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2006/03/22 | Permalink | Source

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A song used in a cosmetics ad featuring actor kwon Sang-woo has gained popularity recently. Many people have asked, "What musical instruments were used in the ad?" on internet sites. The song, which has an Asian melody, was played by Chinese erhu player Cao Xuejing and is called, "Put Your Hands Up".

There is a Korean musical instrument called the haegeum, which is a Korean-style fiddle with silk strings. Its Chinese counterpart is the erhu, a metal-stringed fiddle. The erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, has always been likened to the haegeum because they are both string instruments and make similar sounds.

These days, it is easy to hear the sound of the erhu played not only in Korean pop songs, commercials and TV dramas, but also in Japanese pop music and even by musicians from other countries.

A familiar sound-

Among songs on the album of "Seodongyo", ("Seo Dong")a SBS soap opera, "Aesang" ("Sorrow") and "Kkotbit" ("Color of the Flower") sung by soprano Geum Seon-ae used the erhu for their main melodies. The producer of the album, Yim Jae-hyun (36), remarked, "The erhu has a thicker timbre than the haegeum, so the sound of the erhu feels like that of a singing man".

Singer Lee Seon-hee plans to release a joint single album with the "12 Girls Band", a Chinese musical group of 12 females who play traditional musical instruments, in Korea, China, and Japan simultaneously. The album will be mainly comprised of songs played with the erhu. Hook Entertainment, to which Lee Seon-hee belongs, said, "The famous song of Lee Seon-hee, "Inyeon", sounded like Korean classical music. We will make the song in the new album convey feelings covering Korea, China and Japan with the erhu playing the main melody".

The erhu first became known to the Korean pop music industry in 1999 when singer Lee Seung-hwan used it in his song "Dangbu" ("Request") in his sixth album. Singers Lee Soo-young and Park Jeong-hyun, and fusion bands like M.A.C. and Vinalog followed suit.

The popularity of the erhu can be found in other countries as well. In Japan, "Beautiful Energy" of the "Twelve Girls Band" recorded 1.5 million albums in sales, and an album of Japanese female idol stars who used the erhu in their album took the second place on the Oricon Single Chart in 2003.

In the meantime, there will be a concert of Bob James, an American Jazz pianist, who will show a crossover performance with "Angels of Shanghai", who play traditional Chinese musical instruments, particularly the erhu, in Korea on April 19 and 20.

The erhu originates from China, but is often played in crossover music-

Then, why is it that the erhu is loved by so many people all of a sudden? Kim Sang-eun, a member of M.A.C. and an erhu player, cites the erhu"s suitability for Western music play as the secret to its popularity.

Kim said, "While the haegeum is suitable for solo play because of its strong and vibrant sounds, the erhu is frequently used for pop music as it can easily be harmonized with many kinds of music like fusion and Western music". He explained that the erhu goes well with fast-tempo pop music because of its relatively little vibration, whereas the haegeum is better suited for slow music.

The vigorous performances efforts of erhu players who have long expanded the genre with their crossover play have played a great role in making the erhu popular.

"Over the past 10 years, Chinese erhu players have traveled to Japan to play concerts and publicized that erhu players' repertoires are not limited to playing classical music and pop songs", Korean classical music critic Yoon Joong-gang said. "In order for the haegeum to be internationally recognized just like the erhu, haegeum players should play overseas frequently and play together with Western musicians".

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