‘Jazz has no borders, no chains’

Boudewijn Otten 10 December, 2017

‘In the next two years it’s all about integrating traditional Korean music in European jazz. Yes, I must narrow down my research to a rather small area. That’s not easy, because I have very wide interests and experiences.’ Indeed she has. In her native country South-Korea, Engu Song was not only a singer in various K-pop and jazz bands, but also a classical pianist who earned a degree at the Busan Conservatoire. Last year, in the Austrian capital of Vienna, she finished her bachelor’s education in jazz music. Before and during her Vienna years Engu has been travelling a lot, visiting all kind of places all over the world to sing just about everything.

‘My mother used to be a dancer, father plays the guitar, my brother is a drummer and my sister plays bass. So I’m no exception in my family, we all love art and music. I like to experience music at the spots where it originated or flourishes. You are right, I like being a vocal chameleon. In Spain I plunged into flamenco. In Mexico I came in touch with salsa and Caribbean music. I even toured with LM Sobredosis for a couple of months, that’s a Cuban band. I was the only non-American, but I’m used to that. I want to sing everything, anything. But my big preference is jazz, in jazz one finds reflections on all other kinds of music. Jazz, that’s  freedom, it has no borders, no chains.’

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In Vienna Engu searched for a new challenge to deepen her insight into the musical universe. The Master of Music at the Prince Claus Conservatoire offered just that, she succeeded in getting a scholarship and enrolled. ‘The program over here is really good. I have been here since September and I feel completely at home. What a nice place this is, everyone is so helpful and friendly.’ It is not easy, though, because non-EU students are not allowed to work during their stay. ‘Some other students play music in the streets, but I don’t think I will do so, although it might be a good experience. No, I want to focus on my studies and singing. There is so much to do. Yesterday I sang in the jazz-club over here, but that wasn’t for money or credits, just for fun.’

Music has no boundaries, but my research does

But Engu learned something from it too. ‘I sang a jazz adaption on a Korean traditional. There was an American jazz musician listening. He said the Korean rhythm reminded him of African beats. In my ears European jazz has a classical music base, but sung in combination with a Korean traditional manner, it sounds a little bit African. That’s interesting, don’t you think? It could be part of my research too, but on the other hand… I have to limit myself. Music has no boundaries, but my research does.’

Just like eight other present Hanze master students, Engu applied successfully for a Holland Scholarship that is provided by the Dutch Ministry of Education. The scholarship is meant for students from outside of the European Economic Area who follow their studies in one of the affiliated universities (of which Hanze University is one).

For this and other scholarships international students can apply for, please turn to www.studyinholland.nl.