김 씨스터즈 - Kim Sisters
Monument – MLP 8022. The Kim Sisters – Their First Album (US,1964)***
A1 Try To Remember
* A2 China Nights
A3 Harbor Lights
A4 Roses In The Snow
* A5 Chinese Lullaby
A6 Danny Boy
B1 Charlie Brown
B2 Hawaiian Wedding Song
(Arranged By – Aija, Mia Kim, Sue)
* B4 You Can't Have Everything
* B5 Korean Spring Song
(Hai Fong Kim)
B6 Hallelujah I Love Her So
The Kim Sisters are on the bandwagon of the sound of The Andrew Sisters and the likes. At that time they didn't speak English nor were they able to read musical notes, but they were dedicated naturals and were able to delver their goods flawlessly. "Try To Remember" brings you to a kind of Christmas mood, in a typical 50s style, while being accompanied by guitar, bass and lush orchestra, with perfectly fit vocal harmonies in the songs. "China Nights" is more exotic in style (a foundation of conga and guitars) which makes it more contemporary and in fact a more original choice. "Harbor Lights" is a dream-away harmony song (with Hawaiian guitar and guitars and bass). "Roses in the Snow" is another song that fits the Winter Season festivities perfectly, with a warm romantic touch. Also "Chinese Lullaby" (Helen Sapolin) is a lullaby that fits perfectly to the Holliday seasons atmosphere. It has a warming touch. The song is American, but the melody has a vague reference to an eastern melody, which makes it a perfect fit for The Kim Sisters. "Danny Boy" is gospel-like starting with powerful a capella, but turning it into a Christmas-like song as well, with drives of entertaining power. "Charlie Brown" (The Coasters) is in twist style, close to the original. This brings us to the power of the early 60s. The Hawaiian Wedding Song" is of course led by harmony vocals with Hawaiian guitar besides an acoustic guitar rhythm to it and some extra textures. The "Arirang" song is nothing but a publicity for Korean music. It is arranged in a modern way acoustically like an exotic lullaby it fits perfectly with the rest the collection. "You can't have everything" is a swinging popular tune. "Korean Spring Sound" has an attractive rhythmical acoustic arrangement and also gives an exotic touch that makes a song like this more attractive. The last song is more fit to the swinging twists and slightly jazzy pop of the early 60s.
This album has not been reissued yet. All tracks are really fine. All tracks are (interpretations of) covers, except for B3 which is an arrangement on a Korean traditional and B5.
-LP Their First Album (LP, Album)MonumentSLP 18022US1959
-LP MonumentXM 8022Canada1959
-LP L.K.L. RecordsLKL-1005South Korea1964-
DIGI Vintage Masters Inc.noneSouth Korea2012
Audio on https://questing.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/the-kim-sisters/
& download of first LP on https://billybeyond.com/2015/07/03/the-kim-sisters-their-first-album/
There also exists a Kim Sisters / Kim Brothers split - LP: Once in A Lifetime
The year is 1960, and The Kim Sisters have set the Vegas Strip afire with rich harmonies and an ability to play dozens of instruments.
The sisters had been in the United States only two short years at the legendary Thunderbird—after singing for American GI’s during and after the Korean War. From there, they became a staple of Rat Pack-era Las Vegas, booking clubs across the United States and appearing a record 22 times on the Ed Sullivan Show. Join us as we trace the meteoric rise of The Kim Sisters—from singing for chocolate bars in war-torn Korea to making $13,000 a week as headline entertainers—with a special montage from The Fabulous Kim Sisters and sister Sue Kim Bonifazio sharing her Stardust.
The Kim Sisters, a Korean female trio who made their career in U.S. during 1950s and 60s, sings “Try To Remember” for Monument Records.
The Kim Sisters were Sook-ja, Mi-a and Ai-ja. They started their career as the entertainers, singing for U.S. troops in Korea in 1954. They were the three of the seven children of Kim Hae-song ( 김해송, 1911 – 1950), a classical music conductor and popular composer who was captured and killed by the North Koreans during the Korean War, and Lee Nan-Young (1916 – 1967), one of Korea’s most famous singers before the World War II, best known for her 1935 nationwide hit song, “The Tears from Mokpo”.
