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이화자 - Lee Won-Ja (Lee Hwa Za)

This collection of songs performed by "Yihwaja" / Lee Won Ja could work very much on a song evening meeting with a small audience with a performer directing the stories to a small public while a band plays smoothly in the background, with humpapa piano rhythms and accordion moods, and Korean and Western clarinet solos here and there.

The rhythms are that of a song dance approach and are all rather typical for the early Trot style, influenced by Japanese standards, although I think the clarinet and a few early songs might have a more Korean folk song origin.

Sometimes the songs are led and accompanied only by acoustic guitar, often picking in the direction of a rhythmical approach. Then flute or other instruments are added too. At times the combo shows something more arranged, in the direction of small music hall related ballroom jazz.

A few tracks show a lot of cracks in the recordings, and in some of the last songs the recording is deformed / warped a bit.

The singer reaches a high soprano voice. It is a good voice and nice music, but (seen as this whole collection of songs) it also remains hanging awfully close to certain style standards as well, never surprising very much.

This comes from the following 23CD box:

유성기로 듣던 불멸의 명가수: 이화자 편 (SYNDCD-131) /

Immortal Singer Heard during the Meteor: Lee Hwa-Ja

1 꼴망태 목동(牧童) / Forget Mokdong (1938) (OKEH 12190)

2 님 전(前) 화푸리 / Nippon Fupuri (1938) (OKEH 12190)

* 3 어머님 전상서(前上書) / Mother's Oath (1940) (OKEH 12212)

* 4 미녀도(美女圖) / Beauty (1939) (OKEH 12212)

5 초가삼간(草家三間) / Thatch (?) 초가 삼간 (Kusaya Sanma) (1939)(OKEH 12245)

6 물방아 / Water mill (1939) (OKEH 12245)

7 애수(哀愁)의 압록강(鴨綠江) / Yalu River in Aosu (OKEH 20020)

* 8 화류춘몽(花柳春夢) / Hot Spring Chun (1940) (OKEH 20024)

9 화륜선(火輪船)아 가거라 / Go to the Steamship (1940) (OKEH 20024)

* 10 화류 애정(花柳哀情) / Flower Love (1940) (OKEH 20035)

11 허송 세월(虛送歲月) / It's time (Shipping Month) (1940) (OKEH 20055)

12 월명 사창(月明沙窓) / (Moonlight's Portal) (1940) (OKEH 20055)

* 13 추풍낙엽(秋風落葉) / Fallen Autumn leaves (1940) (OKEH 31004)

14 마음의 화물차(貨物車) / Cargo (of Hearts) (1940)

15 눈물의 노리개 / Soother of Tears (1940) (OKEH 31008)

16 관서신부(關西新婦) / Kansai Bride (1940) (OKEH 31008)

17 가거라 초립동(草笠童) / Go, goripdong (Kusagado) (1941) (OKEH 31027)

18 목단강(牧丹江) 편지(片紙) / Mokdangang Letter (1942) (OKEH 31093)

19 결사대(決死隊)의 안해 / The resting place lodge (1943) (OKEH 31145)

Tracks with * are considered essential listen and a surely worth airplay pick on a western radioshow.

유성기로 듣던 가요사 (1925~1945) [Disc 5]

14 꼴망태 목동(牧童) / (Mok-dong)

This sounds like a Korean ? Folk song, with a gentle rhythm and pauses. I hear a cow in the background somewhere so possibly the association and setting lies there.

유성기로 듣던 가요사 (1925~1945) [Disc 7]

* 7 어머님 전상백(前上白) (전상서) / Mother's Oath (OKEH 12212) (1939)

* 8 미녀도(美女圖) / Beauty (OKEH 12212) (1939)

With some slide guitar in the beginning, the first song is sung with much emotion and breathing accents and with honest sadness making it a great performance. The song has a simple rhythmic almost piano-hammered but still very subtle drive. I already listed it here above. Just like the song "Beauty." in which also here we hear great vocal variety, and a bit of jazz in the very spontaneous sounding arrangements. Another classic.

유성기로 듣던 가요사 (1925~1945) [Disc 8]

4 추풍낙옆 / Autumn leaves (1940)

5 마음의 화물차 / Truck of hearts (1940)

6 화류춘몽 / Hot Spring Chun (1940)

7 화륜선아 가거라 / Take the wheel (1940)

A first listing of a song which did not appear in any other release I have reviewed before is "Take The Wheel". It is a slow waltz/foxtrot with skillful singing making it once more a great just simply already by Lee Won Ja's voice.

유성기로 듣던 가요사 (1925~1945) [Disc 10]

10 목단강 편지 / Peony River Letter (1942)

This is a mixed tro/ Korean new folk song (?) with great complex asian variations in the voice, uplifting the song by a great technique and interpretation.

I have heard 9 more tracks that have not been reissued yet. I don't think they were truly essential. They mostly dated from between 1934 and 1941.



°1916? -1950? Styles : Trot genre, new folk Active mainly during the Japanese occupation from 1935-1950.

Lee Won-Ja started singing from the age of 13, working with some responsibility in a bar at that time. She made a debut with a pub song as a new folk song record with songs like “Pyongyang is a good place.” “Chisato Mountain” was a strong ballad recorded in 1938 with the Stone Forest Orchestra which made her rise rose to the rank of the most popular singers. Another track about a herdsman was composed by Kim Yong Hwan released on Orchestra records.

