YouTube Sensation, LUNA Produces Amazing Cover Tracks With Ancient Traditional Gayageum Instrument

Luna has been widely recognized for her popular rendition of the Jimi Hendrix song she titled “Voodoo Chile,” played on her traditional Korean Gayageum instrument.  Now at nearly 3 million views, this song is among 60 videos she shares on her YouTube channel: Luna Gayageum.  It’s not often that we see ancient traditional artifacts brought back to life in modern context, but Luna has done just that.  She tells me the traditional Korean string instrument Gayageum is said to have been invented back in the 4th century, and while the traditional Gayageum has 12 strings, modified versions are now played with 18, 20, or 25 strings.  Luna has been playing the Gayageum for about 20 years now.  She formally attended the national Korean traditional music middle and high schools and received her bachelor’s degree with a major in Gayageum at Korean National University of Arts. 


Interview with Luna

How did you get into music?

I started with learning the piano when I was young and my parents saw how much I enjoyed it, and then they decided to help me out to be a musician.  I think they wanted me to play something special, and at that time Gayageum was a pretty rare instrument to play in Korea.  I think that was a brilliant idea from them.

What all is involved in producing your music aside from playing the Gayageum instrument?

In the case of the footage uploaded on my YouTube channel, I work on making the backing-tracks and do a simple mixing and mastering, which is a reason for it to take a bit of time to upload the videos.  I believe this effort other than playing the Gayageum, obviously is a big help to satisfy my fans too.

How do you describe the style of music you play?

First, Gayageum is the main instrument used in my music.  Even though Gayageum is the traditional instrument of Korea, it goes very well with various genres of modern music.  I play all sorts of pop music including Rock, Blues, etc.  In short, my music is a way to show you the various attractions and potential of the Gayaguem instrument. 

What styles of music have you studied?

I majored in Gayageum at middle school, high school and at the university.  At school and college, I mainly studied the traditional music of Korea, but I also personally studied the contemporary song-writings and music theory, which I believe are taught to the most of the contemporary music students.  I have also worked on the ways and styles of playing the guitar-music with my own instrument.

What are some of the things that inspire you to create new music?

I express the activities from general life or imagination.  Sometimes, when we have conversations with words, they are often too formal and also we often tell lies.  My music is a way of having conversations as well, but it expresses only the truth within myself.

Who and what have influenced your music?

A lot of people influence my music, although not quite the music itself, but my feelings, and then those feelings are expressed as the music.  So I can say that anyone, not just musicians, inspire my music.  I think music delivers what the musicians or song-writers are truly feeling.  So as a musician, I think musicians should work hard on their inner-self too.

What inspires you in life?  Do you have a philosophy or motto you live by?

Yes I do.  Since I was young I have always had the image of the person I want to be, however it has been changed a few times.  But, I think I have made up my mind now; I’d like to be a warm person, because I would like to be loved and also love a lot of people in my life. I think the best way to achieve this is to be a warm person.

What are some of the things that spark your creativity?

I love little kids.  In fact, I’m not quite a full-time musician, but also a primary school teacher.  I try my best to give everything I have as a teacher.  I think it’s what a teacher should do, taking care of not just the knowledge for their study, but also helping them to grow in a good way, both their body and mind.  As we all know, kids are our future.  I think helping them out to grow as healthy and happy human beings is worth a lot.  If I ever have the opportunity, I’d love to do an educational and didactic concert for kids.

Can you explain how you came to select particular songs to recreate and personalize through your music?

Since I was young, while listening to music in general life, I’ve had this habit of imagining what the music would be like when it’s played with Gayageum.  I’ve played those songs that I thought would go well, and it was really fun.  I still naturally play along with the songs I’m listening to with Gayageum in my head.  As I have had this habit for quite a long time, I became capable of instantly knowing which songs would go well with Gayageum.  Most of the cover songs on my YouTube channel have gone through this process.  When I play cover songs, as I express the feelings from listening to the originals, it is mostly recreated with different emotions.

What type of live performances have you done? Where do you dream of performing one day?

I’ve played shows at various venues in different cities and countries like Rock and Jazz venues and at Classic halls.  I am currently with DOMOMusic Group, which is located in LA, and most of my fans are from the U.S. and South Korea.  Since some see my work as an original fusion activity, I sometimes play at auditoriums with a lecture.  However, there are still so many cool venues that I haven’t experienced yet.  It’s hard to pick one though.  I just want to form a bond of sympathy with many people through my music, then wherever would be the best venue.  

Can you tell us about your most recent project?

I’ve recently formed a band in South Korea.  It’s called ‘Luna And the Time Travelers.’  The band plays a fusion of old rock blues with a feel of Korean traditional music.  The band is led by the blues played on the Gayageum.  Each band member is a professional and talented musician, so it’s really fun when we jam.  We are currently getting ready for a few gigs at clubs and for attending a world music festival.  The band’s activity will be recognized on my Facebook and YouTube pages.  I hope you are looking forward to seeing the band.

You've beautifully covered several songs whose original versions were done by some well-known and also incredible musicians.  If you had the opportunity to perform with one of these artists, who would it be and why?

If I could, I’d obviously perform with every one of them, but if I had to choose one, it would be Jimi Hendrix.  I think I’d learn so much from jamming with him.

Is there a particular musician or group that you think is really talented and more people should be aware of?

Yes there is.  After graduating from my university, I shortly had lessons from a Gayageum teacher.  He was sometimes identified as a bit of a freak in the field, because his style of playing the instrument was very original and different.  Even though, a lot of Gayageum students musically followed him and even after releasing a few albums, sadly he wasn’t known by as many people as I think he should be.  It’s not easy to find his albums even in Korea, and of course on iTunes and Amazon either. What is even sadder is that he passed away not long ago.  If you are someone who is interested in Gayageum of Korea and also my Gayageum playing, listening to his music would be a big support.  If you message me on Facebook or email me, I will let you know his name and YouTube links.

What is your favorite style of music to listen to, and do you have a particular favorite musician or group?

 I have different favorite musicians in each genre.  Jimi Hendrix as a rock musician, Michael Jackson in Pop, Maxwell in R&B, IU in K-pop, Shiina Ringo in J-rock, and Mozart and Ravel in Classical music.

What is your favorite activity when you are not practicing or performing music?

Recently, I found my hobby of hanging out in a tent at a park or riverside. This time of year in Korea is perfectly warm to hang out in a tent.  I usually take my pillow, blanket, and an amp for playing my favorite songs on my iPod.  Although they are the songs I always listen to, it sounds different in a tent, and it lifts me up right away.

A special thanks to Luna for this great interview!  We look forward to following her and her music career.

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