1. Dream Continues by Koji Tamaki
If you read the Beijinger monthly magazine, you may have spotted me in this month (October) issue under ‘Playlist’ Well if it surprised you, it surprised me just as much seeing myself on a magazine for the first time in my life! OMG!! Here is a full interview (unpublished) with my thoughts on my top 5 favorite songs.
How did this happen?
I guess when you live in Beijing for a few years the unexpected happens, well this ‘the Beijinger’ interview came to me as a surprise! A new friend I met at Beijing Foodie’s monthly dinner happened to be an editor at ‘the Beijinger’ magazine, he said he found the musichef
concept very interesting and asked me if I was interested in doing a short interview about music. I agreed right away and did an email interview two months ago where I had to pick 10 questions out of 30 and answer them.
It wasn’t until the first week of October when a friend of mine sent me a picture of my article on Weixin that I found out it really got published, ‘OMG I’m on a magazine!!!’ (this being my first time seeing myself on a magazine, I was so thrilled that I went out to hunt for this magazine at Bookworm and brought back not just one but three copies…shameless me…but oh c’mon, give me a break, you would’ve done the same too if it were your first time, no? hehe). Thanks Steven, Tobal and Sui for the opportunity! Here is the complete interview that took place (you may need VPN to listen to some of the songs on Youtube below).
1. What was the first record you ever bought?
In 1997, when my family immigrated to Canada, I bought my first CD’s (H.O.T. and S.E.E.) to stay emotionally connected to my mother country – Korea. At the time, I didn’t speak English and had no friends, K-pop music and my dog Coco were the only friends that kept me company. 1997 is when K-pop went global, legendary bands like H.O.T. and S.E.S. made me feel proud to be a Korean in my teenage years.
H.O.T. ‘Candy’ if you are in your mid 20’s- early 40’s in Korea and don’t know this song, you are a spy!
S.E.S. ‘I’m your girl’ every teenage boy’s fantasy = Eugene hehehe
2. Name a song or record for your time in Beijing?
大城小爱 （Big City, Small Love) by Wang Leehom – I know this is a love song but I think it describes my ‘big love and small hate relationship’ with Beijing well. There are times when I feel lost and frustrated in this big city but over the years Beijing has been very good to me. No matter when or where I go next, Beijing, you will always be part of me.
From the lyric:
finally reach the destination that all wanderers reach
smile ends my exhaustion
No matter where I go you’ll be with me, following me
Beijing is also the city where I met my stray kitten ‘Xintai’ who’s been with me for 8 years!
3. What song would you want to be played at your funeral?
Sad song is the last thing I want at my funeral. Rather than having a gloomy and all black-attire funeral, I want it to be a time of celebration and remembrance for a life well lived. I choose a song by Dennis Brown called “Things in Life,” and Beatles’ song “In My Life,” which will remind people of all the good times that we shared together and how life is going to be alright as long as you stay optimistic. (thanks Zoe for the recommendation, I fell in love the first time I listened to it! 🙂
Enjoying life to the fullest! Apple picking in Boston, New York
TJ in wonderland- living the Burning Man life
playing ‘golf’ in the middle of NYC street with a homeless man
my cat Moomba stealing my spaghetti
4. Has a song ever made you cry?
Yes, many times. Mostly two types of songs – 1. break-up songs with stories that are exactly like mine at the time 2. Christian songs that somehow warms my heart and gives me sense of comfort
‘Heart of Worship’ one of my favorite songs I like to play on my mini guitar alone while praying, leading worship at Kids Church BICF
5. Can you play any instruments? If so, what?
Just like many Asian kids, I played the violin for six years in elementary school, which I didn’t enjoy much. It wasn’t until college when I joined a capella group (Higher Keys) and played in several musicals that I fell in love with music and wanted to learn more. Eventually I went to Berklee college of music to study music production where I taught myself basic piano and guitar to write songs. Nowadays, I enjoy pairing music with cooking for my blog. I also secretly love to sing and dance in my kitchen when no one is looking.
