Multitalented Entertainer Dr. Jolly Tune Lee.Amid a chorus of approving shouts, the man on the stage turns to the crowd. "Let's hit it!" he says. "Let me hear a big cheer!"
The cheers are for a unique performer whose Korean stage name, Shinbaram, roughly translates to "Jolly Tune." He's a doctor, of sorts, too － in the manner, perhaps, of hip-hop's Dr. Dre, or the NBA's Dr. J. But Dr. "Jolly Tune" Lee, whose music is a blend of Korean easy-listening "trot" music － a favorite of middle-aged bus drivers － is in a class by himself. Dr. "Jolly Tune" Lee, who returned to Korea after living in Japan for a number of years, is once again set to delight local audiences. He is loved for his ad-libbing midway through songs － a talent he supplements with impressions, twisted facial expressions and a wardrobe of outrageous costumes.
The style of music he created has also made him a star in Japan. Dubbed techno ppong-jak, it is a combination of repeating techno beats, a particular brand of Korean folk music known as "trot," and a stream of comic narrative.
"He can sing more than 500 songs in six or seven hours without taking a break. That's why he is called Dr. "Jolly Tune". He has a huge repertoire and believes music can ease tension in the audience immediately, " said Shin Yong-mi, a spokesperson at Sony Music Entertainment Korea.
Though trot music primarily appeals to middle-aged audiences, Lee has swept the country by overlaying traditional trot tunes with stories told in an electronically altered voice, with keyboard melodies and synthesized percussion.
Favorites include his rendition of "Kangwondo Arirang," "Song of Birds" and "Glimmer of a Firefly."
This new approach to old songs has also won over a younger audience. The inclusion of comedy into his act has filled a gap left by the straight pop techno marketed for teenagers. Particular favorites include "Assarabiah" and "Oooooo Yeah."
His fans say the music relieves their stress. "He's just a natural man with a sense of humor the audience loves," said Yu Nam-gyu, a college student. "His ad-libbing keeps people from getting bored because he gives an added dimension to techno music's repetitiveness."
Lee's album debut came in 1989 with "Shinbaram, Dr. Lee's Disco Melody." It sold over a million copies, despite concerns that its appeal was limited to an older generation.
In 1996, Sony Music Entertainment Korea signed him up. He began touring in Japan, and was well received. Lee's success led him to write a book, "Encyclopedia of Ppong-jak," which sold 200,000 copies in Japan.
Dr. "Jolly Tune" Lee is playing five concerts in Seoul, from Dec. 6-10, at the Taehangno Live Hall. He also released an compilation album of his hits, "Space Fantasy."
For more information, call Ticket Link at 02-1588-7890.
by Kim Jae-seon
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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