age).  The last time I saw her perform live on stage was close to 20 years ago and I haven't seen her sing live since I came to the U.S. And when I saw her singing on the Voice of Korea (VOK) last May, I thought she looked exactly the same.  When I saw her again on NAGASU though, she looked a lot older (yet still much younger for her age) but one thing that has not changed is that she still sings with the same charisma, the same bewitching voice, and the same engaging stage manner. 

Han sang Ibyeore Jongchangnyeok (이별의 종착역, “The Last Stop of Farewell”) and I think there were reasons for her choice.  The song was originally written in 1960 for the movie of the same name and sung by Sohn Sihyang and it was covered twice by the legendary singer Kim Hyunsik, first on Shinchon Blues’s third album (1990) and then on his sixth solo album (1991).  I may be wrong but I think she wanted to sing the song in tribute to the late Kim Hyunsik and in homage to Shinchon Blues.  Her understated performance of great depth was memorable to me but couldn't quite captivate an eager audience.  As she failed to make it into the top three, she would compete with other 5 singers, the bottom three from each group, in the elimination round.

[AUDIO ONLY] Han Young-ae: "The Last Stop of Farewell"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/10/2012)

Lyrics:  “The Last Stop of Farewell”

I walk and walk but my lonely journey never ends.
It’s a deep foggy dawn and I’m leaving for the last stop of farewell.
People come and go but why can’t she come?
Under the blue moonlight, I'm shedding tears on the last stop of farewell.
Ah, when will the fog covering my heart completely lift?
Ah, when will the sun rise and shine bright on my heart?
I walk and walk but my weary journey never ends.
It’s windy, raining, and snow-storming on the last stop of farewell.
Ah, when will the fog covering my heart completely lift?
Ah, when will the sun rise and shine bright on my heart?
I walk and walk but my weary journey never ends.
It’s windy, raining, and snow-storming on the last stop of farewell.

Kim Hyunsik: "The Last Stop of Farewell" (1991)

I also really loved watching Jeong Yeop and JK Kim Dongwook who made the top three. Jeong sang Bo-ine (보이네, “I See….”) originally sung by Na Mi, an 80’s dance music diva, with a 21st-century interpretation; and JK sang Haengboge Nararo (행복의 나라로,“To the Land of Happiness”) written and originally sung by Han Daesu, a 70’s iconic grassroots activist singer/song writer, with technical bravura.  Just like Lee Janghee’s songs, this song was banned for a ridiculous reason during Park Chunghee-Chun Doohwan’s military dictatorship (1963~1987); the Korean Governmental Body of Music Censorship interpreted “the land of happiness” as indicating North Korea and falsely accused him of praising the country’s enemy.  Which was a total blah!

[AUDIO ONLY] Jeong Yeop: "I See...."
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/10/2012)

Lyrics:  “I See….”

I see it, I see that alley.
I see it, I see that streetlight.
Will he come back after tonight?
He held my hand the first day we met.
My longing for him is soaking my heart again.

(Refrain) While thinking of my dear, I'm getting skinnier.
I left my dream here
And long, long years have passed since.
Ooh, why can’t we meet again?
Why can’t we meet again?

I can see my dear (my dear, my dear)
My eyes can see.

I see them, I see those lights.
I see them, I see those pupils.
Will he be forgotten, buried in time?
His teacup’s already cold and he’s leaving me.
My longing for him is soaking my heart again.

Original Version: Na Mi
Bo-ine "I See...." (1985)

[AUDIO ONLY] JK Kim Dongwook: "To the Land of Happiness"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/10/2012)

Lyrics:  “To the Land of Happiness”

Take down the tent.
With your small eyes, let’s open this world.
Open the window.
Let’s feel the dancing breeze once more.
Let me walk on the light grass.
I want to listen to the sound of spring and the birds.
I want to cry and I want to laugh.
Please caress my heart.
I will go to the land of happiness.

It’s early evening and I lie down to fall into a reverie.
And I get carried away with thoughts.
Through the small window in the wall
Flows in the fresh sound of children playing.
Ah, I will live as long as the sun shines
In the arms of the night, sky, and wind.
I will survive the sound of rain and thunder and dance.
I will go to the land of happiness.

