Ethnic Korean to compose new tourism song“I really wanted to do this,” Yang Bang-ean said in slow, careful Korean, sitting with his legs crossed, while sipping a cup of green tea he held with both hands. “I didn’t feel obligated to take the job, but I am certainly proud.”
Known as a crossover artist in Western and Eastern music, the Korean-Japanese pianist and composer has been in Korea since last week on a job he took to “make my mother country proud.”
For two months, Yang will work with the Korea Tourism Organization to create a song to promote tourism in Korea to foreign travelers. Yang’s music will be used in computer-generated promotional films that will be translated into 11 languages for broadcast around the world by next year.
“Korea’s tourism resources are diverse and their images are dynamic,” said Lim Yong-wook, head of the advertisement production team of the Korea Tourism Organization. “We thought Mr. Yang was the right person to represent such varied images of Korea to the world with his music.”
This is the first time the government agency has hired an active professional in the pop scene to create music for its promotional material.
Yang combines classical music, rock, jazz and traditional rhythms and melodies from different regions around the world. He said he is most influenced by Johann Sebastian Bach, Led Zeppelin and Tower of Power.
“The advertisement’s motto is ‘Sparkling Korea,’ which means it has passion, diverse colors and liveliness,” the 46-year-old musician said. “I am going to try to carry that image in my music.”
Yang (his Japanese name is Ryo Kunihiko) was born in Tokyo to a South Korean father from Jeju Island and a North Korean mother from the city of Sinuiju.
He studied the piano throughout his childhood but became a doctor, graduating from the Nippon Medical School. He had always wanted to be a musician but it was not until he was in a seminar on plastic surgery at Tokyo Hospital that he realized he still had that desire. He left the seminar and his practice and has never looked back.
He performed in a band with Akira Jimbo, a renowned drummer in Japan, and became a popular keyboard player and musical director in both Japan and Hong Kong. He worked on many movies, including “Fist of Fury” starring Bruce Lee and “Thunderbolt” starring Jackie Chan. He also worked as a producer for Hong Kong rock band Beyond, Japanese musician Toshihiko Furumura and Russian singer Origa.
It was not until nine years ago that Yang came to Korea for the first time. His first destination was Jeju Island, his father’s homeland. That was when he first heard Korea’s traditional percussion, which he said he has added to his music, along with “exotic” sounds from other locales.
In Korea, Yang has composed the official song for the Busan Asian Games and soundtracks for the KBS documentary “Porcelain” and MBC’s hit television drama “Sangdo.”
He is currently working on director Im Kwon-taek’s 100th film, “Thousand-Year Crane.”
“Although I had worked as a musician for a long time, I got inspired differently by visiting Korea,” he said. “There’s a feeling that this traditional music flows in my veins. I wanted to express it and use it in my music in a modern way.”
by Lee Min-a