77 Groove Korea: You play gayageum rendi- tions of a number of Jimi Hendrix songs. What draws you to his music? Luna Lee: I started getting interested in blues music because of its similarities to Ko- rean traditional gayageum music in the use of scale. I was attracted to Jimi’s music because I thought his approach to blues was unique and fresh. What inspired you to play the gayageum? I have always loved touching rough surfac- es. I love feeling different textures, and when I was young I always fell asleep while touching the edges of my pillow. The strings of the gay- ageum are twined with very fine silk threads, so the texture is different from the smooth ny- lon or metal of guitar strings. I think I started practicing the gayageum because I loved to feel the texture of the strings. Did you start out playing another instru- ment? Yes, I started out with the piano when I was 9. I still find the piano very useful when I write songs. What do you fnd to be the most enjoyable aspect of playing the gayageum? I like the fact that I use my fingers directly to pluck the strings made of fine silk threads; I feel even closer to my instrument that way. I think the freedom of expressing the dynamics with your left hand on this instrument is very unique. How often do you practice? I tend to not practice much, really. I usual- ly practice when I feel like playing the instru- ment, and I practice for a long time once I start playing. When and why did you decide to veer away from playing traditional music? I have enjoyed playing different genres like New Age and K-pop on the gayageum since I was young. Then about six years ago, I started getting into rock music and thought it would go well on my instrument, too. What is your favorite song to play at the moment? I enjoyed practicing the song “Hotel Califor- nia” by the Eagles recently, and I was happy that the guitar solo part went really well on the gayageum. What bands or musicians have you been listening to lately? Recently, the new Michael Jackson and Coldplay albums have been released, and I’m enjoying both of them quite a lot. Who influences your current music? Out of the many great blues and rock mu- sicians, I’d pick Jimi Hendrix for inspiration. I also like R&B music and I have listened to Maxwell’s music a lot, so I’d say my music has also been inspired by him. You have become very popular on You- Tube. What do you think attracts so many people to your music? I think the fans are attracted to the contrast of Western music and an Eastern instrument. Even though my instrument is an Asian instru- ment with a long history, the music of today and music from both the East and West sound great on it. I think that’s what attracts them: the harmony of you and me — us. What is the creative process behind the tracks on your album? I composed the originals and also arranged the covers. The recording, mixing and pro- ducing were done in Los Angeles, where my recording company is located. The album was produced by The Rolling Stones’ current pro- ducer Krish Sharma. You majored in gayageum performance and you have ensured that gayageum music has been heard by thousands of people. Do you ever worry that traditional Korean instruments won’t continue to at- tract young listeners? I don’t worry about that too much, really, because government policies for teaching students in Korea about traditional Korean in- struments and music are being implemented. Besides, there are many other traditional mu- sicians that are going in new directions, such as crossover and playing modern music with their traditional instruments, so I think all of this will help younger generations continue to be interested in those instruments. Where and when was your favorite con- cert? I toured California last February and I had concerts in Long Beach and at the Pacif- ic Asian Museum in Pasadena — both were unforgettable. I was glad that the audiences were interested in my performances. What challenges have you faced as a gay- ageum player? Since I play pop and rock music, I have had to study other string instruments like the gui- tar. It is not easy for the gayageum to express some musical ideas that electric guitars can do by using distortion pedals, so I have started working on modifying my gayageum to make it easier to use varied, guitar-like effects. At the moment, this is the most difficult part of being a gayageum player. Do you get nervous before performing? I tend to get nervous when the sound sys- tem at the venue is not good enough or when my gayageum is not in a good state. There aren’t any other special things I do before a gig, but I always focus on tuning my instru- ment because it tends to go out of tune when I bend the strings too much. Do you have a day job or are you a full- time musician? I’m currently a primary school teacher. At Korean schools, there are teachers who spe- cialize in teaching Korean traditional music, and I’m one of them. I finally get to be a full- time musician on school holidays. What are your hopes for the future? I hope it becomes easier for musicians to live well and to be themselves. I have met a lot of musicians in different fields whose passion for music is inspiring and great. But I feel bad when I see those musicians, once so full of passion, go through challenges in their musi- cal careers or even give up on it due to eco- nomic and social instability. Is there anything else you would like to tell your readers? This year, I’m planning to release my sec- ond album. I’m also planning to hold concerts in the U.S. this fall and in Europe this winter. Information will be updated on my Facebook page. Please check it out! MorE INFo j Website youtube.com/luna422422 Facebook fb.com/lunagayageum