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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | November 21, 2019

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An Interview with Near East Quartet

An interview with Near East Quartet

| On 11, Jun 2015

What comes to mind when you hear the word Korean music, is it Psy and Gangnam Style? Its ridiculously catchy but it’s just repetitive lyrics and does anyone in the English speaking world even understand his lyrics? Psy has proven that you don’t have to understand the lyrics to appreciate the music itself. Some Korean music which you might not be familiar with are the ever talented Near East Quartet. According to them,  music is a global language and they’re here in Australia to demonstrate some of their soulful music.

The Brisbane Jazz Festival was on from the 3rd until the 8th of June. We had the opportunity to chat with one of the international artists who played, Near East Quartet.


Near East Quartet consists of saxophonist Sungjae Son, guitarist Suwuk Chung, drummer Jungyoung Song and traditional vocalist, Yulhee Kim, together in 2010 they released their first album Chaosmos.



The Creative Issue: What is the inspiration for your music? 

Near East Quartet: We see don’t see it as an “Inspiration” rather an opportunity… it’s a constant feed-through in our lives and we could and should grab it with open-mind and spirit of life.

TCI: How would you best describe your music?

Near East Quartet:  “Gukak” is name of the traditional Korean folk music (it’s just really old Korean music more than five hundred years old! Please do not to be confuse it with old K- Pop).

“Gukak” beautifully shows its cultural and artistic expressions.We try to provide the context (in this case, modern free improvisation) and let both styles of music speak to each other, which sometimes played more wonderfully than just “infusing” the two. Usually what happens is that when two different music styles “fuse” themselves, the total sum is always narrower than the original parts, especially with traditional folk music. We discover more beautiful static side of jazz and sense of stillness in Gukak music and sound as opposed to what’s known from our dynamic language and culture, and we try not to fuse but to convey that though our improvised music.

TCI: What motivates you? For example is it your children or simply because you love creating music? 

Near East Quartet: We believe that anyone can be inspired from anyone as long as they are true to themselves! Music is ‘Global’ language. Any thing with ‘Soul’ inside works every time, every where! Just hoping to touch their soul (even if just tiny bit!) with this sound and soul we improvise.

TCI: What was the biggest challenge Near East Quartet has faced?

Near East Quartet: We see every note we improvise as a challenge we can enjoy. Wayne Shorter once said Improvisation is like “Instant Composition!”… ,we are trying to be as clear, real and spontaneous as possible. It’s not the most popular music now but we sought to play as if it will be in the year 2093 or the near future!  (Or in other galaxies!)

TCI: What advice would you give to upcoming Jazz musicians? 

Near East Quartet: Maybe, just simply be “yourself”??? Trying to be “somebody” will make you “nobody” real fast! Look at Youtube, a million living proofs, right there! Just being honest about every aspect of our music will even help the world!