Help! I'm in a K-Drama!

   Image result for alert sign

   My cell phone buzzed a frantic alert this morning. Apparently alerts come with the Sim card and are sent over by text in Korean. So I called my airbnb host, who is a policeman, to ask him if I was in some kind of danger. He explained it was just weather related; an advisory to stay inside today due to the extreme heat and subsequent bad air quality, I am heeding the call and instead writing another blog post. ALERT! Be prepared. It's a long-winded one but the quality is hopefully good! In any case, I'll plan to go out later tonight when the sun goes down! I've also signed up for a "Walking Tour of Gangnam by Moonlight" for tomorrow. Looks like my speed!

   I am thrust into a nomadic life now as I follow a musical path around the world. More about that below. Now that I'm actually here I am wondering, "Whatever was I thinking???"

   It was enough just to step out of the airbnb apartment to feel like I have now been transported into one of my K-dramas (Korean drama)! Is this what it means to be "living the dream"? Everyone here looks like a K-drama actor. Very beautiful people. I've heard they care a lot about their looks. Apparently that's true. I've noticed many women and even men checking themselves using their cellphones as mirrors. I confirm it. They look spectacular! I stick out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless the Koreans only politely glance my way rather then stare me down. I think they are shocked at first so they quickly look away! LOL

   By the way, in just two days I've become a subway-riding expert. That is as long as I have my trusty English subway map! Like in Israel public transportation is abundant here in this area of Korea (Seoul). Thousands of people use the public transit which seems to go just about everywhere. However, it's often a long walk to a station and then to the connecting subway lines. According to the scale in this airbnb I seem to have already lost at least 5 pounds due to all my traipsing around. I'm not complaining!

The street near my airbnb

   Looking around you will see most people, save the more elderly, attached to their cell phones. What a world we all live in these days. I'm guilty of it too!

   Korean actors and idols speckle the streets, subways and restaurants everywhere. It's like I'm hanging out with my old familiar friends. In fact I've marked the way to my airbnb by noting the larger-than-life cutout of the actor who played the Grim Reaper in the drama, Goblin. (recommended by the way!)

Lee Dong Wook - The Grim Reaper from "Goblin"

My guide to the airbnb

 If only I had made more of an effort to learn the language. Truth be told my brain has stored a small vocabulary which I am now putting to good use. I can't say much but I can certainly grab someone's attention! In all honesty the dramas have helped a lot. Just getting familiar with the sound and intonation of the language, glimpses into the history and culture and especially the musical phenomenon of K-Pop have helped a lot. I can catch a word here and there and even understand an entire sentence now and then. I can also read... slowly... but it's helpful for sure.

   For example, yesterday I finally ventured out to a restaurant to grab a bite. I have no idea what is being served since everything is written mostly in Korean. So I found a place that had some nice pictures hung on the wall of the different dishes. Between the managers bad English and my bad Korean, and also with the help of another customer, somehow I managed to get a nice beef fried rice with the sides that come with it all for a whopping $5.95. I also knew the Korean word for water. YES! At least there was a spoon there to scoop everything up with!

   The young student who sat next to me was very happy to receive the side with the tiny little beady-eyed fish in it! Not my thing!

   I admit it. I have watched way too many Korean dramas over the years. In my defense, I became an addict by mistake. It was so boring in New Hampshire over the last 6-7 years of my time there. The kids had grown, left the nest and were living happily on their own. I was still in "mom" mode though. When I was finished with whatever I managed to occupy myself with during the day I then became a couch potato at night. Why? Because there is no other life in NH unless you love nature, skiing, hiking and mountain climbing. I don't. I love making music and schmoozing with people. NH is a bedroom community. Lights out by 9pm. For musicians it might stretch until 10pm or 11pm if a miracle occurs. Ugh.

   I love TV and movies because I am interested in theater and music. I am in awe of actors who successfully take on different characters and roles and who can express emotions so well. Anyway, that's why I got rid of the TV years ago. I'm an addict. I can watch for hours! So it happened. Enter the new age of electronics and there I was again sitting in front of the computer screen. Like magic the free channels on the Internet offered an endless supply of TV shows and movies available at any time of day and night. 24/7. OY VEY.

