First Korean Album Up for Grammy Awards

When Kim Young-il learned, just over a week ago, that an ensemble of Korean court music he had produced had just become the first Korean album to be nominated for a Grammy, he couldn't believe his eyes.

Kim, the CEO of production company AkdangEban, was checking his emails on Aug. 30 when one popped up with the title "Congratulations." It went on to praise him for the success of "Gagok, Pungnyu III, Jeong Ga Ak Hoe," which is now being considered for two awards at the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony scheduled for next spring in the U.S.

The album cost 55 million won (US$1=W1,075) to produce and record.

Kim said the news came as a shock. "Since founding the production company in 2005, I have entered albums for numerous music awards in the U.S. and Europe, but all I got before were rejections," he said.

His latest album was nominated in two Grammy Award categories: Best Surround Sound Album and Best World Music Album.

Gagok is a genre of traditional Korean court music that is accompanied by instruments such as the gayageum (multi-stringed zither) and bamboo flute. The lyrics are taken from poems written by scholars of the Chosun Dynasty. Last year, UNESCO named this rare musical style on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

"If somebody asks me what Gagok is, I say it is a form of music that people haven't yet come to know," said Kim. "I will do my best to win the Grammy Awards to promote this kind of traditional Korean music, which is unfamiliar even to many Korean people."

In the album, Kim Yoon-seo sang nine songs accompanied by the chamber music ensemble Jeong Ga Ak Hoe. The chirping sound of crickets serves as a backdrop to the orchestral melodies as the music was recorded in the open space of a traditional house in Yangdong Folk Village, Gyeongju, another UNESCO Heritage site.

Kim said he failed before in having his albums considered for international awards due to a lack of technological prowess in recording. In January last year, he invested several hundred million won to purchase the latest sound engineering equipment in order to capture the delicate sounds of Korean instruments.

"Just like books have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), so records have an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC)," he said.

"You can only enter your albums to international competitions as Korean representative works if you have the ISRC, but, unfortunately, Korea is not registered for this." "After four years of preparation, I obtained the code as an individual in 2009, so I was able to enter my work for the Grammys."

1 comment:

  1. such great news! but in the complete list of nominees on the Grammy website, the album is nowhere to be found. and if you had watched the Arirang TV report, the "Congratulations" email was merely to acknowledge that the Recording Academy had received the online entry.


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