BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (IPS) – When the mother and father of Korean jazz singer Youn Solar Nah realized that the COVID-19 pandemic had begun, they referred to as and urged her to return to Seoul from New York, the place she was primarily based on the time.
“They mentioned purchase the ticket instantly,” the singer recollects. “There’ll be a complete lockdown and also you would possibly by no means be capable to come dwelling. After I watched tv and heard that borders could be closed, I packed my luggage and I received the final ticket. I assumed I’d come again in three months, however not a 12 months.”
In Korea, beneath journey restrictions like many of the world, Solar Nah questioned how she may struggle the blues that threatened to overwhelm her. She started writing lyrics and composing music for what would turn into the extraordinary Waking World (Warner Music), her 11th album, launched in 2022.
The songs are an exploration of the lifetime of an artist, confronting angst and despair, and their haunting magnificence – in addition to experimental vary of types – might assist Solar Nah to broaden her already substantial worldwide viewers, as she embarks on a “Spring Tour” starting in March. With the memorable observe Do not Get Me Improper, the album additionally incorporates a message in regards to the risks of spreading misinformation and hate, the “different” ills of the pandemic.
Born in Seoul to musician mother and father (and named Na Yoon-sun), Youn Solar Nah realized to play the piano as a baby however grew up specializing in the same old curriculum in school. She graduated from college in 1992 with an arts diploma, having studied literature, and she or he thought this might be her profession course. She didn’t need to pursue music, she says, as a result of she had seen her mother and father – a choir director and a musical actress – work too exhausting.
Nonetheless, when the Korean Symphony Orchestra invited her to sing gospel songs in 1993, she started taking her first steps on the planet of performing and recording, ultimately shifting to France to check music, as she relates. In Paris, she adopted programs in conventional French chanson and enrolled on the prestigious CIM Faculty of Jazz and Up to date Music, the place she needed to overcome sure creative challenges.
Within the years since then, she has carried out worldwide, sung on the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, contributed to a Nina Simone tribute album, and brought half within the 2017 Worldwide Jazz Day live performance which was held in Havana, Cuba. (Worldwide Jazz Day is an initiative of legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and the United Nations cultural company, UNESCO.) As well as, she has obtained the Officier des Arts et des Lettres award from the French Ministry of Tradition, the Sejong Tradition Award from Korea, and a number of different music prizes and accolades.
In an interview with SWAN earlier than a latest live performance in Brussels, Youn Solar Nah spoke of her profession with self-deprecating humour, discussing the consequences of the pandemic on her artwork and the meanings behind the songs on Waking World. She shed mild, too, on the expertise of being a jazz singer amidst the worldwide Korean pop music phenomenon. The edited interview follows.
SWAN: How would you describe your self?
Youn Solar Nah: I’m a jazz singer from Korea. I studied jazz in France, and I journey around the globe, and I’m form of all combined up, however I’m very proud of that.
SWAN: Are you now primarily based in France?
YSN: No, I used to reside in Paris for a very long time, however really, I don’t have a spot to remain in France now. Each time I am going there, it’s only for the tour, so I am going to totally different locations. I may say I reside in Korea, however it’s a nomadic life.
SWAN: Let’s discuss Waking World, which was launched final January. You’re doing a tour to market it now, as that wasn’t potential earlier, in the course of the pandemic.
YSN: Sure, we couldn’t actually do the promotion factor, however c’est la vie. My supervisor referred to as in 2021 to say: now you possibly can come, you possibly can take the airplane now. So, I rapidly purchased the ticket, got here again to France and recorded the album in Paris, after which I did some reveals.
SWAN: A number of artists have needed to discover methods to maintain going in the course of the pandemic, and it’s been particularly tough for a lot of musicians who couldn’t tour, couldn’t be on the street. Has that been the case for you too?
YSN: As , jazz is absolutely reside music, and I believe most jazz musicians really feel the identical method. You need to do as many gigs as potential. I don’t know if folks take heed to my music on platforms like Spotify or iTunes, however I really feel very fortunate to carry out reside music. Greater than 400 jazz festivals exist in France, so it’s a privilege.
SWAN: How did Waking World come about, and what does it imply in your followers, for you?
YSN: After I went again to Korea at first of the pandemic, I used to be form of optimistic that issues wouldn’t final lengthy. Everybody was sporting masks, however we may transfer round, simply not take the airplane. Then … six months, seven months, eight months. From that second, I received actually depressed, and I assumed that possibly I ought to change my job, that possibly I’d by no means be capable to return to Europe and carry out. What can I do, I assumed. All of the musicians I performed with had been in Europe as a result of I studied jazz in France, and I don’t know that many jazz musicians in Korea. So, I had a form of homesickness despite the fact that I used to be dwelling. However in Korea, we by no means lose hope, so I believe that’s in my DNA. I informed myself: you need to get up, and you need to do one thing else; you possibly can’t disappoint the individuals who’ve supported you for a very long time, you need to have one thing to current to your viewers. So, I began writing some new tunes. With out the musicians I often work with, I needed to do all of it on my own.
SWAN: However you’re used to singing in English?
YSN: Sure, after I began learning jazz. , once I got here to France, I didn’t know what jazz was. If I’d recognized, I’d undoubtedly have gone to the States. I used to be so naïve … and possibly silly? Sooner or later I’d requested certainly one of my musician buddies in Korea what sort of music I ought to examine to turn into a great singer, and he’d mentioned: do jazz. What’s jazz, I requested him. And he mentioned: jazz is unique pop music, so for those who discover ways to sing jazz, you possibly can sing something. And I mentioned: oh, it sounds nice!
