Monday, January 10, 2011

Major acts to grace Seoul stages in January

Mary J. Blige, in her first concert in Korea, is one of the artists to perform this month



Joe Hisaishi / Mary J. Blige
Joe Hisaishi, Mary J. Blige, Maximilian Hecker and Rachael Yamagata will all have concerts in Seoul this month. Provided by the organizers

Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was here on Sunday and British rock star Sting performs here today. But even if you missed these big-name acts, don’t worry. Another series of potentially mind-boggling acts is scheduled over the coming two weeks.

First among them is Mary J. Blige, an American hip-hop and R&B singer who will have her first concert in Korea on Jan. 16. The concert is part of the diva’s “Music Saved My Life” world tour.

Blige, winner of nine Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards, has been outspoken about having overcome drugs, alcohol and past relationships through music.

“There is always a song in our lives,” the singer said in an e-mail interview with the Korean press.

Songs have saved peoples’ lives, including hers, based on the stories they tell, she said.

At her concert in Seoul, she will sing some of her greatest hits, including “Family Affair,” a song that became extremely popular here after it was featured in a television commercial for a cell phone. The set list also includes “Be Without You” and “I Am.”

Next to come is Japanese composer and conductor Joe Hisaishi. Although his name may not be familiar to some people, he is known for composing the jolly “Totoro” song from Hayao Miyazaki’s world-renowned animated film “My Neighbor Totoro” and a host of other songs for films by the legendary Japanese director.

Maximilian Hecker / Rachael Yamagata
Hisaishi, 61, began composing songs for Miyazaki’s films in 1984 with the animated movie “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” He has also worked on other Miyazaki films, including “Spirited Away” (2001) and “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” (2008).

He also composed the soundtrack for Korean television drama “Legend” and the Korean film “Welcome to Dongmakgol” (2005) by director Jang Jin.

When asked in a recent e-mail interview with the JoongAng Ilbo what elements of his music he thinks audiences find appealing, he said, “Good melodies contain the joy, anger, sorrow and happiness of life. I create warm melodies for certain scenes in a film, and sad yet strong melodies for others.”

Hisaishi also said his previous concert in Korea in 2005 was “unforgettable.”

“I still remember the fervor from the audience and the enthusiasm of the orchestra,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the passion that is indigenous to the Korean audience.”

At the upcoming concert, he will both conduct and play the piano with the Korean Symphony Orchestra.

Last to come is a concert to be led by German musician Maximilian Hecker and Japanese-American singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata. Both have become popular among younger Koreans who enjoy hearing dreamy ballads.

Yamagata will perform for the first 90 minutes and Hecker will perform for the final 90 minutes following a 20 minute intermission.

*Mary J. Blige will perform at 5 p.m. on Jan. 16 at Kyung Hee University’s Peace Hall. Tickets range from 66,000 won ($58.65) to 165,000 won. For more information, call (02) 3775-1588.

Joe Hisaishi will perform at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 and 19 at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts’ Grand Theatre.

The Hecker-Yamagata concert begins at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23, also at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts’ Grand Theatre. Tickets range from 55,000 won to 88,000 won. For details on the latter two concerts, call (02) 3143-5155. 

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