12-04-2011 16:22
Crossover tenor returns

Crossover tenor Im Tae-kyung¡¯s upcoming concert in Seoul will not only be a showcase for his newfound voice but also raise funds to build a concert hall for children. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Im Taek-kyung to hold concert, release three recordings

By Lee Hyo-won

In September, Im Tae-kyung moved fans by reemerging on the stage of KBS2¡¯s ¡°Invincible Masterpiece 2.¡± After garnering many votes on the popular talent show for reinterpreting local pop classics, the crossover tenor suffered from chronic coughs and completely lost his voice. He had to stop hosting his radio show and even feared the end of his singing career.

After undergoing treatment the 37-year-old has now returned fully recuperated, and is celebrating the occasion with a solo concert, ambitious recording projects and, moreover, a renewed sense of determination to work toward his dreams.

¡°This is going to be my big comeback,¡± Im said about his concert this Saturday at Kyung Hee University¡¯s Grand Peace Palace in Seoul, during a recent Korea Times interview.

¡°I¡¯ve been singing since I was five, and I never stopped, even when I had a cold or two broken ribs onstage during a musical performance. I kept on coughing without reason and I had to cancel everything — but I decided if I were to ¡®die¡¯ as a singer, I should be onstage until the very end. I really thought it was going to be my last performance.¡±

Nevertheless his performance of Yun Shin-ae¡¯s ¡°Yeolae¡± (Passionate Love) won him the round against Hwang Kyung-min, and Im embarked on a journey to recover his voice. The singer traveled through the United States, Spain, France and Germany for one-and-a-half months. ¡°It was trying to find a cure. I sought doctors, vocal coaches — everything I could to get my voice back.¡±

He learned that he had been exhausting his vocal cords by using the same singing technique as when he was younger. ¡°Many singers in their 30s and 40s apparently go through similar problems. But your vocal chords are very sensitive muscles and you need to learn how to use them differently with the passage of time.¡±

Yet Im is no stranger to recovering from physical challenges.

He is famous for having battled — and beaten — leukemia as an adolescent. ¡°I felt there was a reason why I was saved from a deadly disease, and that it was my calling to use music to help others.¡± He was pursuing graduate studies in engineering in the United States when he learned about his past from his mother, and became a singer in the hope of using his talent for humanitarian causes.

Defining crossover music

The artist¡¯s upcoming solo concert will not only be a showcase for his newfound voice but also raise funds to build a concert hall for children. ¡°I¡¯m really excited about performing for fans while also doing something for a good cause. Now that I¡¯ve found my voice again I really want to do everything I can.¡±

In addition to the concert he is currently working on not one but three different recordings — ¡°gagok¡± (Korean lyrical songs), ¡°gugak¡± (traditional Korean music) crossover and pop ballads. ¡°Before, I used to shy away from making albums because I wanted to be careful about leaving something behind permanently. But now I want to do as much as I can.¡±

He will be premiering a few tracks from his upcoming albums during the concert this week, among a mix of crossover numbers. He hopes to tell meaningful life stories rather than be dictated by genre.

¡°Music should be treated as music, regardless of genre. Crossover is different from a mere ¡®fusion¡¯ such as featuring a traditional Korean instrument in a classical chamber piece or such,¡± he said, explaining that it¡¯s about taking the essence of different musical elements to make new interpretations, such as merging gugak composition techniques with Western structures.

During ¡°Invincible Masterpiece 2,¡± for example, Im gave Lee Mi-ja¡¯s ¡°trot¡± (Korean pop) piece ¡°Camellia Lady¡± a rock musical treatment and even younger audiences more accustomed to K-pop appreciated what would otherwise be considered old-fashioned.
As Im continues to pioneer new crossover projects, he hopes to work toward a bigger dream. ¡°So far I suppose I¡¯ve been doing quite well,¡± he said, about starring in smash hit musicals, performing opposite esteemed artists like Sumi Jo and even making headlines for sellout concerts in Japan.

But he still feels he hasn¡¯t achieved ¡°enough influence¡± to contribute to humanitarian causes.

¡°If I don¡¯t reach what I believe is a satisfying level of success as an artist, enough to make a difference in our society, then I might go into law perhaps so I can find a different way to help others. I went from studying engineering to singing professionally. I¡¯m not afraid to change paths.

¡°But for now, it is with the greatest pleasure that I take the stage, to affect people in the best way I know through the beauty of music.¡±
The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets cost from 22,000 won to 110,000 won. For more information, call (02) 719-0131.