Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenssischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heies Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen whrend der Erarbeitung eines Stcks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



Yodelling for Asia

He's a yodelling Asian popstar, but that's ok. Jens Balzer interviews Jung Ji-Hoon, alias Rain

They call him the Asian Justin Timberlake: Jung Ji-hoon alias Rain, born 1982 in a suburb of Seoul, is Asia's prince of pop - one of the first stars ever to achieve international fame across the culturally splintered region. He fills concert halls in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, China and the Philippines alike – his four albums have sold multi-millions of copies. He is also a well-known TV actor, playing in popular pan-Asian soaps like "Sang Doo! Let's go to school" and "Full House". He introduced his first film role in the Competition section of this year's Berlinale film festival in Berlin: in Park Chan-wook's "I am a Cyborg, but that's ok", Jung plays an inmate of a psychiatric clinic. (See review)

Mr. Jung, you are one of Asia's leading pop stars, but here in Germany, no one has heard of you. Could you describe the sort of music you play?

I move between various styles, but basically you could say that my music is based on Black Music, like HipHop and R'n'B. Mixed in with a bit of Trance Pop.

Jung Ji-hoon alias Rain. Courtesy JYP Entertainment

Are these genres generally popular in Korea?

Definitely. We all like this sort of music. All Koreans like R'n'B.

Who are your influences?

I love Ray Charles and James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, and I worship Michael and Janet Jackson. My dance style combines Michael Jackson's moonwalk with martial-arts elements. I always develop my own choreographies, I want them to look different from the typical American ones.

But your music seems prototypically American. Is there any Korean music that you like?

American music has become very popular in Korea recently. The Internet has had a huge influence on this and the effect is really starting to kick in now. It used to be pretty hard to get access to American records and CDs, now a mouse click is all you need. This is not to say that we only import US music now, it's a two-way thing. Thanks to the Internet, Korean music has become popular throughout Asia. It was not long ago that each country had its own stars: South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia etc. And nobody knew about them in the other countries. Now when I play in Bangkok, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people turn up.

The Chinese have got a word for this: han-liu, the Korean wave – meaning the increasing dominance of Korean pop culture throughout Asia. Has Tokyo been replaced by Seoul as pop capital?

Hallyu -that's the Korean word for it – probably began five years ago, on the back of the huge popularity of Korean TV series. I was also in some of them, for example "Sang-Doo! Let's Go To School" or "A Love to Kill" where I played a martial arts warrior. But the question is not where is the centre of Asian pop culture. Before it was Hong Kong, then it wandered over to Tokyo, and maybe it's Seoul today. But so what? The important thing is that Asian culture is growing ever tighter, that Asian artists are not restricted to only playing in their own countries, but now they can tour neighbouring states – and all round the world! This helps them develop their talent and advance their culture as a whole.

Courtesy JYP Entertainment

Do you think we're seeing the rise of some sort of pan-Asian culture?

Look, I basically make music because I enjoy it, but music also always works to break down walls: between nations, cultures, people. It is important that people in Asia come together and develop a common language. Just like the European Union you have in Europe, an Asian Union is being created at the moment, at least on a cultural level – and it might even be the first step towards uniting our countries politically and economically. I truly believe that there will be a union of this kind one day, and it will be a global power. We entertainers can help to create this.

When you play in China, Taiwan or in the Philippines – do you change aspects of your songs or your choreographies?

I alter nothing in my music or dance style. But when I go to Japan, I sing something in Japanese. Lots of Korean artists do this. There is hardly anybody who sings in a foreign language at home though, unlike in Europe, where everybody sings in English – that sort of thing is rare in Korea. But when we tour abroad, we try to fit in.

Last year you played in the USA for the first time.

Yes in Madison Square Garden in New York, a fantastic experience. The audience was about 70 percent Asian American, the rest were Afro and white Americans. I also sung a duet with P.Diddy, who's an old friend of my producer Park Jin Young.

You also sang a one with Christina Aguilera.

Yeah. That was for an advert that Pepsi produced for the football World Cup. "Da da da" it was called (YouTube). Pretty funny.

Did you know that this was originally a German song?

No, really? No idea.

It came from the group Trio from Großenkneten.

Incredible. Korean teenagers were crazy about that song last summer.

Film still from "I'm a cyborg, but that's ok." Courtesy Berlin International Film Festival

In the film" I'm a cyborg, but that's ok", (review) which premiered at the Berlinale, you do some amazing yodelling. Where did you learn to that?

Oh, yodelling is big in Korea. There's a very old yodelling tradition. I had a very good teacher, Suh Yong-rhul. He's Korea's most famous yodeller, and travels regularly to Switzerland to learn the best techniques from local yodellers there.


The interview originally appeared in the Berliner Zeitung on 13 Februrary, 2007.

Jens Balzer is a music critic for the Berliner Zeitung.

