Nothing beats a good Bobby Kim song to make the soundtrack of a drama come to life with subtext.
While Park Hyo-shin is off serving his country* (an inevitable heartache for fans of actors, singers, celebrities, and just ordinary folks is that there is mandatory military service for young men in South Korea), I have been searching out some of his earlier works. Thanks to my Soribada subscription, I’ve come up with a few particular gems that have my fingers reaching for the “Replay” button every time they come up. This is one of them.
너무 모르고 있죠 이미 떠난 사인데
언젠가 올 거란 생각에
마냥 웃고만 있죠 슬픈 상처뿐인데
곁에 있을거라 믿었죠
걱정돼요 내가 없으면
어느것 하나도 할 수 없던 사람인데
*꼭 한번(또 다시)만날 수 있다면
아직 남겨진 내 맘 전하고 싶은데
내가 부족한가요 당신을 원한 이유로
이렇게 날 외면하려 하나요
단 한번 사랑을 믿어요
볼 수 있다면 나 웃고 살 수 있는데
허나 다른 사랑 찾아가란 말은 말아요
날 버리진 않겠죠 그럴리 없잖아요 you
부탁해요 곁에 없어도 몸조심하세요
참 힘겨워 했잖아요
언젠가 잠시라도 기억할 수 있다면
난 그걸로 돼요
* Update: Park completed his military service in late 2012 and is hopefully hard at work finding new projects!
Note: This article was written for The Korean Quarterly and relates the events of a concert attended by this author in September, 2010.
It’s a Sunday afternoon in Wonju City, about a 2-hour drive from Seoul, and the first of the two concerts that will close out Bobby Kim’s “Heart & Soul” tour is about to begin. The lights come up, and with the audience in eager anticipation; he takes to the stage, trim and urbane in a light-colored double-breasted jacket, open-necked shirt, with an elegant flair reminiscent of Sammy Davis Jr.
Kim opens the show with “Hotel California,” the signature hit from 1976 for country rock legends, the Eagles. And immediately you know, this is going to be a very personal journey into the musical world of Bobby Kim.
Photo credit: Oscar Entertainment
After the concert, Kim graciously spared some time from his rest period before the final show to respond to a few questions about his career, sharing both past experiences, his professional philosophy, and future aspirations.
Once introductions were out of the way, our attention immediately turned to the extraordinary range of the concert’s set list. After opening with the Eagles’ number, Kim ventured into Motown territory; later he engaged the audience in a sing-along of McCartney’s “Let It Be,” one of the last songs recorded by the Beatles – selections revealing his culturally diverse background and tastes. He spoke of how artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and others influenced him and shaped his musical vocabulary while growing up in California. Rock, soul, reggae, Kim professed a passion for a wide variety of musical genres. Throughout the concert he’d demonstrated this versatility, letting his warm and flexible voice soar through the R&B and soul-tinged songs from his latest album, “Heart & Soul,” and prior releases, such as the well-received “Love Chapter: 1.” In a later set, Kim traded the elegantly tailored look and sound for well-worn jeans, tee, and jacket and hit back hard with the rap numbers. In both instances he was equally at home and had the audience at his command.
Another important contributor to his musical story is his father, Yong-geun Kim, a professional trumpeter, who moved the family to the States to pursue his own vision, and in doing so, exposed his son to both a wide musical world and different cultures. This eclectic sampling of genres from an early age has taken root in Bobby’s talented mind. One of the things he expressed great pleasure in was borrowing from this broad spectrum and incorporating it in new ways in his melodies. A perfect example of this can be found in one of the numbers performed during the concert, the lovely 소나무 (“Evergreen”), which borrows from the German Christmas melody, “O Tannenbaum,” and develops it into a poignant ballad.
Photo credit: R Nystrom
Apparent during the concert and supported by his remarks, Bobby Kim is a generous artist, ready to share the stage with those who bring the same passion to the music. The concert featured Kim sharing the spotlight with Ghan-D and Juvie Train, performing a number of songs from their Buga Kingz releases that pulsed with energy. Their joy in performing together was visible and set the audience to dancing in their seats and in the aisles with equal abandon.
