[ON STAGE]Rock pioneer gets his due licks

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[ON STAGE]Rock pioneer gets his due licks

"Rock embodies the depths of the human mind," the famed guitarist Shin Jung-hyun says with dignity in his studio in the southern Seoul shopping district of Munjeong. "It's explosive, but also very subtle - that's what makes it powerful."

Shin formed the first rock band in Korea, Add4, decades ago. Now 64, he is one of the country's most respected musicians, but also one of the humblest. "I am extremely insecure when it comes to my appearance," he says. "I hardly ever look in a mirror."

Indeed, he has always kept a low profile. But the maestro will take the big stage at the Sejong Center next Tuesday and Wednesday to mark 40 years as a rock musician.

Shin used to be a prime target of government censors. Ever since he was arrested for smoking marijuana in the '70s, his music has been banned for long periods for such offenses as "promoting distrust," "indecent tone of voice," "decadent rhythms" and "inappropriate content for television broadcasts." The pressure got worse after he turned down a Blue House request to write a song praising former President Park Chung Hee. From that point, Shin's music was blacklisted by the government and went from the mainstream to deep underground.

In his Munjeong studio hangs a black and white poster of Jimi Hendrix, a family photo and an upside-down clock. So eccentric that a reporter once labeled him an "autistic artist," Shin sees the world differently than most, and it shows in his edgy music. "I promised myself when I first got my hands on a guitar that I would master it, even if I had to sell my soul to the devil," he once said.

Considering that his music has always been shadowed by censorship, his performance at the Sejong Center - the mainstream institution once owned by the government - marks a significant change in his image. Shin will perform with his three sons, who also work in music. The tunes on the playlist include hits that Shin composed for other musicians, like "The Beautiful Woman" ("Mee-in") and "A Cup of Coffee" ("Keopee hanjan").

Shin quit smoking and drinking for the Sejong performance. "I've done enough of that stuff," he says. "I've gone beyond that. Now I want to play."

For information call 031-871-1964. Tickets are 30,000 won ($23) to 90,000 won.

by Park Soo-mee

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