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CAN THIS KOREAN SINGER REVIVE FRENCH JAZZ?

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    Posted: 18 Jun 2017 at 12:50am
Koreans work some of the longest hours in the world, while the French work some of the shortest. When Youn Sun Nah quit her corporate job in fashion to move to Paris to study jazz at the ripe old age of 25, the hyperkinetic Korean singer continued to apply the work habits of her motherland, by attending four schools simultaneously (though she claims her voice is “80 percent genetic” rather than a product of the mad multitasking). Even after topping the jazz charts in France, Nah continues working the Korean way, averaging more than 100 concerts annually while renting a modest flat in Paris — last month, her eighth album, She Moves On, was released.

Both Koreans and the French claim the 47-year-old Nah as their own. At the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which heralded the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Nah sang an upbeat rendition of Korea’s beloved folk song “Arirang,” which sublimates the longing of an abandoned lover. Nah has been awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and Le Monde called her a “UFO touching the universe of jazz with a magnificent voice and passionate originality; jubilation in triple time.”


To understand Nah’s astral nature, tune into her “Calypso Blues” on YouTube, which features looping technology overlaying the vocals. After a shamanic incantation in free time, Nah clicks, pops and hums before laying down a groovy bass line. The dulcet melody opens, “Sittin’ by de ocean, me heart, she feel so sad.” She improvises and modulates her timbre and rhythm each chorus — a new planet with each loop.

Nah balances both classicism and experimentalism, says Didi Stewart, professor of voice at the Berklee College of Music. Nah uses her voice to evoke jazz instrumentalists: In her interpretation of “Besame Mucho,” for example, she sings like a saxophone player, while in “Enter Sandman,” she evokes Janis Joplin with metal-style guitar textures.

For She Moves On, Nah partnered with veterans of the avant-garde New York jazz scene, including producer John Zorn. While her previous albums showcased cosmopolitan titles (“Breakfast in Baghdad,” “India Song”), her latest features American classics such as Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic “Drifting” and Joni Mitchell’s soulful “The Dawntreader” alongside her own compositions.

from www.ozy.com

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