   Yearning for some multiculturalism and diversity, the likes to which I had become so accustomed during my twenty-two years in Israel, I searched the channels for something in the "foreign" genre. Ironically, I found "Faith", a Korean drama that included all of my favorite elements: sci-fi, fantasy, history, health, healing, contemporary vs. holistic medicine, love and romance, martial arts... you name it this drama had it. After that I was hooked. I watched Korean drama's for three years with commercials. When I finally admitted that I had become a total addict I subscribed and paid in so that I could watch without commercials. So that became my life. What did I like so much about them? The acting is superb. The actors study intensely for years. Prior to filming a historical film they train intensively to capture the era properly. The costumes are exquisite not to mention the actors wearing them! Many of them do their own stunts too. These actors are super talented. I can hardly recognize the same actor with each new role s/he embraces. They also sing, dance and more. Very inspiring. Additionally, even though they are fictional, there is much to be learned about Korean history and contemporary life by way of these dramas.

   Oddly, the historical dramas have given life to my study and understanding of Torah and even of Israel!!! I watched a drama about King Sejong the Great, the king who wanted to help peasants become literate. At that time only the wealthy and the royals could read. Chinese characters were the norm. King Sejong was sympathetic to the people and wanted to help them be able to advance in society. He created a Korean alphabet system that is still in place today. It changed the nature of society.

   King Sejong, a scholar, placed great emphasis on scholarship and education. He promoted cultural, economic and scientific research. He instituted han'gul, the Korean script. Korea today enjoys many other lasting benefits of his rule. (ibid

   I couldn't help but to compare this to Eliezar ben Yehuda, the Lithuania-born visionary who created modern Hebrew from the ancient Biblical language.

   When Eliezer Ben-Yehuda arrived in Palestine (now Israel) in 1881, Hebrew had not been the spoken language of the Jewish people since the time of the Bible. Yet, thanks to Ben-Yehuda, by 1922 enough Jewish pioneers were speaking Hebrew that the British Mandate authorities recognized it as the official language of Jews in Palestine. (ibid)

   I also learned tons from a drama called, Jumong. The series covers the life of the founding king of Goguryeo. Much is fiction but again, this epic 81-episode drama inspired me to review our Torah chapters on Moshe Rabbeinu, the Exodus and the sojourn through the desert - essentially almost the complete Torah! These were exciting times in our Jewish history (and relevant to all faiths!) where we can study and learn all about Jewish nation building. Fascinating! The Korean drama brought it all to life for me. If only we Jews and Israeli's would create some great dramas based on the Torah!!! I don't mean Hollywood-style either. Ugh. Case in point - - Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments or Disney's Prince of Egypt. They come close but cannot be compared to what these Korean dramas offer.

   Still backtracking and digressing I will say briefly that trying to earn a living as a musician in New Hampshire (NH) was a real challenge. After all, artists come to NH to retreat from the hectic city life or life on the road. They come to rest, relax, refresh and find new inspiration. For me, a resident there since 1998, I had had enough rest and relaxation to last me a lifetime. Inspiration too. Just look at my collection of recordings and you'll see that, boring as it was in NH, it wasn't only about K-Dramas. I clearly did make good use of my time. Twenty years was enough though. It was a great place to raise the kids and all that but now it was time to go.

   So here I am in South Korea. Many of you are asking me, "Why South Korea?" It's not because of the dramas though I will admit it IS because of the music. My reality is that it is MUSIC that guides me, shows me the way, inspires me and gives me life. It's true that the dramas led the way to the music. As I mentioned already many of the actors are also great singers and musicians. As I followed an actor I began to learn about Korean music. As a musician I was already a bit familiar with traditional Asian music but this phenomenon called "K-Pop" really grabbed my attention. My good friends are all rolling their eyeballs now! LOL

   K-pop has become a truly global phenomenon thanks to its distinctive blend of addictive melodies, slick choreography and production values, and an endless parade of attractive South Korean performers who spend years in grueling studio systems learning to sing and dance in synchronized perfection.(ibid

** Will the editors out there please let me know if I'm using the ibid thing correctly? I do believe in giving proper credit!
   As the article said, "No country takes its fluffy pop music more seriously than South Korea." 

   OMG. That's quite an understatement! The article continues: 

   "They call it Hallyu, the Korean wave: the idea that South Korean pop culture has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global culture, seen in everything from Korean dramas on Netflix to Korean skincare regimens dominating the cosmetics industry to delicious Korean tacos on your favorite local menu. And at the heart of Hallyu is the ever-growing popularity of K-pop — short, of course, for Korean pop music.'