You’re hanging your head low
But open your eyes and listen carefully
So when you wake up in the morning,
You can’t even find yourself
Or can’t  tell night from day.
Let’s keep our heads up and come hand in hand,
Turning the last page of youth and temptation.
The wilderness is vast and the sky is blue.
Let us all go to the land of happiness.
Let us all go to the land of happiness.

Original Version: Han Daesu
Haengboge Nararo "To the Land of Happiness" (1974)

Lee Eunmi performed barefoot, living up to her nickname “the barefoot diva” (JK Kim Dongwook often performs barefoot (as he did this time) and on NAGASU, Lee made a couple jokes about who’s the original barefoot.) and was announced the winner of the night.  Trust me.  Lee is my all-time favorite and her Ae-in Isseoyo (애인 있어요, “I Have a Lover”) is one of my all-time favorite songs (to sing at noraebang).  And I know she performed an entertaining medley of Saranggwa Pyeonghwa (사랑과 평화, “Love and Peace”) songs but to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by her performance.  Maybe it's because I just loved the original versions by Love and Peace, a 70’s iconic rock band, which were clean, forthright yet very unique.

[AUDIO ONLY] Lee Eunmi: Love and Peace Medley
"Haven't Heard from Her for a While" &
"Cannot Put My Finger On It"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/10/2012)

Lyrics:  “Haven’t Heard From Her for a While”

I haven’t heard from her for a while.
I was wondering what was going on with her.
Afraid she was sick,
I was so antsy and so edgy.
I haven’t seen her for a while.
I felt awkward and distant when I saw her again.
Afraid she changed her mind,
I was so antsy and so edgy.
Every night I opened the window and told the moon.
I declared my ardent love for her to the moon.
Helplessly I vented my spleen on the moon.
Helplessly I vented my spleen on the moon.

Original Version: Love and Peace
Handong-an Ddeumhaesseotji  
"Haven't Heard from Her for a While" (1978)

And now, last but not least, I’d like to talk about Kim Gunmo.  As his nickname Gukmin Gasu (국민가수, “Nation’s Singer”) speaks for itself, needless to say, he is one of the best singers in Korea.  Ironically enough, however, I think he’s one of the most underrated singers, too.  Let me put it this way.  Have you ever watched the 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna do her triples?  Her jumps look just so effortless, so seamless, and so easy that people easily forget how difficult they are and rarely realize what a great jumper she is.  Just like that, people don’t realize how difficult to sing Kim Gunmo songs and what a great vocalist he is until they sing themselves his songs.  And I think comedy is in his blood and he’s hilarious to the core, which sometimes is reflected in his singing and hurts his image as a singer.  This was familiarly instanced in the early controversy over his elimination in NAGASU season one.  (Click for details.) 

The original concept of NAGASU was focused on entertainment and Kim carried out his performance rather comically, faithful to the show’s concept.  It was, however, ill-received by the studio audience and led him to placing at the bottom of the pack.  And check how he ended his performance this time.  I’d say his funny ending was Hwa-Sa-Cheom-Jok (화사첨족) rather than Hwa-Ryong-Jeom-Jeong (화룡점정).  Hwa-Sa-Cheom-Jok or simply Sa-Jok translates to “Draw a snake and ruin it by adding feet to it” or an English idiom “a fifth wheel.”  On the other hand, Hwa-Ryong-Jeom-Jeong translates to “Draw a dragon and complete it by adding eyes to it,” that is, “Make a perfect final stroke.”  But what can I say?   I just love Kim Gunmo.

Kim chose to sing Nae Maeumeun Dangsin Gyeoteuro ( 마음은 당신 곁으로, "My Heart Is Running to Your Side") which was originally sung by Kim Jeongsu in 1980 and since, it has been covered by various singers such as Cho Yongpil (1985), one of Korea’s legendary singers and Gukmin Gasu, Min Haegyung (1987), Cho Kwanwoo (1999), the late Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng (aka, Dèng Lìjūn) in Japanese in 1988, and many other Japanese singers.

