Beishan Reviewed: Youn Sun Nah and Ulf Wakenius – Voyage to jazz paradise

Be ready to set sail to an amazing jazz journey when a Korean jazz singer meets another jazz guitarist from Sweden. With a passionate originality and magnificent performance, Youn Sun Nah and her guitarist partner, Ulf Wakenius, came to show you how the jazz paradise would sound like.

Youn Sun Nah is once described as “a UFO from the jazz universe” by the French newspaper Le Monde, she sang several signature songs from her albums last Sunday night and received impassioned welcoming from her admirers.

“It’s really incredible and the jazz style is so fresh in Beishan,” Lai Ran, one of the listeners and a lover of jazz, said. “Sun Nah has put lots of unique elements as a stream of new blood to jazz music, [she] changed the traditional style to make jazz much more powerful to catch listeners’ ears.”

Many other music fans expressed that they would like to accept and try to know more about this ‘special’ kind of music.

“Youn Sun Nah’s jazz style is much more influential and attractive than the traditional jazz style,” Ou Yang, a guitar player from Macau, claimed. “Her voice was really magnificent and powerful to make people addicted to it.”

“I am so glad that the audience would accept my jazz style,” Youn Sun Nah expressed. I enjoyed every second in China, especially during the performance.”

Youn was born into a family music, her compositions contain strong influence from her father, whom is a symphony orchestra conductor, and her classical vocalist mother definitely passed her divine voice down to Youn. “I am so thankful for my parents giving my voice and my musicality.” She said.

The musical genius embraces one simple dream. Youn added, “I just want to sing for people. Honestly, I can say my dream has come true. And I feel really lucky that, in fact, I only give the audience a little thing [which is my voice] but they give me a lot in return.”

When we asked about why she chose jazz, Youn told us she had never tried to listen and sing jazz when she was a child. She asked around many of her friends what kind of music was suitable for her.

“One friend told me, jazz,” Sun Nah added. “He said to me, jazz is the original pop music and if I can sing jazz, I can sing everything.”

And then She decided to go to Paris in 1995 to study jazz and French chanson at the CIM school (one of the oldest jazz schools in Europe), at the National Music Institute of Beauvais, and at the Nadia and Lili Boulanger Conservatory. Her innate talent for jazz revealed itself when she started playing in Parisian jazz clubs with her group, the Youn Sun Nah 5tet. She made her rounds on the Paris club scene, performances that would earn her invitations to work with many famous musicians. Youn Sun Nah made strong showing in a number of jazz competitions like La Défense, St. Maur, and Montmartre. She became the buzzword in theatres and festivals all over France, while also performing in Korea, essentially managing simultaneous careers in two countries.

In the past 18 years of jazz studying, Sun Nah received a great number of honours in her field. To praise her contribution to art and culture in France, she was granted the title of nobility “Chevalier de l‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the culture secretary, putting her in the prominent company of such stars as David Bowie, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dustin Hoffman.

“I appreciate every second of my jazz journey because I am doing something I really like,” Sun Nah said.

We also talked about their daily practices, Youn’s partner, Ulf Wakenius added, “I never feel practicing is an obligation, this. I like playing guitar so I am grateful to practice.”

For Ulf, playing guitar is the most wonderful thing and it gives great pleasure to him. He has been a jazz guitarist since 17 and he worked with many prestigious artists before.

“Sometimes playing jazz feels like speaking another language. It makes me feel free because I can play whatever I want, and I think everybody knows music can express your feelings beyond words.”

“My music dream is to work with Sun Nah,” Ulf said. “Now that jazz has made my dream come true and made everything possible for me. It really is such a fantastic dream that I never want to wake up from.”

Sun Nah smiled and added, “We know each other very well and we have never had different opinions during our cooperation. Indeed, we extend our talent and make good use of it.”

“Since the first moment I met Ulf, I know I can have 200 percent confidence to trust him because he is a great musician,” Youn continued. “We have worked with each other for five years so I know what he likes.”

When asked about the future cooperation of the two great musicians, they answered that they are making a new album and the new masterpiece is coming soon.

“Do not be in hurry,” Ulf Wakenius added. “It is a gift for everyone to learn something new every day. And this time, we want to add some Chinese elements into our works.”


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