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Lee Heemoon: Innovation and Tradition Rooted in a Folk Song Singer

2023.5.11

#MUSIC

Lee Heemoon is a singer of “Gyeonggi Minyo,” which is designated as an intangible cultural asset in Korea. Although he is an artist who is a direct heir to traditional music, in his own projects he combines folk songs with rock, jazz, and a variety of other genres to create a modern sound. He is a pioneer in the Korean music scene as a comprehensive artist who also creates and directs the visuals that match the concept of each work. However, most of you probably know him for the first time here. We have only known him for a short time, but the more we learn about him, the more new expressions appear, and each time we see him, we feel as if we are encountering Lee Lee Heemoon for the first time.

Born to a mother who was a master of Gyeonggi folk songs and a father who was a Korean living in Japan, Lee began his career in folk music at the surprisingly tender age of 27. Heemoon has many connections to Japan, including having lived in Tokyo with his mother when he was a child and having studied at a technical college in Tokyo. In “Gangnam Oasis,” released at the end of last year, he tells the story of his family before he started singing folk songs. She sings about Ran-chan, Kimura-san, Osaka, and Hitomebore…… memories of her mother, while also singing in Japanese.

“GANGNAM OASIS” will be performed in Tokyo. On the day of the performance, the three-member jam band CADEJO will join the audience in a special performance to express this world view. In preparation for the performance, we went to Gangnam, Seoul, where he was born and raised, to interview Lee Heemoon about his journey and the style he has built. It has been about 20 years since he decided to pursue a career in folk music. We hope that those of us who live in neighboring countries can share in the happiness of having met the artist Lee Heemoon.

Heemoon who studied in Japan and aspired to be a music video director, started his career in folk music at the age of 27.

I heard that you had studied in Japan.

Heemoon: Yes, I did. Before that, I went to college in Korea, but I couldn’t adjust. After that, I joined an entertainment agency to become a pop singer and lived as a trainee, but that didn’t work out either. At that time, I felt that the old Korean entertainment system was not good enough to begin with, so I decided to study in Japan, which was more advanced than Korea at the time, and which I was familiar with because it was my father’s second hometown. At first, I wanted to study artist management, but there was no department for it. While attending a Japanese language school and thinking about what to do, I saw Madonna’s “Frozen” music video and was impressed by the director, Chris Cunningham. I was so impressed (laughs). (I was so impressed.) Then I decided that I wanted to become a music video director, and I enrolled in the promotional video course at Toho Gakuen College of Music.

Lee He emoon
Lee Heemoon was born in 1976 in Seoul, Korea. Gyeonggi folk singer. Completed Gyeonggi Folk Song Course No. 57 of the National Intangible Cultural Foundation. Representative of Lee Heemoon Company. Mother is Koh Juran, mother of a folk singer. Became a student of Lee Chun-hee and became a folk singer. As an inheritor of traditional music (Gugak) and a pioneer in the Korean music world, she continues to express herself in her original style by fusing various musical genres with folk music motifs, and has participated in the OST for the drama “My Dear Mister” starring IU and the movie “Chansil-san has many blessings. She has received numerous awards, including the KBS Folk Music Grand Prix Folk Song Award (2014) and the “Young Artist of the Moment Award” (2015) for her contributions to cultural and artistic development.
http://leeheemoon.com/

– I thought you were studying singing under the influence of your mother, who is a folk singer. Did you continue to work in Japan after graduation?

Heemoon: After graduation, I returned to Korea and worked for a freelance director as an assistant director of music videos. On a day off from work, there happened to be a performance by a folk singer who was my mother’s junior, so we went to see it together. There, I met Lee Chun-hee, a folk singer who used to come to our house when I was a child, for the first time in a long time.

So the mother, the teacher, and the three people you used to spend a lot of time with when you were young came together.

Heemoon: Yes, that’s right. For the first time since I became an adult. I was unconsciously humming while watching the performance, and the teacher said to me, “Heemoon, do you know folk songs? Don’t you want to sing?” She asked me. I had been listening to my mother’s songs ever since I was born, and I grew up in an environment where there were many singers around who were her colleagues, but no one asked me that at the time. When I was a child, folk singers were almost exclusively women, so the idea of “having my son sing folk songs” would not have occurred to me. But my teacher knew that I grew up listening to folk songs, so maybe she thought there was some potential.

I am sure that there was still a sense of familiarity in my body.

Heemoon: Yes, I did. That said, many people start folk music as children, and I thought it might be too late for me, in my mid-twenties, to take it up, but I liked singing, and I thought it would be okay to learn on my days off, so I decided to give it a shot.

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