Jung, Mina & Seo, Youngdo
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Jung, Mina & Seo, Youngdo

Band World Singer/Songwriter

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Oct
02
Jung, Mina & Seo, Youngdo @ State hall

Jeonju, Not Applicable, Korea, South

Jeonju, Not Applicable, Korea, South

Sep
02
Jung, Mina & Seo, Youngdo @ State hall

Munkyung, Not Applicable, Korea, South

Munkyung, Not Applicable, Korea, South

Jun
23
Jung, Mina & Seo, Youngdo @ Good Feeling

Seoul, Not Applicable, Korea, South

Seoul, Not Applicable, Korea, South

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Music

Press



‘We jammed during some extra time at the studio and bam! - the harmony turned out to be incredibly fantastic.�
April 05, 2010

Jung holds a 25-string gayageum - modified from the original 12-string instrument to enable more diverse stylings. Provided by Sony Music Korea
Korean traditional instrumental performers have been working for years to popularize “fusion gugak,� referring to a blend of Korean traditional music and Western classical or pop sensibilities. But often, composers end up with simple remakes of American standards played on Korean instruments - not exactly a balance of styles.

But Jung Mina is unique. As a player of the gayageum, a zither-like Korean instrument, since her teenage years, the 30-year-old artist now composes, arranges, sings and even writes lyrics for her own music - “fusion gugak� from scratch.

On her second album, “Afterimage,� released in early March, Jung collaborated with Korea’s top jazz bassist, Seo Young-do, to present an unprecedented and unique combination of sounds.

The duo first got together after an improvisational event, Jung recalls. “We had planned to record just one song together. We jammed during some extra time at the studio and bam! - the harmony turned out to be incredibly fantastic. So we decided to do some more songs and fill the album with instrumental tracks,� she said in an interview recently.

That near 15-minute recorded jam session would become the album’s eighth track, titled, “Improvisation, Nov. 30, 2009.� The two musicians ended up playing together on seven out of the disc’s 10 tracks.

Jung’s latest recording comes three years after her debut album, “Sangsamong,� or “Love Dream.� That album has sold nearly 10,000 copies, which might sound low but was in fact much more than expected for the first album of a low-profile artist previously known only to the clubgoers around Hongik University in Seoul. Love Dream’s title track, “As What Creature,� features Jung on vocals and the gayageum, with a cello accompaniment in the background. It was nominated for “jazz/crossover song of the year� at the fifth Korean Music Awards in 2008. Some tracks have been used in commercials and movies, including the film “M.�

“While I tried to include a wide spectrum of musical genres that have relatively high popular appeal, from jazz to tango and gugak, on my first album, this time I opted to give the audience a chance to rediscover gayageum music,� Jung said.

When she debuted, it was not only her music that won her the media spotlight but also her unique personal history. Born to a novelist father, Jung was trained to become a traditional dancer at a young age. Then she switched to the gayageum, got into Gukak National High School, Hanyang University and finally the graduate school at Sookmyung Women’s University, all to study the instrument.

Even after a decade of playing the gayageum, however, Jung couldn’t land a regular job, as she failed in a series of auditions for Korean traditional orchestras. Pressed due to her family circumstances, she had no choice but to rotate through several part-time jobs including convenience store clerk, racetrack ticket seller and homeschool teacher. At night, starting in 2004, she sang and played gayageum at Hongdae clubs, often with other independent musicians. At long last, in 2006, she won the chance to record her first album when her application for a state-funded recording project was accepted. She was still working a day job as a telephone operator at the time.

Between her many jobs, she attended private institutes to learn the formal patterns of Western music and jazz, to complement her existing knowledge of Korean traditional music.

“Understanding of Western music was necessary for communicating with my fellow performers. When they play gugak, they should learn Korean traditional musical theories and terms as well,� she said. Through the learning experience, she realized the blues scale of the Western music went very well with the gyemyeon mode, a minor key in gugak, and adopted this new finding into her music.

