[ENTERTAINMENT]A Folk Rocker - of, by and for the People

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[ENTERTAINMENT]A Folk Rocker - of, by and for the People

"Songs have their own lives and destinies. Some songs these days are easily forgotten after a couple of months, while others survive over 10, 20 or 30 years. The important thing, however, is that songs are destined not by the songwriters or singers, but by the people who listen to them," said Yang Hee-eun, 48, a singer with a 30-year career. She will release a best-of album this year along with a new album.

Yang, a folk rock musician, must be understood in terms of modern Korean history, particularly the time of the people's resistance against dictatorship. Yang's most well-known piece, "Achim Iseul" ("Morning Dew"), first released in 1971 and still a favorite classic, gained popularity not in concerts or on the radio, but during street demonstrations.

Her strong and resonant voice lends itself to heavy solemn songs like "Morning Dew." Originally written and sung by Kim Min-gi, "Morning Dew" described people's enthusiasm for democracy in a metaphorical way, such as "The red sun rises above the graveyard and the sultry heat in the middle of the day is the trial for me." The song, which was frequently chanted in protests, was on the government list of forbidden songs until the late 1980s.

These days you can hear "Morning Dew" more often in karaoke bars than in massive street demonstrations. Yang does not regret this, however. She said, "As a pop song, that is the destiny of 'Morning Dew.'"

When it comes to Yang's own destiny as a singer, she said that it was natural for her to pursue a singing career. "I was a member of a music club at the YWCA in high school, one of the few places that I could afford to go. At the YWCA, I met several radio program producers who offered me an album deal."

She also pursued a career as a radio DJ, and even now you can hear her voice on the radio program, "Yeoseong Sidae" ("Women's Age"), on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation from 9:10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Though she made an impressive debut with "Morning Dew," Yang said that it became a burden to her that she had to live up to her initial fame. "I could have eased that load with the song 'Han-gyeryeong' ('Han-gye Mountain Range'), which was originally refused by the recording company for being too dark and heavy again. What was amazing, however, was that the song gained popularity on its own after three years by the public."

It's no surprise that Yang is well aware of the people's strength.

"I think that this country is supported not by its various leaders but by the public," she said. "My songs, which are pop songs, should be able to hold the hands of the public."

Yang is scheduled to stage concerts commemorating her three decades as a singer from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

"I will include the song "Even After I Left" in the new album," Yang said. "I want to be a singer who is remembered and loved after I die."

by Choe Jae-hee

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