I clearly remember my first encounter with Korean musicians. In February of 2002 I got a call asking if I would be interested in recording a fusion project with some Korean musicians. And that the budget isn’t much but I might like it. The budget was never used to be good then anyway, so I said yes.
In the studio there were 5-6 musicians from Korea and some local. The recording which was supposed to take 3 days, took 7 and at the end it was all fine. No one in the Korean team could speak a word of English except their manager! And thus whatever anyone wanted to say to other musicians about music or anything totally was dependent on this manager who could barely speak English, But could communicate well. All in all we were having good time and creating some interesting music too.
I remember a very funny incident very clearly from those recording sessions. I was to play a duet with a senior Korean musician who was playing some horizontal instrument with lots of strings attached Eventually in my many visits to Korea I would work a lot with him and come to know that he is one of the finest Khayagum players from Korea. – Maestro Beik In Young
I was asked by the manager ‘Will you play this this this…?” I nodded my head and said Yes. He went back to the maestro, they discussed something and returned to me and asked the same question, I once again nodded my head and said yes. He once again went back to discuss with the maestro. This went on for a while and everyone present including myself was clearly getting upset about the situation. So finally when he asked me with a total confused face the same question for the 5th or 7th time, I said YESSS I will playyyyy … and I picked up my flute and just played what he wanted. Then there was a hush sound of exclamations and was confused.
Then he asked me “If you can play it why you keep saying No? “But I am saying Yes all the time” “Yes, you say yes, but say No with your head” ……!
Ahhh… So that was it! So this was their first ever encounter with the Great Indian Head Wobble !!! I learnt that Koreans have two clear noddings for yes and no; and Indian way of moving head sideways is neither here or there!
Eventually the recordings were over and two albums ‘Ayuta Ki Pawan’ and Punyapur Ki Sarita were released in Korea with the beautiful album covers. One of them even won some awards too.
Later that year I travelled to Korea for the first time and thus started an important chapter in my life !