This is due, perhaps, to his appreciation for the struggle to be heard. Debuting in 1994, Kim’s entrée to the professional world was not an easy one. Often referred to as the “grandfather of rap” for his early work in that genre, he admitted that being on the leading edge did not translate into success. Highly respected by his peers, he collaborated with a number of artists in the Korean music industry. In a voice that was modest and low-key after the efforts of the concert, Kim recounted how his solo recordings came about: while writing and shopping songs produced for other artists, he was encouraged by those who listened to the demo tracks he’d cut to record the songs for himself. His work as a solo artist was favorably received and in 2004, his recording of the song, 고래의 꿈 (“The Whale’s Dream”), topped the charts.
Along the way Kim has made conscious choices as a performer and a professional. He doesn’t want to take the path of the idol singer, performing on endless array of variety shows. He’s worked diligently to craft his music and wants to earn the respect of his audience through his music. The path he’s chosen has been at times slow and he’s met with his share of frustrations and disappointments, but his voice reveals both pride in the way he’s achieved his goals and a measure of determination to continue his journey in a way that is emotionally and creatively rewarding. Upon hearing his story it was evident that Kim’s music must indeed come from both his heart and soul. The words to the opening track of “Heart & Soul” are part anthem, part mission statement for Kim: “Free, so free, I do.”
What does the future hold for Bobby Kim? He is currently working on a single that he is featured on with Korean rapper Double K and will be produced by a famous Japanese producer. Several months ago it was also announced that Kim will be releasing an album and holding his first concert in Japan, with a targeted dates in mid-November. What will this mean for the artist? With the growing interest in Korean music evident in Japan, the potential exists for a successful expansion into a new fan base of some of the largest consumers of music in the world. This represents a new challenge for Bobby Kim, and one that he has the talent and determination to take on.
When asked about plans to return to the States and an opportunity for fans here to enjoy his performances, Kim welcomed the possibility and expressed an interest in doing so. All that’s required is the right invitation to make that a reality. In the meantime, Bobby Kim’s fans will have to content themselves to enjoying his
growing body of work on CDs.
Bobby Kim Discography*
- Heart & Soul (2010)
- Love Chapter: 1 (2009)
- Follow Your Soul (2006)
- Beats Within My Soul (2004)
- Holy Bumz Presents (1998, reissued in 2005 as Ground Zero)
- The Menu (2008)
- The Renaissance (2005)
- Bugalicious (2001)
* Bobby Kim is also featured on recordings of other artists such as Drunken Tiger and the Brown Eyed Girls, and is featured on the OSTs for a number of Korean drama series, most recently for “Dr. Champ.” A smartphone application for “Heart & Soul” is also available on iTunes. Bobby Kim is represented by Oscar Entertainment.
Rejoice! I don’t have to wait to order discs via Korea to get the tunes I’m longing to enjoy (nor will I be reduced to finding ‘other sources’ to feed this addiction). Soribada has launched a beta version of their digital music download portal in English: http://kpop.soribada.com/En/ And don’t be mislead by the “kpop” in the URL; they also offer other musical genres, including Rock, Indie, R&B, and yes, even Trot!
They enticed me with 10 free tunes so I was there, front and center before my computer, sampling and ordering away. One of my first picks was a lovely song performed by Suzy of the group Miss A in her role as Hye Mi in the drama “Dream High.” It is “Winter Child” or “겨울아이” and it’s simply lovely. Check it out for yourself.[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7431696/%EA%B2%A8%EC%9A%B8%EC%95%84%EC%9D%B4.mp3 ]
On my recent trip to Korea and Japan I picked up a number of CDs, both to add to my collection of works by favorite artists and to find more works by performers who had recently come to my attention. One of these is the Korean indie rock group 메이트 (Mate). I’d learned about Mate thanks to a posting from the Dramabeans site and knew, upon that first listen, that I wanted to hear more.
One song I particularly like is “이제 다시” or “Once Again,” on the With Me album (available on iTunes). Check it out for yourself…
[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/u/7431696/%EC%9D%B4%EC%A0%9C%20%EB%8B%A4%EC%8B%9C.m4a ]