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Listen: Jazz by way of South Korea

January 27, 2011 |  5:20 pm

Ryu Bok-sung is a South Korean jazzman whose life has sung the blues. Recently featured in a documentary about South Korea’s first-generation jazz musicians, the 72-year-old Ryu is experiencing a revival while he promotes his adopted music to audiences across his country.

The drummer/percussionist, who grew up in rural South Korea in the 1940s and '50s, fell in love with jazz when he heard a tune by John Coltrane and Miles Davis on the Armed Forces Radio Network. He became obsessed with the music, and that passion has led to some sweet and sour notes in his life.

Ryu’s obsession with buying better instruments and tens of thousands of jazz records ended his only marriage, his wife eventually walking out with the couple’s four daughters. Now divorced, Ryu lives alone in a studio next to his drum/percussion school, estranged from his children.

But the love for jazz soothed him and still drives him today. He dreams of performing abroad, especially in the U.S., the home of the syncopated rhythms that have shaped his life.

Click here to read about the tale of how the Asian jazzman found the music and the music found him and listen to him perform in the video above.

-- Jung-yoon Choi