Lee had been singing for the foreign troops, to earn enough money for them to survive, when one day she got the idea of having three of her daughters sing, too. The girls did not know English at that time, so they learned the songs phonetically. Just 13, 12 and 11 years old at the time, the first song they sang was the Hoagy Carmichael’s “Ole’ Buttermilk Sky”.
The show went well and soon the sisters were singing regularly, all the popular music and early rock’n'roll of the day. Soldiers would give them chocolate bars, which in turn they would trade in for real food on the black market, but it was enough to get by.
In 1958 they were discovered by an American agent who booked them into the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, as part of a show called the China Doll Review. The three of them earned $400 a month. After a month at the Thunderbird, they were picked up by another Vegas hotel, the Stardust, where they played for eight months.
In 1959 they got their big break when they were asked to play on the Ed Sullivan Sho, and being on his show made the Kim Sisters a nationally known act.
Over the next 14 years, they would perform on Ed Sullivan 22 times, the most of any performer who appeared Ed Sullivan show. They were featured in LIFE and NEWSWEEK and other magazines. Far from singing for chocolate bars, the Kim Sisters eventually were making around $13,000 a week.
They kept performing in Vegas and elsewhere for years, although after they got married in the 1970s, the act pretty much came to an end. Ai-ja died in 1987 of lung cancer, but they other two sisters are still alive and living in the United States.
There’s a oral history document – an interview record with Sook-ja Kim, made by some Korean researchers in University of Las Vegas.
In August 1962, the Kim Sisters brought their act to Atlanta's Copa Club which was located at 114 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The Kim Sisters came to America in 1959 to play a 4 week engagement at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. They eventually became popular enough to get a booking on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan liked them so much he had them back for a total of 22 appearances. More information about the Kim Sisters can be found in this article, published in Asian Life magazine.
Friday April 11, 2008 Blast From the Past: Kim Sisters Rock the States Sandra Lee
Imagine a Korean sister act capturing the heart of American pop culture by singing "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog". It may sound far-fetched today, but that's exactly what America was seeing on the Ed Sullivan show in 1959.
Sue Kim was 9 years old when she and her sisters, Ai Ja and Mia, started singing for American GIs in the midst of the Korean War. The girls' mother, who was once Korea's top recording artist, selected country western songs for the girls including "Ole Buttermilk Sky" and "Candy and Cake".
Looking back, Kim said, "I don't know where she came up with these songs."
Because the girls did not speak a word of English, they learned to memorize the songs phonetically.
"We kept memorizing songs without knowing what they meant," Kim said. "All these beautiful songs, but we didn't know what the hell we were singing."
Luckily, the GIs didn't care. Hearing the familiar melodies was enough. And once the sisters expanded their repertoire to include Elvis Presley songs, hearing the lyrics "You can burn my house, you can steal my car . . . " coming from three young girls was no doubt a riot.
"When we learned 10 years later what the lyrics meant, we thought, Oh my God, what were we singing?"
In 1958, an American agent caught the girls' performance and booked them for a four-week engagement at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. The show was so good that other hotels in the area immediately booked the act. The temporary job ended up turning into a lifelong career.
The girls' next break came only a year later when Ed Sullivan got wind of the sister act and booked them on his show. Their appearance was a hit, and soon calls started pouring in from Dinah Shore and Steve Allen requesting the sister act. Over the years, the Kim Sisters would appear on the Ed Sullivan show a total of 22 times.
"We really had no clue how big we were," Kim says. "We were just grateful to be working. We ate, we worked, and we sent money to our family in Korea. [My sisters and I] shared a one-room apartment, and we thought it was just great."
Although their family had once been prosperous in Korea, the war had left them impoverished. Their father, Hae Song Kim, was an acclaimed symphony orchestra conductor, but was shot by the North Korean army for consorting with American soldiers.