[AUDIO ONLY] Kim Gunmo: "My Heart Is Running to Your Side"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/10/2012)

Lyrics:  “My Heart Is Running to Your Side”

A streak of tears running from your shining eye
Brought cold winds to my heart that turned into a fallen leaf.
I tried to forget and forget but your warm smile
Turned my heart into candlelight of love that will glow forever with you.

(Refrain) Though the blowing wind takes my body away,
My heart feels lonely by your side.
Though all things pass away,
My heart is running to your side.

Because I loved you so much, I’m harboring too many regrets.
Now it has turned into bygone memories I can never catch.

Original Version: Cho Yongpil
Nae Maeumeun Dangsin Gyeoteuro 
"My Heart Is Running to Your Side" (1985)

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (4)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (5)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (7)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: Lee Hyori's Social Club - Golden 12

“We’re No Different,” an Eco-Friendly Song by Golden 12
골든 12 부른 친환경 노래 다르지 않아

Lee Hyori’s Social Club: Golden 12,” aired on OnStyle, a Korean cable network (4/5/2012~6/21/2012), showed the nearest reality of all, living up to its name – a reality show.  As we all know already, everything is staged on TV. Even reality shows, which are believed to be unscripted, are in fact scripted.  It's a must to prevent any possible accidents during the live broadcast or to avoid any possible delays during recording.  Even though we have to admit it, however, this show just flowed so seamlessly as the cameras naturally followed and captured its cast members and many, many of their unplanned moments as well as their planned activities and events.  I think it was one of the realest reality shows.

The show focused on the eco-friendly social lives of its host Lee Hyori, a singer, once sexy icon/all time fashion icon, and socialtainer, and her close friends, all of whom are professionals: Han Hyeyeon (fashion stylist), Yoni P (fashion designer/entrepreneur (Steve J & Yoni P)), Bae Dahae (singer/musical actress), Lee Juhee (copywriter/writer), Hong Janghyun (photographer), and Jang Beomjoon (lead singer/lead guitarist of Busker Busker).  The show captured my health-conscious vegetarian heart in an instant as each episode of the show presented a theme such as eating vegetarian, growing vegetables in containers/on city farms, experiencing a templestay, seeing and experiencing the real Jeju Island life, learning about vegan baking, taking a healing trip to Hawaii, and putting on a “Love Lives” concert – BO:DA.  And the frosting on the cake was its guests, many of whom are my favorites: John Park (singer), Jung Jaehyung (singer/song writer/pianist), Kim Jedong (TV personality/entertainer/socialtainer), Hye Park (model), to name a few. 

While watching the show, I always wondered what the number 12 in its title might mean as the number of its cast members was just 7.  And last Thursday (6/21/2012), I kinda got a little dumbfounded when I found out it represented the number of full episodes; I really never expected it would end so soon.  The series wrapped up with a “Love Lives” concert where an eco-friendly song, “We’re No Different,” was revealed.  The song’s lyrics were co-written by Lee Hyori and Yoon Youngbae, a singer and song writer, and it was composed by Jeong Jichan, a singer and song writer best known for his work as music director of NAGASU (“I’m a Singer”).  It was produced by Lee Hyori’s boyfriend, Lee Sangsoon, a guitarist and musician.  (FYI, all proceeds from this song go to KARA, Korea Animal Rights Advocates.)

The show touched my heart so quietly and deeply yet it was so uniquely funny that it always made me giggle.  And I found myself getting quite sappy as I bid farewell to it watching Hyori left alone after all her friends were gone.  In a word, this series was simply too good to miss and I'll miss it.

Golden 12: Dareuji Ana ("We Are No Different")
with English Lyrics 

[MV] Golden 12: Dareuji Ana 
("We Are No Different") with English Lyrics 

Friday, June 22, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Yim Jaebum's "For You" & Its Lyrics

임재범, 너를 위해

Today, one of my blog readers, phuongchinsu, asked me if I could help find the lyrics of the song, Neoreul Wihae (너를 위해,“For You”), in English.  So I chose to translate the song myself and I tried to remain as close to the original text as possible while translating it.