With her recording debut, she quit her full-time job to become a professional musician.

“I have managed to scratch together a living with my earnings from music - stage performances and copyright income - even if it is still far from being huge,� she said.

Now, Jung feels her past failure to become an orchestra member was a blessing in disguise.

“Should I have passed in one of the auditions, I would have gotten good job stability and social status. But I would have never faced a life-changing turning point. Performing at Hongdae clubs over the years has dislodged my range of personal biases about society, and I’ve become a better person,� she said.

Jung has a series of upcoming events that are expected to propel her into the mainstream.

On April 16 and 17, Jung and Seo will hold their first joint recital at Jayu Theater in Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul.

Jung is also being featured in an independent documentary film. The film has been shooting her street performances as well as a 15-day tour across big and small towns in Korea since August last year, and it’s set for release in December.

Naturally, Jung is in charge of the score.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]


- Joongang Daily (2010)




For young clubbers, it must be quite an eye-opener to see Jung Mi-na first pick up her "gayageum" (a 12-stringed Korean traditional instrument) to perform at a club in Hongdae, western Seoul, the nexus of the country's nightlife.
When Jung sings her own compositions to her revised, 25-string gayageum, what the audience sees is a new crossover artist who is much cooler than they thought an original traditional musician could be. What they do not see, though, is the extremely unfavorable market situation the country's traditional musicians have to go through to remain in the music business.

After graduating from Gukak National High School and earning a degree in Korean traditional music at Hanyang University in Seoul, Jung originally pursued a job at one of the major institutions or ensembles specializing in traditional Korean music such as the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts or the Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra. After five unsuccessful auditions, however, she was forced to start her current full-time job as a customer service agent in the call center of a mobile payment solutions company.

"I will continue to perform as long as there are people who`d like to enjoy my music," Jung Mi-na says.
"It takes much more than efforts alone to get into a decent ensemble," Jung told The Korea Herald on Saturday. She says there are only one to two openings for such positions a year, while Hanyang University, her alma mater, alone produces 35 traditional Korean music majors annually. "Some of my school friends opened their own institutes and others work as part-time teachers, traveling around schools to give lessons," she continued. Jung also worked as a part-time teacher, but it was not enough to make ends meet. She also had to support her ailing mother, and therefore could no longer wait for another chance to join an institute or ensemble.
Despite having worked at the call center for the past five years, she has never - not even for a day - neglected her gayageum training. "Almost all of my customers call me with complaints. It isn't easy to deal with them all day," she said.

She started to perform at clubs after she graduated from university, when she worked part-time - not as a musician but as a counter clerk - at a live music club in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province. "The owner of the club also runs a music studio where he and other underground musicians come to jam and teach each other," added Jung, who says she is a huge fan of U.S. rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hawaii-born singer-songwriter Jack Johnson.

It was the owner of the club who provided her with the opportunity to perform, and Jung, who is native to Anyang, soon became a star not only in her hometown but also in Hongdae. "The gayageum's sound goes well with almost any Western instrument. Compared with other Korean instruments, it has a deeper 'conquered sorrow' tone to it."

Earlier this month, her album titled "Sangsamong (Love Dream)" - a collection of six songs of her own composition plus four new arrangements of well-known pop and traditional folk songs - came out on the Sony-BMG label with the sponsorship of the Korea Culture and Content Agency.

The title song, "Love Dream" was inspired by the poetry of Hwang Jin-i, a famous "gisaeng" (female entertainer) of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), while "Robot's Diary" is based on a poem written by the owner of the club in Anyang she used to work for.

With hundreds of fans as members of her online fan cafe, she doesn't earn a penny for her performances at the clubs. She just appreciates the opportunities she is given to play the gayageum.

"It will be great if some day I could devote myself to music, without worrying about living," she said. "But whether or not the time comes, I will continue to perform as long as there are people who'd like to enjoy my music."