Because of the Kim Sisters' enormous popularity in the United States, the girls did not take a single day off in their first year in the country. Their fan club eventually grew to include stars like Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.
All three of the sisters had married by the mid-1970s, and the group inevitably began to fall apart. In 1987, Ai Ja died of lung cancer, and Mia and Sue have since become estranged. Sue, who continued performing with her brothers, was in a car accident a few years ago, leaving her unable to perform on stage.
Since then, she has put together a documentary film on The Kim Sisters' meteoric rise to fame, and Koreana News, based in Los Angeles, has compiled a book on this important footnote in entertainment history.
Sue Kim now works as a real estate agent. "I love it. It's just like show business – you're constantly meeting and dealing with people."
Kim is impressed by the Asian Americans in entertainment today, and is an avid fan of Lucy Liu. Despite the current lack of diversity in entertainment, Kim believes that it is impossible to ignore true talent.
"If you have talent, people will accept it," Kim said.
Her only regret is that The Kim Sisters did not promote their album sufficiently – a move that could have made their fame more lasting.
"At the time, we were too busy working and nobody really thought about it," she said. Although the girls did make a record, it was not properly promoted and did not catch on.
But when asked if she would like to be 17 years old again, Kim said, "Hell no, I worked too hard when I was 17."
The Kim sisters, composed of three sisters, Sook-ja, Ai-ja, and Mia, came from Korea to Las Vegas in February, 1959. Their first contract in American was to perform at the Thunderbird Hotel for four weeks as part of the China Doll Revue, the main showroom program. This engagement led them to a successful career. Their popularity was at its height at the end of the 1960s, when they performed throughout the United States and Europe. Sook-ja Kim is the oldest of the Kim Sisters. After her sister Ai-ja died in 1987, Sook-ja teamed up with her two brothers and continued to perform until 1989. Now semi-retired from show business, with occasional performances in Korea, she is working as a real estate agent. In this interview, she talked about her childhood, her career, and the family she has built since coming to America.
She was born in 1941 in Seoul, Korea, as the third child of seven in a musical family. Her father was a conductor, and her mother, a popular singer. After the Korean War, her mother arranged to send the Kim Sisters to America. When they came to Las Vegas, there were virtually no Koreans in the area. They depended on each other to take care of themselves. Some of the difficulties they had to adjust to in America were language, food, and cultural differences. Over the span of almost forty years in America, Sook-ja became acculturated without discarding her ethnic identity or family priorities. Her life-long guiding principle has been to combine certain American values while continuing to keep cherished Korean ethnic values.
Through their performances, the Kim Sisters informed the audience about Koreans and their culture. As the oldest of the group, Sook-ja was entrusted the care of her sisters, and later her brothers, the Kim Brothers. Once she settled in Las Vegas, she brought more than 40 members of her extended family, contributing to the growth of the Las Vegas Korean community.
Updated: Thursday, 12-Jul-2007 11:28:20 PDT Content Provider: White, Claytee
Page Editor: Yunkin, Michael
Interview on http://library.nevada.edu/oral_histories/pdf%20files/kim_sisters.pdf
No reissues yet. Kim Sisters were the first of a series of Korean harmony singers.
The Kim Sisters hold an important place in the history of Korea as pioneers in the interaction between Koreans and western music audiences (in the post-Korean War period).
The Kim Sisters parents, Kim Hae-song and Lee (Yi) Nan-young (이난영), were also significant Korean music icons in their own right. Lee Nan-young was a famous singer from the pre-Korean War period. She released a number of 10 inch and 12 inch vinyl LPs in South Korea (prices are very high for clean copies) as well as a significant number of 78s (SP Records). Her best known song is “Tears of Mokpo”. Link: Korean 78s
Basic information about The Kim Sisters can be found here: wikipedia.
An excellent scholarly article that outlines background and context information relating to The Kim Sisters and their music can be found here: East Asian History.
