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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)

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