e-Rendezvous had a chat with Korean Men, a music group comprising of jazz and Korean folk music singers. Spokesman and Saxophonist, Richard Rho, and Korean Folk Singer, Lee Hee-mon speak to ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, and CHINELO CHIKELU on their reception and perceptions of Nigeria and Nigerians, suggesting there could be collaborations between both countries and other sundry issues.
Roh: What’s your impression of Nigeria?
This is my first time in Africa. I have always wanted to visit Africa, and now we are here in Nigeria. Nigerian people are so awesome and friendly. It is incredible how the city of Abuja has been developed. I have been to major cities of the world, and I believe Abuja is going to be definitely on the top of that.
Hee-moon: It is my first time too, and I was worried about the distance because it is so far from Korea. However, since our arrival, it’s been fun and I’m grateful to be here.
What are your thoughts about Nigeria’s entertainment industry?
Roh: I am a Korean America. We have Hollywood in America, and Nigeria I believe has Nollywood. Nollywood has so many movie productions and movie stars. I believe one day Nollywood will take over Hollywood.
Do you believe there is need for creative partnership between Nigeria and Korea?
Roh: I believe we need to work together a lot more, and hopefully, I can start that up. I have a handful of musicians here, and there is potential for collaboration that could be achieved between South Korea and Nigeria. Hopefully, in the future, we will have more artistes embark in collaborative projects.
Working together for this trip, how does the group jazz up non-Korean and Korean folk songs?
Roh: It is all about experimentation. Music is after all a universal language. We all share the same music, it could be hard, but after a lot of trials and errors, we pull something off. I am sure we can collaborate as we did with jazz and Korea folk music with Nigerian traditional music that I like. I have just arrived, but I have seen some on the TV, and hopefully I can make friends with Nigerians to learn more.
Hee-moon: Most Korean traditional art and jazz share improvisational traits, that’s how I am able combine the two different art forms.
You have this huge white flying hair, tight pant suit, and the sashayed gait. How does a new audience react to your flamboyant appearance?
Hee-moon: Although I practice the traditional art of folk singing, I am of the present age. So, I infuse my own style which is compatible with the contemporary society.
How significant is the Korean culture festival?
Roh: K-pop, which is a part of Korea culture is a worldwide phenomenon, birthing dances as Gangnam Style by Psy, while Korean Boy Group, BTS is touring the world. We are exporting Korean culture to the world and I am very proud that.
Do you see financial benefits to collaborative projects between Korea and Nigerian artistes?
Roh: Sure. There is. I hear Nigeria has a population of over 180 million. That is a big market, compared to Korea’s 50 million population, thrice the size of Korea, and potential audience. However, money is not the sole objective. It’s also about entertainment, making a better life for the people of Korea and Nigeria. We can work that out to ensure lots of collaboration between our countries.
How accessible are opportunities for direct, non-governmental collaboration between Korea and Nigerian artistes?
Roh: It is not easy. However, we can utilize SMS and social media platforms as Facebook, Instagram, that’s one of the means to address this. Still, it is very difficult for artistes to do this on their own. We will need the help of government to begin, and after a few of us achieve collaborative projects, People will realize it is a growing market, and it will be easier for Nigerian and African artistes to collaborate with Asian artistes.