FYI, the song was originally made in 1997 with different lyrics.  It was titled Song-ae (송애 (送愛), "Seeing Off Love") and sung by Esther, a former lead singer of the now-disbanded Sohodae (소호대, “Little Tigers”:  1997~2003). The song was featured on her debut solo album “Esther Nation,” which was released in 1997 but unfortunately bombed.  I still wonder what might have happened if the song had been chosen as the title track.  The song’s lyrics were written by Choe Wonsuk, a professor, vocal trainer of YGE singers (such as Big Bang and 2NE1) and also the Voice of Korea winner Son Seungyeon, and lyricist – he also wrote the lyrics to Yim’s 1997 hit, Sarangboda Gipeun Sangcheo (사랑보다 깊은 상처, ”Scars Deeper Than Love”).   On the first listen, the song seems to be about a woman abandoned, but I think it’s about a woman coping with the death of the sweetheart.

Esther: Song-ae "Seeing Off Love" (1997)
With English Lyrics

Shin Jaehong, the writer of the song, must have loved his creation so much that in 2000, he rearranged it with different lyrics written by Chae Jung-eun who also wrote the lyrics to Yim’s 1998 hit, Gohae (고해, ”Confession”).   On MBC’s NAGASU (5/1/2011), Yim revealed she wrote the lyrics based on his personal experience and love story.

Born out of wedlock in 1962 (or 1963) by Yim Taekgeun, a TV announcer/sportscaster-turned-CEO, and abandoned by both parents, Yim was sent to an orphanage and brought up there until he was officially added to his father’s family register.  That’s why he went to high school together with Shin Daecheol, who was born in 1967.  (Shin is a leader/guitarist of Sinawe and the first son of Shin Junghyun, a legendary Korean guitarist, singer and song writer.)  Yim’s celebrity father had reportedly involved with a lot of women and the actor Sohn Jichang is his half brother. Sohn was neglected by his father, too and that's why he uses the surname of his imobu (이모부, "husband of one's aunt on one's mother's side").

Yim endured neglect as a child and such traumatic childhood has haunted him from birth throughout his life.  In his 2010 interview, he described himself as a child, melancholic, and old man.  He said, “I can't adapt myself to reality.  I know how to live realistically, but I just can’t come to terms with it or get any satisfaction from it.  It’s like, when I go on a boat (to reach the opposite shore), I suddenly feel like flying.”  Throughout his career, he's been known for his personal eccentricities and unpredictability which often get him into trouble.  And the song’s lyrics are about his bygone relationship he had while going through the stormy years of his life.

Yim Jaebum: Neoreul Wihae "For You" (2000)
With English Lyrics

Even though he didn't do any promotional activities, the song became a mega hit as it was featured on the soundtrack to the 2000 Korean movie, Donggam (동감, “Dittoo”).  (Click to watch the music video of the song featuring scenes from the movie.)  Honestly though, I like his rendition of the song on NAGASU best.  The depth of his voice, his emotion, and even his breathing and sighs when singing the song reflected where he came from and what he's been through in his life.  And I could feel it while listening to him.

[LIVE] Yim Jaebum: Neoreul Wihae "For You"
MBC's NAGASU (5/1/2011)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC’s “I AM a Singer” Season 2 (5)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

Although it is still a good show with good music, watching NAGASU 2 has felt more like watching KBS’s “Concert 7080” or “Open Concert.”  In other words, the show seems to have suddenly grown old compared to its first season.  Maybe it’s because changing the competition rules have made it less thrilling.  Or maybe it’s because some of its cast are seemingly washed up, old-fashioned singers.  But what’s obvious is that, its ratings aside, this once much-talked about show hardly attracts the media or public attention.  It seems like no one’s talking about it.  In season one, news about the show and the critic or fan reviews were plastered all over the internet just a minute after it was over.  But not anymore.  Every Sunday morning, I turned on my computer the first thing to see who won and who was eliminated.  But not anymore.