The Kim Sisters have a particlarly interesting catalogue of vinyl record releases both within Korea and internationally. I have been trying to collect all of their vinyl record releases, both international and Korean. I view their vinyl record releases as being significant historical items from a time when the concept of internationalized K-Pop was yet to be born.
The 1960’s American K-Pop Tale of “The Kim Sisters”: From Post War Korean Poverty to USA Prime Time February 4, 2014
The 1960’s American K-Pop Tale of “The Kim Sisters”: From Post War Korean Poverty to USA Prime Time
If asked “What is the first Korean music you were introduced to?” how would you respond? Fans from the 90’s might say H.O.T., Seo Taiji and Boys, g.o.d, Fin.k.l and etc. More recent fans may respond with Girls’ Generation, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, 2NE1, and etc. However, if you were to ask the same question to an American in the 1960’s, they would most likely respond with “The Kim Sisters.”
Wait, the Kim Sisters? Who in the world are they? “The Kim Sisters” was a popular female music trio from Korea composed of sisters Sook-ja, Ai-ja, and Mia (Mia is actually a cousin of the two, but was considered a sister) who battled poverty and hardships on their journey to becoming a top act in the glittering light filled city of Las Vegas, as well as becoming a favorite guest on the popular Sunday night variety show “Ed Sullivan Show.” Lets take a look at their amazing story that begins with their musically talented family in war ravaged Korea during the 1950s.
The story of the “The Kim Sisters” begin with their musically gifted family. The mother of Sook Ja and Ai-Ja, Lee Nan Young, was a famous singer in Korea before the war, most known for her 1935 hit “Tears in Mokpo,” and their father Kim Hae Song was also a successful conductor. The sisters would lose their father during the war and the bombings would destroy their home. Lee Nan Young continued to support her family with performances for the GI troops stationed in Korea, when one day she decided to make the trio “The Kim Sisters,” composed of her daughters Sook-ja, Ai-ja, and niece Mia. Thus the group began, and the trio began singing together during their early teen years for GI troops stationed in Korea.
The thee children would begin performing in 1954 for chocolate and beer in which they would exchange for food. Without knowing English, the members had to phonetically memorize the songs for their performance. They continued to receive support and love from the GI’s with their performances of country hits like “Ole Buttermilk Sky” and “Candy & Cake.” After hearing numerous promises from GI’s saying that they would take them to the US to perform, the girls began to dream of performing in America where they could make big bucks and support their family. Their big break occurred in 1959 when Tom Ball, after learning about the trio through a GI, offered them a four week contract to perform at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas for the Asian themed show China Doll Revue. Thus, the trio began their adventure filled journey to the USA.
The girls were just teenagers when they arrived in L.A. No family members accompanied them on the trip, and the teenage girls were in an unfamiliar place. After arriving in L.A. they were driven to Las Vegas with road manager Bob Mcmackin. The three managed to earn 400 dollars a month as they lived together in their small apartment and survived on tuna sandwiches. Their first contract with the Thunderbird hotel lasted four weeks where they performed two shows a night alongside Japanese, Chinese and other Asian performers.During their time there, they were recruited to perform at the Stardust hotel where they performed for eight months doing six shows a night.While performing at the Stardust, the trio started to learn how to play many instruments at the urging of their wise mother Lee Nan Young.
After performing at the Stardust for eight months, the group was noticed by the charismatic TV host Ed Sullivan and he invited “The Kim Sisters” to perform as guests at his show. The group performed “Sincerely” by the Maguire Sisters for their first performance on the Ed Sullivan show. From there, they began getting more offers for shows across the U.S. and were also featured in Life Magazine. Their relationship with Ed Sullivan grew and the group performed more than 20 times on the show. The group’s talent of playing a variety of instruments would be instrumental for their many guest appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. The group would be making $13,000 USD a week at the height of their popularity.