played a worship song with my life mentor while living in the Dominican Republic
6. If you could sing like one person, who would you choose?
I like Michael Bublé’s voice and singing technique very much, however, if I could choose to sing like one person, it would have to be Koji Tamaki (Japanese singer songwriter). He may not have the best technique nor the 5-octave vocal range but his whispery, warm yet soulful voice has the power to captivate people’s hearts. He sings from his heart and soul.
singing with my band ‘金林叶’ at Berklee
夏の終わりのハーモニ (Harmony of Summer)
7. If an alien came to Earth, which song would you recommend them to listen to?
Another very tough question! I wish I can have a whole day with this alien so I can introduce him to the eclectic sounds of the Earth. Since I can only choose one song, I would recommend world’s most popular and #1 recognized song, “Happy Birthday to You.”
8. What record are you most embarrassed about having on your iPod?
Girl’s Generation （少女时代） (K-pop) album – I know, I know… I’m little embarrassed to admit that I listen to Korean girl band music but hey, it’s super catchy and they are hot! There is a reason why each of their song gets over 100 million views on youtube, I’m just one of the 100 million.
9. Who is the best songwriter in your opinion?
Leonard Bernstein who wrote the entire music for one of the best and commercially successful musicals, the West Side Story. His music score for the musical is pure genius! Did you know that the sound track of West Side Story stayed #1 for 54 weeks on Billboard chart? It’s one of my all time favorite albums.
10. If you could date a music genre, what would it be?
This is a tough question! If I were a music genre, I would probably be the kind of music that they play at a Chinese coffee shop inside hutong (familiar but unexpected) so I want to date someone who is different and fun. I would probably date someone who is alternative rock, contemporary folk or cartoon music! haha
Favourite five songs:
1. 夢のつづき (Yume no tsuzuki / Dream continues) by Tamaki Koji
Every time I hit various obstacles in life or felt discouraged, this song has kept me striving for my dreams.
2. Cayman Islands by Kings of Convenience
I’m not sure if it’s the soothing vocal harmony of the duo or the solitary guitar riff, there is something about this song that allows me to escape to a faraway place that’s peaceful and calm, the Cayman islands.
3. I’m yours by Jason Mraz
When I listen to this song, I can forget about all my worries at the moment and dance in joy with people around me (even strangers!), this is the type of happy song that I want to write!
4. Ogiyodiora (어기여 디어라) by Lee Tzsche (aka Lee Sangeun)
With its traditional Korean lullaby-like melody and beautifully written lyric, this is one of the few songs that allow me to paint pictures freely in my head. (need VPN to open)
5. Desfinado by Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto & Antonio Jobim
When I learned to sing Bossa Nova, this was the first song that I came to love. Plus I love to bake a vanilla soufflé while listening to Stan’s saxophone solo in this recording. (need VPN to open)
Yesterday once more by the Carpenters
Ironically, the first time I heard this classic was when I first came to Beijing. It was played at every coffee shop I went, no kidding. After hearing this and ‘Close to me’ enough times, I naturally fell in love with Karen’s voice and Carpenter’s timeless classics.
songs from the West Side Story
I used to be a shy, nerdy and very introverted kid back in high school, however, by playing the role of Chino in my university’s production of ‘West Side Story’, I became a very sociable and not-so-nerdy guy anymore 🙂 By dancing, acting and singing the songs from this musical, I came to appreciate Leonard Bernstein’s story-telling music! He’s a musical genius!!
Brown’s production of ‘West Side Story’ playing the role of Chino
You don’t know me by Michael Bublé
I mentioned earlier that there were a few songs that made me cry. Well this is one of the love/break-up songs with stories that were exactly like mine at the time I ‘loved’ someone back in New York. Although the situation made my heart ache at the time, now, I can look back at it with a smile. I think Buble’s heartfelt voice brings life to this very personal lyric and makes it even more powerful.
Thanks to Steven and Tobal for giving me this opportunity to reflect on what important roles music play in my life. Thanks to Sui for coming to Musichef kitchen to take such wonderful photos! 🙂 Thank you everyone for reading and sharing my journey through music 🙂 original published online interview here
I’m on Instagram – @Musichef_TJ
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