Guckkasten: (left to right)  Lee Jeonggil (drums), Ha Hyunwoo (vocals and guitar), 
Kim Jineok (bass guitar), and Jeon Gyuho (lead guitar)

On the first night of the second round (6/3/2012), however, the psychedelic rock band Guckkasten made their first appearance and added a refreshing jolt of energy to the insipid show. They are considered one of the most successful bands on the Korean indie music scene but have remained invisible to a mainstream audience engaged by mainstream media.  Even though they were the most-recommended by the music critics to share the NAGASU stage with other veteran singers, their win was totally unexpected considering their low public recognition and the previous elimination of Baekdusan, Korea’s legendary heavy metal band.  In short, rock is a worthy genre Korea is not as familiar with.  And even they could hardly believe their ears themselves when their name was announced as a winner.

Guckkasten: "A Glass of Reminiscences"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/3/2012)

Lyrics:  “A Glass of Reminiscences”

Late at night, sitting lonesomely by the window,
I watch the fading light.
Somewhere there's a voice calling me.
So I look around with my drunken eyes wide open
And I saw your face in my wine glass.
Let’s drink a glass of reminiscences.
Let’s drink a glass of wine.
Let’s drink, let’s drink it up.

We spent the long winter nights together.
We tried to subdue each other’s silent sobs.
Our stories flowed over the clinking glasses.
I saw your face over the flickering lights.
I pour that face I loved into my glass.
Let’s drink a glass of reminiscences.
Let’s drink a glass of wine.
Let’s drink, let’s drink it up.

Standing alone on a dark street at night,
I watched the dim street lights.
Somewhere, there's a voice calling me,
So I look back on the off chance
Only to see the lonely shadow of mine.
Let’s drink a glass of reminiscences.
Let’s drink a glass of wine.
Let’s drink, let’s drink it up.
Let’s drink, let’s drink it up.

Guckkasten is an archaic German word that translates to “Ancient Chinese Kaleidoscope,” the colors and patterns of which are known to look like fireworks.  The band’s name reflects the dreamy, colorful, and psychedelic atmosphere as well as the delicate yet fierce quality of their music.  While reading The Odyssey of Aesthetics: Piranesi and the World of Beauty by Chin Jungkwon, a philosopher, professor, and cultural critic, Ha Hyunwoo (vocals and guitar) was so inspired that he named the band after the word he found in the book, i.e., Guckkasten. In their 2009 interview with IZM, Ha said, “There's something psychedelic about this ancient instrument. Just like that, I thought we could create the modern psychedelic music that is palatable to listeners using an older analog technology.” (Source: Their 2009 Interview with IZM)  As their musical inspirations, Han cited Radiohead and Marilyn Manson, Jeon Gyuho (lead guitar) cited Lee Byungwoo, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Nuno Bettencourt, Lee Jeonggil (drums) cited Metallica, Lars Ulrich, Radiohead, and Green Day, and Kim Gibum (bass guitar) cited Rage Against The Machine and Green Day.

On the first listen, their lyrics seem too weird to understand.  As follows is Ha Hyunwoo on their lyrics (Excertps from their 2011 Interview with DCInside News):

HA:  I don’t think our lyrics are puzzling.  I just wanted to be more abundantly expressive.  I don’t want to write “I love you” to say “I love you.”  The phrase is such a cliché that there's nothing special about it anymore when we hear it. Such feelings are something everyone feels differently.  I use unfamiliar words or strange phenomena to describe such feelings in various ways.  In other words, I’m looking for ways to write beyond words by visualizing a variety of subtle and sensitive feelings.  I think my lyrics are improving in that spirit.

DCINSIDE NEWS:  I think the masses are too used to straightforward lyrics to understand metaphorical expressions.

HA:  I agree.  I often say, “If some say our lyrics are too hard to understand, such people might have never finished even one single poetry book.”   

For their first stage on NAGASU, however, they played it safe by choosing Lee Janghee’s 1974 hit, Han Jane Chueok ( 잔의 추억, “A Glass of Reminiscences”) to reach the heart of every person in the audience and it turned out to be a clever move.  Not only did they become a bona fide winner, but they grabbed the valuable opportunity to break into the mainstream just like Kim Beomsu and Lena Park did in season one.  Reportedly, they have already been receiving offers to appear on commercials, TV talk shows or TV entertainment shows.

