Leenalchi takes us to a whole new world
When people see Leenalchi, they feel a certain sense of liberation. Perhaps, in most cases, this is because of their music style which often omits musical elements that are typically expected in a melody. They rely on a simple arrangement of instruments, led by bass guitars and drums, and infuse rapid-fire Pansori techniques that sound similar to rap music, all of which deviate from conventional music styles. Such unconventional choice seems to be telling us that it is okay for music to sound different. Moreover, Leenalchi’s lineup of female artists - one counting down to her 30th birthday soon, one married woman in her 30s, and an expectant mother who is also in her 30s - is a massive source of pride and comfort for countless onlookers. As a group, Leenalchi feels solid and full, performing in front of a world that is beautiful all-around. Simply listening to their music broadens our horizons.
Leenalchi’s Kwon Song Hee, Lee Na Rae, and Shin Yu Jin tell their beautiful story on stage in a manner that resonates with Sulwhasoo’s perspective on beauty - “Timeless Wisdom, Ageless Beauty.” All three female artists of Leenalchi, which consists of four vocalists and three musicians, are known as “Soriggun,” or professional vocalists trained as Pansori vocalists. Over the past few months, they have been singing to us, delighting us with their performances on stage. But before they got together to create Leenalchi, they were female artists dealing with momentous life decisions on marriage and childbirth. “I found out that I was pregnant when we were about to start this Leenalchi project. But I didn’t want to quit. Fortunately, the whole team understood my situation, and I was able to finish my recording right up until I had to head into the delivery room. Then, I came back as quickly as I possibly could. At first, I was so anxious. I wasn’t sure if I could be a good mother, and perform on stage. I didn’t know if being an artist would be a good profession as being a mother. But now, I feel like I have a broader perspective on things. My world view is a lot wider than before.”
Over the years, Kwon, Lee, and Shin have challenged a number of different conventions as Soriggun vocalists. With their work as part of the Leenalchi group, they have found a formula that can bring the public much closer to Pansori music. “We still don’t think we’ve really made it. We think we’re at the doorstep of really making it. What we have to do now is to find a way to actually open the door in front of us.” Kwon’s answer reflects her worries as a pop artist. Leenalchi became a global sensation when their song, “Tiger is Coming,” was featured in a promotional video released by the Korea Tourism Organization.
“We were able to give people a taste of Leenalchi’s music with the Pansori epic, ‘Sugungga.’ Now, I think it would be meaningful for us if we could tell people our own story under a new theme. For our second album, we’re planning on writing and composing our own music, rather than using adaptations of traditional Pansori epics. Or we’re going to get some help from other writers to produce our music. We’re going to leave the singing style as is. We’re just going to tell a story that is closer to what we’re all going through today. We’re confident it will give people a little more to relate to.”
“Tradition is like the soy essence you use to make soy sauce.” Lee, who grew up in a liberal environment where her grandparents and neighbors enjoyed traditional music, used “soy essence” as a metaphor to explain that tradition and heritage should be remembered by current and future generations not only in its original form and technique, but also in intangible ways. "Every family has its own soy essence that they use to make soy sauce. They all taste different. The same goes for tradition. It’s expressed in different ways, depending on the person that carries it onward. I think that’s what legacy is about. Leenalchi has four vocalists, and all of us express and sing differently. We absorb tradition in our own ways, then we breathe life into it. I don’t want tradition to be put into one homogeneous box.” In that respect, Kwon thinks Leenalchi shares some things in common with Sulwhasoo. She says, “We try to find ways that can help us become a part of people’s everyday lives without compromising some of the more fundamental elements. That’s what Sulwhasoo and Leenalchi have in common.”
Leenalchi, as a collective, hopes to create music that can be consumed by everyone. They want to create music that can be useful. To make that dream a reality, Leenalchi is trying to be flexible and freewheeling at all times. “We wish our music can be consumed like Sulwhasoo’s products. We want our music to be purposeful and to present people’s day-to-day lives in a natural manner. Our goal isn’t about making special music that highlights tradition. We want to produce good music that is easy for people to include it as a part of their everyday lives.”