Thursday 27 July 2017

Budding musicians bring some added Seoul to All-Ireland Fleadh

Soomee Han (concertina) and Yoonjeong Nam (bodhran) at the Fleadh Cheoi
Soomee Han (concertina) and Yoonjeong Nam (bodhran) at the Fleadh Cheoi

Greg Harkin

The All-Ireland Fleadh attracts people from all over the world, but not that many budding musicians who've quit their jobs to be there.

Yoonjeong Nam (24) made the 9,500km journey to Sligo from Asan, a suburb of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

And all to brush up on her bodhran-playing technique.

Her friend Soomee Han (29) travelled with her as she tries to get to grips with the concertina.

"I just love Irish music," said Yoonjeong.

"I really wanted to come to the Fleadh and the only way to get here was to give up my job.

"I worked in an amusement park and I enjoyed it but I had to leave to be able to come here.

"I'm not worried though; I'm hoping I can get another job when I get home."

She is proficient in the tin whistle and is 'getting there' with the bodhran.

"I love the rhythm very much," she said.

"Repetitive rhythms make you dance and I like to dance. The slow Irish songs are also really beautiful.

"There are some similarities with the Jangeoo - the traditional Korean drum; there's just something special about the bodhran."

She met Soomme at a trad session in Asan.

The 29-year-old English teacher fell in love with Irish music and the Fleadh three years ago when an fellow teacher from Kildare gave her a tin whistle.

"I would go to sessions and practice a lot but I found that almost everyone at sessions in Korea was playing the tin whistle so I decided to try something different," she said.

"I came to Sligo last year and tried the accordion but it was too sore on my arms and then I bought myself a new concertina so I'm back this year doing the classes and enjoying being here in Ireland again."

Both musicians are already making plans for the Fleadh in Ennis next year.

"I just hope I don't have to quit my job next time," said Yoonjeong.

Competitions start in earnest in Sligo today as up to 8,000 musicians bid for All-Ireland glory at a dozen venues across the town.

Irish Independent

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