BTW, coincidentally, two songs written by the 70’s legendary folk singer/songwriter Lee Janghee were chosen on the show’s first night of the second round:  “A Glass of Reminiscences” by Guckkasten and Bul Ggeojin Chang (불꺼진 , “An Extinguished Window”) by Park Sangmin.  “A Glass of Reminiscences” was featured on the soundtrack of the 1974 Korean film, Byeoldeure Gohyang (별들의 고향, “The Stars’ Heavenly Home”), and “An Extinguished Window” was sung by Cho Yongnam in 1973 and also by Nam Gyuri on SBS’s 2011 drama “49 Days” (Click to listen to Nam sing the song.).  Both songs were banned for ridiculous reasons during Park Chunghee-Chun Doohwan’s military dictatorship (1963~1987): The former might encourage drinking and the title of the latter might encourage lewd thoughts.

Original Version: Lee Janghee
Han Jane Chueok "A Glass of Reminiscences" (1974)
OST from "The Stars' Heavenly Home"

Now, I’ll introduce Guckkasten’s two signature songs to you.  The first song is Geo-ul (거울, “The Mirror”) featured on their 2007 debut single.  When asked about the song’s meaning, Ha said, “This is a song about me, a story of splitting of the ego.  Sometimes when I see an ashtray, I feel like it and other times when I see poop, I feel like it.  Just like that, when I look myself in the mirror, I see my other ego.  Me and my other ego dance together off beat.  When me and my ego dance together with our ears and eyes closed, my steps start faltering.  My “self” starts splitting.” (Source: Their 2009 Interview with IZM)  

Guckkasten: "The Mirror"
Guckkasten Concert in Seoul (12/11/2011)

Lyrics:  “The Mirror”

The eyes of naked you watch my naked body.
You hold me so coldly and kiss me so bitterly.
Your strong scent made my steps falter.
With faltering steps, I’m growing tired.
Pathetically I’m coming to you again.

(Refrain)  You quietly cover your ears with your hands
And dance with your eyes closed.
With me standing behind you,
You dance looking at yourself in the mirror.
You offer your chapped hand
And ask me to join you.
With an uneasy gesture,
I look into the mirror to find me.

You dance with your eyes closed.
You dance with your ears covered.
You dance with your eyes closed.
You dance with your ears covered.

The next song is Bulgeun Bat (붉은 , “The Red Field”), featured on their 2010 mini album.  The song was written based on Ha Hyunwoo’s dream.  According to him, it’s a story about a man who broke free from taboos, regardless of good or evil, reached top, and fell into ruin. It was metaphorized in the image of a fallen angel who turned into a bird.  The bird tried to fly up higher and higher only to fall to the ground, die, and stain the field with its blood.  So the field turned red, which embodies human passion and fight against ridiculous taboos.

Guckkasten: "The Red Field" (Acoustic Version)
on KBS's Sketchbook (aired on 1/8/2011)

Lyrics:  “The Red Field”

Red Angel, you drank up joy.
Let’s fall into the last flame.
The voluptuous scream that you bit off
Make us all dance.
Holding our cast-off skins in our hands,
We go to touch the sun.

(Refrain)  Our heated bodies are gradually cracking.
Come down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down.
My drying bones are losing their memories.
Come down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down.
Come down, come down, come down

The corner of the last flame,
The chorus of an angel,
Who turned into a bird,
The last flame,
The broken senses,
An angel who turned into a bird,
The cursed land inside me.

Lastly, even though I’m not a Kim Yeonwoo fan, I think he deserved to be in the top three spot.  I really liked his rendition of this 80’s hit Dangsinmani (당신만이, “Only You”) by Beonnimdeul (벗님들, “The Friends”).  And I think he sounds way better in falsetto.

[STUDIO VERSION] Kim Yeonwoo: "Only You"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/3/2012)

Lyrics:  “Only You”

Even if the dazzling sunlight shines upon me, what’s the use?
My beautiful you are my only light.
Even if the subtle moonlight embraces me, what’s the use?
Only your sweet-smelling hair can embrace me tenderly.
(Refrain)  My dear, please don’t say goodbye
But give me the look of love only.
Ah! Just like this, I want to keep my love forever.
Even if the dazzling sunlight shines upon me, what’s the use?
My beautiful you are my only light.