With the help of Ed Sullivan they were able to get a visa for their mother Lee Nan Young. Their mother would perform with them on the Ed Sullivan show and she stayed in the U.S. for eight months before leaving back to Korea. Before she left, she requested the group to bring over their brothers which made the group “The Kim Brothers.” The members would perform with a variety of instruments during their performances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and they even learned how to play the bagpipe for the show. The Kim Sisters also helped introduce Korean culture to the Americans by performing with the Korean instrument Gaya-gum, singing Korean songs such as “Arirang” and wearing hanbok.
Though the sisters were becoming successful in the U.S.A., they were also working constantly in an unfamiliar environment. The sisters would have trouble finding food that match their tastes, and Ai-ja would develop jaundice during her time in Vegas. They also had issues with their road manager Bob Mcmackin who they believed took advantage of them by not paying them justly. The Kim Sisters would eventually break ties with the Bob Mcmaackin after paying him $45,000 USD.
Mia would leave “The Kim Sisters” in 1967 after marrying Hungarian musician Tommy Vig, but the Kim Sisters would keep performing through the 1970’s. “The Kim Brothers,” on the other hand, would keep performing until the 1990’s. Member Ai-ja sadly passed away in 1987 due to lung cancer. Sook-ja would help foster the growth of the Las Vegas Korean community by bringing over 40 extended family members to the city. Though no longer performing, “The Kim Sisters” have made their mark on history as the first Korean group to make it big in America and paved the way for current Korean musicians pursuing their career abroad.
See also https://koreanvinyl.wordpress.com/...
Book about Kim Sisters: http://sarahgerdes.com/portfolio/the-kim-sisters/
And a reaction to the book at https://www.judicialmurder.com/
My own review:
RPM Publishing Sarah Gerdes: Sue Kim, the authorized biography,
the greatest American story ever told (August 8, 2017)
I expected to get to know the whole picture about the story of The Kim Sisters here, but also a bit more about the parents who proceeded this story. In this book they were named as Ran Yong Lee (=Lee, Nan Young) and Hai Song Kim (=Kim, Hae Song).
In a journalistic biography (by a investigator, as the writer presents to be positioned as such) one would at least expect her to include and to start the book with a thorough bigger context, also on the way to include visions from all kinds of angles and witnesses how all stories were unfolded for all the people involved. Instead we are immediately bombarded into the world of Sue, starting at the very moment of her first memories (without ever including a vision that looked up what preceded), of her opinions -in which lots of attention has been given to the character of her husband, a casino boss, praising his decent character, compared to for instance any investigation at all to the musical careers of her parents although these people had been enormously important.
It was not just that they were brought up in simply the remains of it, in a rich house and only looking at these people how they were looked upon as parents and how their environment at that time saw their present actions from those moments.
It becomes clear that this biography was written nothing but by a ghost writer because it more is written like a diary and thoughts of just one person, never looking much behind the bubble of her own direct experiences. That's how or why perhaps they skip nearly all of the parents musical stories.
There's also not much positive said about the father (which somewhat contradicts a bit his jazzy cabaret music) and also almost nothing about the musicality and truly creative originality of her mother, who by the way had started as the first a girl only group before the Kim Sisters and from one thing led to another it was her effort that gave The Kim Sisters all chances, something that I think is not denied the fact.