   "So what is so great about K-Pop?" you have all asked me so often as I've tried unsuccessfully to shove it in your faces! Okay, take note of what you just read above about boring NH. First of all, K-Pop is exciting. The glitz, glamour, eye-candy, the synchronized dancing... but what I love about it was that the music moves the song in multiple directions. K-Pop songs never stick to the 3.5-minute limit. Many are maybe twice as long or more. They change direction in the middle, taking on a new beat, a modulation or even a new melody. Maybe they'll return to the beginning and maybe not. The harmonies - WOW! Since there are usually many singers in a group the harmonies can build and fly all over the place. Like a grand chorus but with fewer singers. The voices are beautiful. Well trained and perfected. Though I'm not too fond of the "girl group's" high-pitched squeaky sounds or of their need to dance like professional sex workers. Yet when the men dance like that, well... okay... The musicianship of the instrumentalists is also high quality. Clearly this is an industry with huge investments in their "idols" and the idols are worked to the bone. There is most definitely a price these young artists must pay. Nevertheless, the results can't be beat.

   So to answer your question, "Why South Korea"? Is it clear now? First and foremost I am a musician following the music. At my age I am embarrassed to call myself a crazed fan yet it's likely that I am that too. However, I, too, have a passion. It was not my intention to become a songwriter yet for some reason I've been gifted from above with at least two hundred or more original songs. As noted already I've managed to record quite a number of them. I've also been blessed with having worked with fabulous musicians and some great studio engineers over the years. My gratitude goes out to you all - you know who you are!

   Beginning with the trip to Africa last year in March 2017 it seems like it's now time to venture out of my bubble. Mr. Future Moyo - this is all due to you! Look now what's happening since you first reached out to me via Facebook!! We established our existence as The Healing Light Project. I met and worked with you and the group, Amavevane Acapella, in Africa. This year we all met again in Israel for an amazing two-week tour to continue our work and to reach out to more people in the world. In fact I am just about to tie up the loose ends of another collaborative work with a poet I recently met in Israel. Here's a teaser link meantime. I'll be sure to post the link to the final production when ready.

   The complete answer now to the question, "Why South Korea?" is that I am praying for a collaboration with one of Korea's most popular singers, Xia-Kim Junsu. It was never my intention to seek after such a high-up superstar. He was not that high up when I first began following him. Why him?

   As I mentioned above, I've been gifted with many songs. Much as I would love to be the one who could sing all of them the way they deserve to be sung, I am not that person. Some songs simply must be sung or played by others. When I met with Amavevane Acapella for the first time in Africa, and I heard the arrangement of the song, Before Mountains, my heart was full. I had been waiting to hear that song sung that way since 1995!!!

   My love for musical collaborations started way back in 1980 when I became a founding member of Tofa'ah. That was the first time my songs came out of the closet. Thank you Yona and all you Tofa'ettes! Another example are the compositions on the album, Song of the Lark. They sat around since the 1980's until flutist, Sue Hurwitz came into my life. She was the one who  became that person to make them live. Many more talented musicians have contributed to making "my" songs great. If you're interested you can listen to Hinay Ma Tov, Oovabloe, Soundwaves and the music for kids such as Kit & Caboodle. 

   Kim Junsu is the chosen one for one or two particular songs. It's his passion, his expression, his voice, his creativity - the way he sometimes completely changes the arrangement of a song, his dedication and commitment to music, the art of presentation and performance, and his apparent openness to collaborations. I am trying in earnest to reach him - been trying for at least four years now. So it's a long-shot for sure. My heart won't let this go until I have tried my very best to make it happen. I am praying I won't fail. I think I will pray a lot harder now that I've gotten here.

   If you're interested here are some of my choice picks for what I am looking for:

  1. Kim Junsu - 11am
  2. Kim Junsu - Minna Sora No Shita 
  3. Two version of the song, Incredible: here and here
  4. Two versions of the song, Flower/Take My Hand: here and here
  5. Finally, his service now in the military: Tarantellegra 
   So I made a phone call today to the police station where Junsu is allegedly serving. Someone answered the phone. GOOD. But didn't know any English. BAD. We stalemated. Now I've confirmed that I must go there in person. GOOD.


   Took a little stroll around the block tonight. People are always out and about. I met "Paul" who was giving out flyers. He asked me where I was from. I said Israel. He asked me if I was Jewish. Yes. Then he asked me if I was a Zionist. Yes. I explained that also non-Jews can be Zionists. I asked him if he liked Israel. He said he respected it. Okay. All good. Then I walked around and snapped some of the scenery - mainly roads and buildings! Tomorrow is another day.


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