Original Version: Beonnimdeul (The Friends)
Dangsinmani "Only You" (1984)

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (4)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (6)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (5)

이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

Hayi and Jimin went to the Hyundai car awarding ceremony today (6/12/2012).  Here's the picture.

MORE UPDATE 1: To learn about the September debut of the SuPearls and Hayi, pls scroll down and read the comment posted by my blog reader.

MORE UPDATE 2:  Please scroll down to hear Pixie Lott comment on Hayi's Mama Do performance.

MORE UPDATE 3:  Please scroll down to see Hayi's latest photo.

Pixie Lott on Hayi's Mama Do (5/23/2012)

The latest up-to-date photo of Hayi:
She looks too thin, doesn't she?

KOREAN MUSIC: Tasha Is Coming to America! (2)

Far East Movement releases “Live My Life” Official Remix featuring Justin Bieber, Tasha (Yoon Mirae), and Tiger JK.  I'm a little disappointed 'cause they seem to have put the full light on Bieber only.  Anyways, here's the Youtube link - the uploader doesn't allow the video to be embedded.

Monday, June 11, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: Dancing with the Stars Korea - Season 2 (3)

In the third round of "Dancing with the Stars Korea," the actress Ye Jiwon won the judges' hearts as well as their votes.  But just like its American version, it turned out to be a popularity contest, and Hyoyeon became the overall winner boosted by the viewers' votes.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Hyoyeon and am happy for her win but not with the show's results.  Plus, too bad the judges have been really stingy with their scores for Shin Sooji.  It was not unpredictable that the judges would try to even out the skills gap between her and the rest of the contestants considering she was the Korean rhythmic gymnastics champion and Olympian.  But it went too far when she was placed behind the actor Lee Hoon, who garnered a total score of 20 from the judges. What a joke.

● Choi Yeojin & Park Jiwoo (Tango): "Sunny" (Click to watch.)
● Ye Jiwon & Bae Jiho (Tango): Iyugatji Aneun Iyu ("An Unreasonable Reason") 
  (Click to watch.)
● Hyoyeon & Kim Hyeongseok (Tango): "Toxic" (Click to watch.)
● Shin Sooji & Kwon Sunbin (Cha-cha-cha): Bulti ("Sparks") (Click to watch.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC’s “I AM a Singer” Season 2 (4)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

In Korea, May is a sad month, maybe not to all, but to those who still remember.  In the city of Gwangju, South Korea, 32 years ago in May of 1980, 4,369 civilians were killed, missing, or wounded during the uprising, which is now officially called the Gwangju Democratic Uprising or just simply Oilpal (5/18) in reference to the date the uprising broke out.  Three notable films that deal with the uprising are A Petal (1996), Peppermint Candy (2000), and May 18 (2007). (Watch Peppermint Candy (with no English subtitles) and May 18 (with English subtitles) on Youtube.)

On the fourth night of NAGASU, when six singers, the top three from Group A and B, competed to determine the singer of the month, Park Wankyu chose to sing Buchiji Aneun Pyeonji (부치지 않은 편지, “The Unsent Letter”), won the competition, and graduated with honor. The song was originally a poem written by Jeong Hoseung, a popular South Korean poet, to pay a tribute to the victims of the GDU.  It was composed by Baek Changwoo, a grassroots activist songwriter, and sung by the late Kim Kwangseok, a legendary grassroots activist/popular singer.  It was featured on the “JSA: Joint Security Area” soundtrack and also was frequently used to honor the memory of the late Roh Moohyun, the 16th President of South Korea (2003–2008), who passed away in May.

Before his performance, Park said to an audience, “My heart will ache while singing the song,” and asked them to listen with their hearts, not ears.  The long white scarf tied around his wrist, which reminded of Korea’s traditional Salpuri dance, added a final touch to his sorrowful yet passionate rendition of the song.  The Salpuri dance was originally performed as part of the rituals to appease the dead spirits.  (Watch the Salpuri dance on Youtube.)

Backstage, after his performance was over, Park said he had tried to harbor no selfish motive at all while singing the song and thanked the audience for embracing the song with such a heavy message and rewarding him for singing a beautiful song of May that aches.