It also remains vague about the death of the mother, because after all the sufferings from during the wars, the reasons of her suicide is not mentioned at all, but are therefore much more important to know and understand; it remains all a bit vague where it really all went wrong, where and how and why she was cut out of her money support which she needed to feed lots of people out of charity. All in all, the reality is that Ran had been deserted at some point radically and totally. The book does their best to prove it happened behind their knowing. After the missing context at the start of the book, making it a more difficult start to orientate oneself into the whole story, I was still dragged quickly hereafter into the amazing stories of the mother's sacrifice towards poor people and siblings, learning about her forgiving heart after betrayal by a former mistress of her husband who hooked up with the Northern Korean army and in which it was only due to her popularity that she survived ordeals and execution. These parts were a great read. Further on The Kim Sisters story unfolds too. They talk about their success in Las Vegas and tell all the stories that surrounds their managers and what happened in the places they went to. It also shows the evolutions of how each of the sisters were dealing with succes and big money. Here Sue is portrayed as the big sister who always carried all the responsibilities. We can't know how much truly is just the vision of one person or how much was truly going on behind all of the mentioned scenes. There are tough stories, like the stories about the gamble addiction by one of the sisters. At times it becomes a movie-like story. Never the less I still miss the bigger picture outside this bubble. Besides, they were plenty of Sisters bands around, in the US but also in South Korea. They were also never mentioned as if the story is only involving one straight line of a unique perspective. Above all I also still think it is a shame why nothing of The Kim Sisters ever made it onto a CD. I hope that will be the next step after this biography. A DVD with the Ed Sullivan shows for instance would be a great thing to assemble too. I am sure fans would love to collect especially those great moments.
left: KIM SISTERS (김시스터즈) “This is my life” 12 inch vinyl LP Tracks: 김치깍두기/봄아가씨/달없는 항로/봄맞이/고향/아리랑/목포의 눈물/다방의 푸른꿈/목포는 항구다/코스모스탄식/진달래수첩/알아달라우요 (South Korea) Oasis OL 1670 (1975 – tribute album to the Kim Sisters’ mother Lee (Yi) Nan-young (이난영) including the song Tears of Mokpo.)
" A peculiarity of popular music that differentiates it from other media lies in the way in which the experience of music is subject to time. Postwar Korean popular music actively appropriated American songs, a representation of the shared feeling/collective memory of Americanized modernity for Koreans. Composers and musicians yearned for a loved one, displacing these sentiments by imagining America as an exotic place in such constructions as ―America Chinatown‖ and ―Arizona Cowboy,‖ while making theme songs for films by mimicking Western tunes. In an opening musical scene of Cheongchun Sanggokseon (Hyperbola of Youth 1956), the legendary composer, Park Si-Choon is playing guitar and fiddler while Kim Sisters, who gaining popularity performing at American military base shows, wears a nurse costume and sings a cover version of Eddie Fisher‘s ―I need you now.260
Singing exclusively for the American GIs from 1954 to 1958, the Kim sisters show how postwar Korean singers on the stages of American Army show survived. The offspring of the famous Kim Hae-Song (composer and singer) and Lee Nan-Young (singer),261 the Kim sisters, composed of three female vocalists Sook-ja, Mi-a and Ai-ja Kim, had their debut at the ages of six, seven and eight, respectively, shortly after the nation‘s liberation. The eldest, Sook-ja, later recollected the moment:262
260 Eddie Fisher is an American pop singer in 1950s who had many hit numbers including ―Wish you were here,‖ ―I‘m walking behind you,‖ and ―I need you now.‖ He was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1950 and served a year in Korea during Korean War.
261 Kim Hae-song (Korean; 1911 - 1950) is a classical music conductor and popular music composer killed by the North Koreans during the Korean War. Lee Nan-Young (Korean, 1916 - 1967) is legendary popular singer during Japanese occupation era
262 An Interview with Sook-ja Kim, An Oral History Conducted by Myoung-ja Lee Kwon, February – April 1996, Las Vegas Women in Gaming and Entertainment Oral History Project, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1997, pp. 2-3.
"We didn‘t speak English, we couldn‘t, we didn‘t even know where America was… We had to memorize. So, she (mother) would learn a song first, then she will teach us this song that she got, I don‘t know from where, but the name of the first song we sang was ―Old Buttermilk Sky.‖ It‘s a country western song. We didn‘t even know there was country western, but we knew that it was an American song. So, we would memorize it, we‘d sing it for the GIs, and all the GIs loved it, so, what happened was, they say, ―more, more, more!‖ We hadn‘t learned another song. So, we came on again, we sang the same song over and over again. But, they didn‘t care as long as we sang American songs. But that‘s how we started, to help our mother, to make it a little bit easier on her… As a matter of fact, we started in 1954 in Korea. Between 1954 to 1958, we sang for the GI troops all the time. That‘s how we got to eat. In plain language, that‘s how we survived."