Translation: lp

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

Functions like DNA

Monday 31 October 2011

In 2007 the rap duo Kinderzimmer Productions disbanded with rapper Henrik von Holtum, alias MC Textor, publishing a ranting manifesto against the rap scene in the Tageszeitung. But Kinderzimmer Productions is back with a new live recording of their old songs - with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Nina Apin from the taz talks with MC Textor about rap, classical music and the question of aging gracefully.
read more

Beyond the groove

Tuesday 19 July 2011

TeaserPicSearching for new sounds to take the party to new highs, club music is turning to classical and new music. Prominent techno DJs such as Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald, Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer are working with the recordings of Deutsche Grammophon and ECM. Alexis Waltz samples some bewitchingly beautiful and psychedelically absurd results. Photo Ricardo Villalobos © Stefan Stern
read more

Lady G and the dead industrial product

Tuesday 1 June, 2011

TeaserPicDesigned to appeal to everyone over the age of six, Lady Gaga's new album "Born this Way" is basically funfair techno – with a dash of hilarious mock German. Diedrich Diederichsen explains why this is not how good pop music happens.
read more

What, yet another neglected genius?

Tuesday 27 July, 2010

This year's theatre festival in Bregrenz hosted the world premiere of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Auschwitz opera "The Passenger" from 1968. His biographer David Fanning introduces the life and music of this incredibly prolific composer, whose work somehow failed to emerge from the shadows of the Iron Curtain.
read more

Composed in delirious time

Tuesday 22 June, 2010

TeaserPicRobert Schumann was born 200 years ago on June 8. The conductor and composer Heinz Holliger, who has devoted his life to the study of Romantic master, talks to Claus Spahn about the his labyrinthine imagination, erudition and incredible modernity. He also dispels a string of clichees that have consigned so much of the Schumann's work to musical oblivion.
read more

The apathy and the ecstasy

Friday 22 January, 2010

Riding the retro wave, singers from across the spectrum of popular music have brought back falsetto with a vengeance. While this is mostly in homage to bygone styles and idols, it has also introduced new nuances of meaning. Ueli Bernays traces falsetto's high-pitched passage from expression to gimmick and back.
read more

What was eating Wagner?

Thursday 9 April, 2009

In this, the Mendelssohn bicentennial year, Martin Geck looks at why the wealthy middle-class composer, who was Europe's most successful musician in the final decade of his life, brought out the very worst in Richard Wagner.
read more

Julia Fischer: Virtuosissima!!!

Thursday 10 January, 2008

At the New Year's concert in the Alte Oper in Frankfurt the audience's excitement was palpable. It was patently clear to all assembled that they were either about to witness the disgrace of one of the world's greatest living violinists, or the triumphant birth of a new piano virtuoso. By Arno Widmann
read more

Kylwyria - Kálvária

Wednesday 24 October, 2007

Ligeti the gesamtkunstwerk, Ligeti the Socrates-Ligeti, Ligeti the volcano. Hungarian composer György Kurtág spoke at a memorial session of the Order Pour le Mérite in Berlin about his lifelong friend, György Ligeti, who died on June 12, 2006.
read more

In the cradle of the Phaedra myth

Thursday 27 September, 2007

Hans Werner Henze's fourteenth opera "Phaedra" almost cost him his life. Now the premiere has taken place in Berlin. Volker Hagedorn visited the eighty-one-year-old composer at his home above the Tiber valley, where he has lived and worked since 1953.
read more

Nonchalance out of the depths

Wednesday 26 September, 2007

Benjamin Biolay is France's new Serge Gainsbourg. He is pioneer of the "Nouvelle Chanson," even if he rejects the term. And basically he sings about one thing: love, nothing but love. By Elke Buhr (Photo © Bruce Weber, courtesy Virgin Records France / EMI)
read more

Tradition, revolution and reaction in Bayreuth

Monday 30 July, 2007

Probably never before has there been so much hype around a premiere at the Bayreuth Festival. Because the director of this "Mastersingers of Nuremberg" is Katharina Wagner, great granddaughter of Richard Wagner, who could one day take over as festival director. By Marianne Zelger-Vogt (Image: Katharina Wagner. © Enrico Nawrath, courtesy Bayreuther Festspiele)
read more

Mann and his musical demons

Wednesday 18 July, 2007

Thomas Mann was enchanted by German classical music but was also wary of its seductive powers. In his novels, he anticipates its instrumentalisation by the Nazis, who used it as the gateway to bourgeois German hearts and minds. By Wolfgang Schneider
read more

La Scuola Napoletana sings again

Friday 25 May, 2007

Conductor Riccardo Muti describes rummaging through Naples' venerable music archive, where he discovered a number of slumbering opera manuscripts, among them Domenico Cimarosa's "Il ritorno di Don Calandrino," which opens the Salzburg Whitsun Festival tonight.
read more

Arnie of the ivories

Wednesday 2 May, 2007

After brilliant beginnings, bodybuilding pianist Tzimon Barto's career crashed as spectacularly as it started. Now the bizarre mixture of rancher, writer and keyboard collossus is back, with a fabulous new recording of Ravel. By Kai Luehrs-Kaiser
read more