It was not only Park but Lee Eunmi, Kim Gunmo, and JK Kim Dongwook who delivered the barely-heard songs on TV which meaningfully marked the last night of May in Korea.  Lee chose Yang Hee-eun’s Hangyeryeong (한계령, “The hangye Ridge”), Kim chose Jeong Taechoon’s Si-ine Maeul (시인의 마을, “Village of a Poet”), and JK chose Lee Yeonsil’s Jjilleggot (찔레꽃, “A Brier Flower”).  Yang used to be considered a flag bearer for the grassroots activist singers, whether she wanted to be or not, while Jeong’s undoubtedly been the epitome of the grassroots activist singers/song writers along with his wife and singer, Park Eunok.  Jjilleggot, “A Brier Flower,” was written by Lee Taeseon, a children’s poet, in 1972, based on a poem for children which was written by the legendary children’s story writer and poet Lee Weonsoo in 1930.

All of Lee, Kim, and JK’s performances were much understated yet superbly delivered, but only the first two plus Park Wankyu were voted to make the top three and as mentioned above, Park was chosen the singer of the month and graduated.

I think it would’ve been impossible unless the show had been broadcast live, considering the current political and media climate in Korea.  And starting from last Sunday (5/27/2012), the show got back to its old self, i.e., they started pre-recording the show a day before its scheduled broadcast, so  I wonder if such songs will ever be heard again on NAGASU.  Or, maybe I'm just too paranoid.

Park Wankyu: "The Unsent Letter"
In Jeonju Great Concert (6/9/2012)

[STUDIO VERSIONPark Wankyu: "The Unsent Letter"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/27/2012)

Lyrics:  “The Unsent Letter”

The leaves of grass look up to the sky even after falling
Flowers easily bloom but can hardly be beautiful
While treading alone the dawn of time,
A man and the death met the freedom
Over the frozen river, into the wind, even without a grave,
Into the fierce snowstorm, even without a song,
You flow like a petal
Farewell, my dear
Your tears will soon turn into a river
Your love will soon turn into a song
You’re flying with a mountain in your mouth
A little bird of tears!
Go without looking back
Farewell, my dear

Original Version: Kim Kwangseok
Buchiji Aneun Pyeonji "The Unsent Letter" (1998)

[STUDIO VERSION] Lee Eunmi: "The Hangye Ridge"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/27/2012)

Lyrics:  “The Hangye Ridge”

That mountain tells me not to cry, not to cry
In the inmost recess of it, the valleys are wet underfoot
That mountain tells me to forget, to forget
It strokes down my chest.
(Refrain)  Ah! But I want to live like a gust of wind and die
Like a wandering wind that drives clouds of tears to this mountain and to that one
That mountain tells me to go down, to go down
It pushes my weary shoulders

Original Version: Yang Hee-eun
Hangyeryeong " The Hangye Ridge" (1985)

[STUDIO VERSIONKim Gunmo: "Village of a Poet"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/27/2012)

Lyrics:  “Village of a Poet”

Open the window and uhm… look out
The sizzling hot, fierce wind
That blows into your empty heart,
Waving the flag hung toweringly up above

Close your eyes gently and listen
To the clattering hooves that bring the panting friends
And befall your silent heart
Like a fierce horse running on a far-off land

Who would throw me a handkerchief?
Who would put it on my small chest?
Who would render the rhythms for a mask dance?
Who would make me dance to those rhythms?

(Refrain)  I’d like to be a friend of solitude, a friend of wandering,
Or even a poet in agony who’s lost in thought
Like an ascetic wanderer who goes over the hill at sunset,
Watching the oblique rays of the setting sun,
I’ll listen to the sound of nightfall on the village of a poet

Close the umbrella and get rained on
The sky comes closer to you
And there’s something melancholy about the wet air
That rains on your shady heart

Who would come close to me and talk to me?
Who would hold my small hand?
Who would be a traveling companion of my destiny?
Who would be a friend of a young poet?

Original Version: Jeong Taechoon
Si-ine Maeul "Village of a Poet" (1978)

[STUDIO VERSIONJK Kim Dongwook: "A Brier Flower"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/27/2012)