By phonetically memorizing Hoagy Carmichael‘s English lyrics, these young girls sang American songs for survival without even knowing their meaning. They were later picked up by an American agent who contracted them into a show called the ―China Doll Revies‖ at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. The Kim sisters were hugely successful in America as a minority girl vocal group, performing on the Ed Sullivan Show regularily after 1959 and even appearing in LIFE magazines (Feb.22,1960, see Figure 5-9). One of the reasons they were so conspicuous in the American show business market during the Rat 226
Pack-era was that they all could play dozens of instruments with a rich harmonies. As Sook-ja puts it,
"My mother said they (Americans) have the Maguire Sisters, which we copied in Korea, all their songs. They called us the Korean Maguire Sisters. And the Andrews Sisters, we copied them. So, my mother says, those girls do not play instruments. Just to sing, you will not become successful in America… So, I want you to learn the tenor sax, I want Ai-ja to learn alto sax, I want Mia to learn drums." (An Interview with Sook-ja Kim, Ibid., pp. 8-9.)
The Kim Sisters‘ racial and cultural subversion of mainstream American popular music shows how postwar musicians appropriated Americanism for survival and displayed themselves as a trope of the symbiotic relationship between America and Korea by orientalising themselves while training on instruments to perform what American female vocal bands couldn‘t.
The parallels with American military ghetto culture and American popular songs are fairly obvious. American popular songs gained their popularity264 with avid younger listeners from urban communities who gathered in tea-rooms, bars and social clubs. American popular song becomes a technology of preserving memories, an active symbol to convey Americanism rather than merely its container for youngsters. Borrowing the concept of ―cultural memory‖ proposed by Marita Sturken in her book Tangled Memory, it is essential to reconsider popular music as a reflection of mass sensibilities in terms of collective memory. One can posit popular song as a kind of collective memory that is ―shared outside the avenues of formal historical discourse yet is entangled with cultural products and imbued with cultural meaning‖ (Sturken, 1997: 3). Postwar popular music has an ongoing interaction with American popular music in terms of collective memory, what Jonathan Boyarin describes as the ―creative collaboration between present consciousness and its implicit shaping of consciousness, its selection of the contours that experience on expression of the past‖ (Boyarin, 1994). In this sense, composers and musicians of postwar popular song deal in multi-faceted and contradictory narratives and share ambivalent responses to the two colonial experiences while consuming Americanism. Then how do the narratives of popular song lyrics interpret Americanism? Furthermore, how do the narratives of local popular songs and their performers/composers interact with each other? The majority of popular song genres associated with the dance boom were the Mambo, the Cha-Cha265 after 1950s and the Twist and Rockabilly in the early 1960s. Combined with the social fad of Mambo, many popular songs commodified the genre by writing the genre name in the song title, in songs such as ―Arirang Mambo,‖ ―Doraji Mambo,‖ ―Nilliri Mambo,‖ and ―Yangsando Mambo,‖ combining these frequently used words with the older Korean popular music genres and tunes from Shinminyo. Many of the songs using the term Mambo are not Mambo tunes; they only adopt the name to reference the genre‘s popularity. Kim Youngjoon recollects the Mambo craze in 1950s, saying that:
It was Mambo; it makes Madam Freedom shake her ass in the novel. After the armistice, Mambo gained a tremendous popularity and it reached its peak with ―Cherry Pink Mambo‖ by Perez Prado Orchestra.266 This song was overplayed in every corner of Seoul and considered as an emblem of ‗liberal literature.‘ This song generated not only the social dance craze, but also in fashion with the ‗Mambo trouser‘ and consequently ignited the music scene with the Mambo genre. (Kim, 2004) 267
264 According to ―Korea: Its Land, People and Culture of All Ages(1963:577),‖ Koreans‘ favorite of American popular song is as follows by the number of requests to the Korean Broadcasting System and HLKA from 1959-1963; ―Que Sera Sera,‖ ― The Midnight Blues,‖ ―Sail Along, Silvery Moon,‖ ―I‘ll Be Home,‖ ―Crazy Love,‖ ―Autumn Leaves,‖ ―Changing Partners,‖ ―Banana Boat Song,‖ ―Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing‖ and ―Three Coins in the Fountain.‖
265 Yoon Il-Lo‘s ―Seuleui Bamgeori (Street of Seoul by night)‖ adopted authentic Cha-Cha dance rhythm by a syncopation of the forth beat with the front leading of percussion and guiro.