She gained much popularity in the trot genre and in the new style of folk songs genre. Often she sang the songs with a content that helped ordinary people find a voice under the form of female narrator laments, this form appealed well to the public. Another song showed some autobiographical lyrics introduction. She failed to find a new place amongst the stars once the Japanese occupation was ended. Her last hit song was during the Pacific War. Having become addicted to opiates since the 1940s this affected her health very much. She also suffered from a failed and brief married life. At the the end of 1950 she stopped performing live on stage, and must have died in loneliness around this time.


이화자(李花子, 1916~1950)는 인천 권번(仁川 券番) 출신의 유행가 가수였다. 권번은 기생조합으로 기생으로서의 기본인 노래와 춤을 가르쳤다. 1930년대 후반 전국적으로 유명했던 가수 이화자는 부평 태생으로 인천 권번 출신이다. 이화자에 대해서는 1938년 8월호 잡지 『삼천리』에 실린 이서구(李瑞求)의 「유행가수 금석(今昔) 회상」에 나온다.

“요사이 신인으로 이화자, 조영심(趙影心) 두 미희가 전속진에 가담되어 있다. <중략>이화자의 신민요는 선우일선에 비하야 선이 굵다. 그 대신 깊은 맛이 있다. 이 점에 이화자의 새로 개척할 길이 있지나 않을까 한다.”

이밖에 1940년 3월 31일자 동아일보의 ‘춘계 독자 위안회’ 출연 기사가 있다. 여기에는 오늘날에도 기억되는 손목인(孫牧人), 장세정(張世貞), 이난영(李蘭影), 김정구(金貞九) 등 쟁쟁한 가수들과 나란히 등장하고 있다.

이화자는 1935년 「초립동」이라는 노래로 가요계에 데뷔한 것으로 알려져 있다. 「초립동」은 이른바 신민요 스타일의 작품으로 이 노래를 배우려는 사람들이 레코드 상점 앞에 모여 섰고, 이화자의 사진과 노래 가사가 인쇄되어 레코드 상점마다 배포될 정도로 첫 곡부터 인기가 있었다고 한다. 그 후 1938년 “백만 번의 갈채를 거듭한 이화자 독점의 걸작”이라는 찬사를 받은 「꼴망태목동」이 대히트하면서 마침내 ‘민요의 여왕’으로 군림한다.

“선이 굵은 구수한 목소리의 넋두리 같은 표현과 콧소리의 간드러지는 흥얼거림 등 독특한 창법이 특징”이었던 이화자는 이어 1940년 자신의 처지를 노래한 듯한 「화류춘몽(花柳春夢)」과 또 다른 가요 「살랑 춘풍(春風)」등을 내놓아 팬들의 가슴을 사로잡는다. 꼭 한 곡, ‘자서곡(自敍曲)’이라고 이름 붙여 그 1년 전인 1939년에 발표한 「어머님 전 상백(上白)」 노래 또한 당시 많은 이의 심금을 울렸다.


Translated with help of Google Translate (with mistakes and certain parts therefore left out!):

Lee Hwa-ja (李 花子, 1916-1950) was a popular singer from Kwon Beon, Incheon. Kwon Burn is a lowlife art (?) association that teaches the basics of singing and dancing. Singer Lee Hwa-ja was famous nationwide in the late 1930s, was born in Bupyeong.

The following comments were published in the August 1938 issue of Samcheon-ri:

“As a Yosai lowlife artist, two women, Lee Hwa-ja and Cho Young-sim, were involved in the exclusive camp. Lee Wha's new folk songs are more full than those of Sunwoo. They show a deep taste. Is there a way to open a new story for this person please? ”

In addition, there was also an article appearing in the Dong-A Ilbo's Spring Reader Comfort Society on March 31, 1940. It appeared alongside some of the most prominent singers, such as Wrist Man (손목 남자 translation ??), Jang Se-jung, Lee Na-young, and Kim Jung-gu, who are still remembered today.

Ewhaja / Lee Hwa-Ja is known to have debuted in the song industry in 1935 with the song "Choripdong". Chorip-dong is a so-called a Shin-minyo-style work where people who wanted to learn the song gathered in front of the record store, and she was popular from the first song onwards so that pictures and song lyrics of Ewha-hwa were printed and distributed into each record store. Later, in 1938, "Kommantaemok-dong" was praised as "a masterpiece" became a big hit and finally made her reign as the "queen of folk songs."

Ewha, who was characterized by a distinctive ingenuity, such as the complimentary expression of a thick voice with use of hiccups and hums, recorded another song called “Huyu Chun Mong” which seems to have sang her situation in 1940. Chunfeng (春風), etc. are released to capture the fans' hearts. One song, “Jaseogok” (自敍 曲) was released in 1939, a year earlier, and the song ``Mother's Former Sangbaek'' also was appreciated a lot of people at that time.

But the end of her career was miserable. After reaching out to opium, she became an opium addict. After the liberation, she lived alone in the Dankanbang in the back street of Danseongsa, Seoul, and died alone in 1950, when she was in her thirties.

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