(danlee@heraldm.com)


By Lee Yong-sung

- Korea Herald (2007)




Jung Mina
Your impression of Hongdae may have stopped at hip-hop, punk and rock. Now, toss in a bit of Asian ``flava’’ because homegirl Jung Mi-na is bouncing in with her twelve-stringed Korean harp Kayakum.
The singer songwriter has been picking her strings on Hongdae stages for almost two years, but she began getting widespread attention recently for her unique fusion music.

``I’m still a bit shaken by all this media spotlight,’’ said Jung, who released an album through Sony BMG Records at the end of last November.

Going from club to club to signing a major deal _ Jung has lived through many highs and lows to reach this pinnacle point in her musical life.

``No one came looking for me. I had to go after people to find a venue where I can perform my kind of music,’’ said the 28-year-old musician.

Jung began Kayakum by chance when she was in the eighth grade.

``My childhood dream was to become a traditional dancer, so I did diehard training for that,’’ she recalled. But when she broke her leg in a motorcycle accident, the young girl’s dream shattered.

``Luckily, I had seen other girls playing the kayakum at the after school program I was involved in,’’ Jung said. ``When I learned that dancing was no longer an option for me, the string instrument was sort of a `plan B’ for me.’’

It may have been just a plan B back then, but now, kayakum is Jung’s everything.

After graduating from Gukak National High School and getting a degree Korean classical music at Hanyang University, Jung sought to land a job in one of the major national music institutions.

Doors didn’t open easily, so she had to start a job unrelated to her dream. The music enthusiast worked as a customer service agent for numerous companies and settled at being satisfied with performing only after work in local clubs.

An Anyang native, Jung played in the clubs almost at any opportunity and soon pioneered her way into Hongdae district, an area in Seoul known for its hip and funky music atmosphere.

``Hongdae is great. Unlike people’s preconceptions that the area is just for hip hop music, there is so much variety,’’ she said. ``Just by seeing the enormous genre, I learned so much from other musicians.’’

Jung’s name soon began spreading in the area and she released a mini album two years ago.

``I made only 500 copies and they were completely sold out,’’ she said, adding that that’s around the time when her fan site also started online.

The key opportunity came when Jung’s music was selected by the Korea Culture and Content Agency as one of the 20 teams to get the agency’s support in putting out an album.

``Things began to happen fast and next thing I know, Sony had heard my piece and I was recording in their studio,’’ recalled the soft-voiced, energetic Kayakum player.

The title song of her first album is ``Sangsabong’’ with a distinctive fusion melody.

Asked whether she would be too busy to keep her daytime customer service job with the release of her new album, Jung laughed and said, ``Unless I have a set income coming, there’s no way I’m letting go of this job.’’

A fan of the band Red Hot Chilly Pepper and Jack Johnson, Jung is looking forward to the new year as she preps up to stage many more exciting performances.

``I never really make any grand plans,’’ she said. ``My thing is to just be natural, be cool and go with the flow.’’


By Jane Han
Staff Reporter

jhan@koreatimes.co.kr


- Korea Times (2007)


Discography


Aewha : personal manufacturing EP
Sansamong (Love Dream) : Her debut album. Distributed by Sony Music
Jansang (Afterimage) : Released in 2010. Distributed by Sony Music


1st album : Circle
2nd album : Bridge

Photos

Bio

Jung, Mina
A composer, a singer and a player for the contemporary music of Gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument. She studied gayageum at the National High School of Traditional Music and then at Hanyang University . She was the first Gayageum player who usually played this traditional instrument in Korean indi pop scene. She released 2 CDs and they¡¯ve been sold more than 12,000 copies. Her debut was pretty sensational in Korea.

Seo, Youngdo
He is one of the most highly acclaimed bass player in Korea. He studied electric and acoustic bass at Seoul Institute of The Arts. He is renowned studio musican and a jazz artist. He has played with various artists such as Keith Carlock, Bob James and Harvey Mason. He has been invited from many jazz and world music festivals in local and Asia.