266 The original title of the song is ―Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.‖ Perez Prado is a Cuban-Mexican composer, commonly known as the King of Mambo. He is best known for the famous ―Mambo No.5.‖
267 Kim Youngjoon (2004) Hanguk Gayosa Iyagi (The Story of Korean Popular Music History), Seoul: Areum Publishers.
Movie and radio broadcast drama theme songs became another popular format in the postwar popular music scene of the 1950s. Lyricist Ban Ya-Weol and composer Park Si-Choon collaborated on many movie theme songs, such as those for Namsungnumbeoweon (Man Number 1) and T‟alchilhyeongje (Seven sisters), while radio broadcasting drama theme songs like Cheongsil Hongsil (Blue thread, Red thread, lyrics by Cho Namsa, song by Son Seokwoo), performed by Song Mindo in 1956, received a massive amount of public attention in accordance with the popularity of the dramas themselves. Most of the popular songs consumed in the local market still reflected the compositional modalities of Japanese Enka songs and Shinminyo, while the influx of Americanized and foreign popular music genres from U.S. military culture – Jazz, Tango, Cha Cha, Blues – were articulated with local or traditional music genres. Thus, the localized concerns of music production and consumption in postwar Korea were embedded in representations of the socio-cultural imaginary of Koreans, which shows distinctive features of their accommodation of various music genres through Americanism. This multicultural aspect of postwar Korean popular music is characterized by examples of the appropriation and hybridization of musical forms, as well as by multilingual expressions that provide a powerful mode of address for a postcolonial culture in a localized context of double consciousness alongside the American military ghetto. As Du Bois describes it, ‗double consciousness‘ is the term for an individual mentality whose identity is divided into two separate contradictory identities (Du Bois, 1989). Postwar Koreans‘ experience of their double relationship with two colonizers‘ cultural adaptations makes the individual and the social sites where the convergence and divergence of modern consciousness take place in this contradictory reality. In this sense, Du Boisian double consciousness proffers varying politics of identity location. As Cooppan argues vis-à-vis the Du Bois theory of double consciousness, sometimes a local culture ―restores, reconnects and remembers in order to lay a different kind of claim to all kinds of territories, both inner and outer‖ (Cooppan, 2005), so postwar memory in popular music takes the form of hybrid stylistic exercises that function as a subjective mode for colonial subalterns. Postwar collective memories conveyed through popular music and its appropriations imply not merely the exchange of meaning or information but a resonance in which to discern Koreans‘ divergent, separated and yet authentic self-identity. In this respect, popular songs from the 1950s enveloped a structure of feeling, forming the aural dimension of collective memories on Americanism and Americanized modernity in postwar Korea. The fetishization of Americanism, which was endemic to postwar Korean popular music, betrays a transitional process anchored to the military ghetto. This fetish involves adapting musical styles, genres and modalities from an American ‗thingness‘ hybridized with prior music genres such as Shinminyo and Enka. Songs with English titles such as ―Lucky Morning,‖ ―America Chinatown,‖ and ―Arizona Cowboy‖ were evidence of how postwar Koreans mimicked what they could never really be through the ‗spectres of Americanization.‘
fragments from Embedded Voices In Between Empires, Yongwoo Lee
#harmonyvoices #harmonyvocals #60s #America #KoreanPop #Vegas #K