Music With a Latin Beat Sets the Tempo for Concerts Next Year

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Music With a Latin Beat Sets the Tempo for Concerts Next Year

Next year's concert lineup promises to forgo traditional stodginess. Leave your opera coat and white gloves behind, but definitely bring your binoculars for a close-up of the rhythm-packed entertainment.

Vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo and pianist Ruben Gonzalez will be in Korea for performances on Feb. 5 and 6 at the LG Arts Center. The trio are part of an Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble known as the Buena Vista Social Club. Composed of legendary musicians from an era reminiscent of old Havana, the members came together under the vision of the American guitarist Ry Cooder and feature in a documentary made by the German director Wim Wenders.

Mr. Cooder traveled to Havana in 1996 seeking musicians whose days in the spotlight had faded with the rise of Fidel Castro. The album Mr. Cooder helped record, "Buena Vista Social Club," features
a range of Cuban music, including rumba, salsa and mambo. The album went on to win a 1997 Grammy Award. For more information on this concert, call 02-2005-0114.

The Buena Vista Social Club concert is just one example of the rising popularity of Latin music in South Korea. Just last year, it was virtually impossible to buy the "Buena Vista Social Club" album in music stores here but now Latin music has become all the craze on the popular music scene. Korea has become part of the worldwide trend that has seen the rise of such Latino stars as Ricky Martin.

Pop singers Park Mi-kyung, Paek Ji-young and Hong Kyung-min paved the way for mainstream acceptance of Latin music locally. Miss Park had been doing Latin-inspired tracks long before they became popular in Korea. Miss Paek, the salsa queen now in the spotlight for a sex-video scandal, has been riding the Latin wave since "Rouge," her second and most recent album. Songs such as Sad Salsa" and "Dash" are clearly based on Latin rhythms. Mr. Hong, a newcomer, has been dubbed the Ricky Martin of Korea and the man himself performed here in October.

This growing popularity has seen Latin music crossing the bridge from being performed by young singers in clubs and rock concerts to being performed in venerable concert halls. Sometimes the concerts are "crossovers," a Korean term for a mix of classical music and more contemporary forms.

A coming "crossover" concert is the "New Year Concert" on Jan. 19 at the Seoul Arts Center when Conductor Gum Nan-se will lead the Eurasian Chamber Orchestra. The first half of the concert will comprise classical numbers — Mozart's "Serenade in G Major," Kreisler's "Liebesleid, Lebesfreud" and Tchaikovsky's "Chanson Triste" and "Humoresque." After an intermission however, the program list has a section simply titled "Music Presents," which will feature jazz, tango and movie soundtracks. Call 02-598-8277 for more information.

Another coming concert with Latin music is "L'Orchestre de Contrebasses" on Feb. 2 at the LG Arts Center. Six contrabasses from Paris will mix music with whimsy in what promises to be an unusual night of entertainment. Created by Christian Gentet, this group has been called "musical pioneers" for its ingenuity. Inspired by soul, jazz, classic and Latin music, the group emphasizes the performance aspect of being in concert. For more information, call 02-2005-0114.

by Joe Yong-hee

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