[HOT TRACK]Singer as a Work in Progress

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[HOT TRACK]Singer as a Work in Progress

"The music is my self-portrait," explained An Chi-hwan, 35, a popular rock and folk musician. The portrait reflects the artist's career-long pursuit of freedom, as a musician who arose out of the democracy demonstrations of the 1980s. The raw power of his music causes discomfort, but it is the same discomfort and tension that deliberately exist in Van Gogh's self-portraits. An has re-leased his seventh album, "Good Luck!"

An was born in the '60s, entered college in the '80s and is now in his 30s. He is among the "386 Generation," (symbolizing men in their 30s who entered college in the '80s and were born in the '60s) a term for those who grew up in the politically unstable '70s and '80s.

At that time, music was one of the outlets for the democracy movement. Music provided encouragement to the demonstrators. Folk and rock were as familiar to the protest scenes as tear gas. After graduating from Yonsei University, An lent his voice to the democracy movement. He began a solo career in 1989, which made people question whether his music was a political force or a fixture of pop culture. Gradually many political demonstrators developed their own genre of music, and An is considered one of the most successful of those who broke into the popular music scene.

He still sings about more profound topics such as freedom, rather than typical songs about love. Even in love songs, his lyrics are abstract, such as "If I were a cloud, I'd like to fall asleep in your eyes," from his song "If I Were." His songs have a roughness to them and lack sophisticated polish. They are serious rather than stimulative, which does not fit the model that popular music prescribes. With his band, "An Chi-hwan & Freedom," An has found his own style. His albums have deftly bridged progressive and popular music. His songs, such as "Sarami Ggotboda Areumdawo" ("People Are More Beautiful Than Flowers") do not follow any established formula, yet they have gained popularity.

In the new release, the single, "To Daffodils," with lyrics by the poet Jeong Ho-seung, is representative of An's mature sound. "Confession in 13 Years," is An's reflection on his 13-year career. He muses that he should have spread his message of freedom more aggressively.

An and his music have not changed in focus; his mission is to change the world rather than make money. An will perform from Thursday to Sunday in Seoul Arts Center. For concert information, call 02-3272-2334 (Korean service only).


by Chun Su-jin

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