I’m an enormous fan of French chanson, so he mentioned one of many oldest jazz faculties in Europe is situated in Paris, so go there. Oh, nice! I arrived there, and what you study in school is American requirements, and every thing was in English. I really studied in 4 totally different faculties on the identical time as a result of, nicely, I’m Asian, and I’m used to that schooling system the place you don’t must have any free time for your self! After I had solely six hours of classes, I assumed: what am I gonna do with the opposite eighteen hours? (Laughter.)
SWAN: That form of method will need to have helped with the album?
YSN: Effectively, I didn’t know once I may report this album, so I simply saved writing and composing. And arranging on my own, as I had a variety of time. However, as , jazz is like … we should always collect collectively and prepare within the second. After I may lastly fly to France, I simply gave all the fabric to the musicians. They usually mentioned, oh, we’ll respect your scores. And I mentioned, no, no, do what you need. However they performed precisely what I wrote, each single notice. I’m embarrassed.
SWAN: Inform us in regards to the inspiration behind a few of tracks, reminiscent of Hen On The Floor, the primary music, which has the chorus “I need to fly. I need to fly. I need to fly.”
YSN: Effectively, “chook on the bottom” – that’s me in the course of the pandemic.
SWAN: Don’t Get Me Improper, the second observe, has an infectious melody, however the message is obvious: the world “has no likelihood with those that lie and lie”. Inform us extra.
YSN: Throughout the pandemic, I may solely watch TV or go on the web to know what was occurring. However generally the knowledge wasn’t true, and despite the fact that it’s a lie you find yourself believing every thing. Yeah, so I assumed the world has no likelihood with individuals who lie.
SWAN: The sixth observe has an intriguing title – My Mom. (Lyrics embody the road: “How will you preserve drying my eyes each time, my mom?”) What’s the story behind it?
YSN: With the touring, I often don’t spend that a lot time at dwelling. However with the pandemic, I used to be dwelling for a complete 12 months, and I spent a variety of time with my mom, and I actually had the possibility to speak about every thing, about her life and what she skilled. She’s my finest pal, and we grew to become even nearer.
SWAN: And the title music Waking World?
YSN: I needed this to be a dream and never actual, however on the identical time that is the fact, so it was form of ambiguous for me. The place am I? Am I dreaming? No, you’re awake.
SWAN: Tangled Soul, observe eight?
YSN: My soul was fully tangled. (Laughter.) After which in the future, I felt: it’s okay, every thing might be all proper.
SWAN: Talking about music on the whole, Ok-pop has turn into a worldwide phenomenon. Are you within the fallacious area? (Laughter.) Extra to the purpose, are you influenced by the large curiosity?
YSN: At each present, I’m actually shocked or shocked as a result of the viewers says “hiya” and “thanks” in Korean. Unbelievable! There are numerous individuals who’ve informed me about their expertise in Korea, too, saying they’ve spent a month or six months there. It’s one thing that my mother and father’ era couldn’t have anticipated as a result of the nation was destroyed in the course of the conflict – it’s not that way back – and so they needed to construct a totally new nation. They labored so exhausting, and due to them, we’ve this period. Individuals know Korea by way of Ok-pop, by way of Netflix.
SWAN: Then there’s this Korean jazz singer – you. When listeners hear your work, the “soul” comes by way of. Are you able to discuss that?
YSN: After I arrived in Paris, not understanding what jazz was, as I discussed, I informed my mother and father: Oh, I’m gonna examine jazz for 3 years, and I believe I can grasp it, after which I’ll come again to Korea and possibly educate. And afterwards, I felt so silly, and so unhealthy as a result of I can’t swing, and I don’t have a voice like Ella Fitzgerald, and I may barely study one normal music. So, I attempted every thing. On Honeysuckle Rose, I believe I wrote down each second that Ella breathed in, breathed out. However … I couldn’t sing like her, it sounded so pretend. So, I mentioned: No, I’ll by no means be capable to sing jazz, this isn’t for me. After a 12 months, I informed my professors that, sorry, I made a fallacious selection, I’m going to return dwelling. They usually laughed at me. They mentioned: What? Youn, you are able to do your personal jazz with your personal voice. And I mentioned, no, I can’t. Then they advisable some jazz albums of European jazz singers, reminiscent of Norma Winstone, who’s an English singer, and my idol. She has a form of soprano voice like me, and when she interprets, it’s like a complete new tune. And I mentioned, oh, we will name this jazz too? I didn’t know.
So, I realized to strive with my very own voice and my very own soul, with my Korean background, and the extra I used my very own voice, the extra I did issues my very own method, the extra I felt accepted.
SWAN: What’s subsequent for you?
YSN: Effectively, everybody has informed me that this album just isn’t jazz, however that’s what I needed to do. Herbie Hancock all the time mentioned that jazz is the human soul, it’s not appearances, so you are able to do no matter you need to do. We’ll see. It’s been some time that I’ve needed to do an album of jazz requirements, so we’ll proceed this tour in 2023 after which we’ll see. – A.M. / SWAN
Youn Solar Nah’s Spring Tour runs March 9 to Could 26, 2023, and contains concert events in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
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