Get to Know: Jaram Lee

HONG KONG, December 8, 2014 - Jaram Lee performed Yesol (My Name), her first Pansori at an early age of four and since then delved herself into this tranditional Korean musical performance. Not only was she a prodigy in this form of art, Jaram also created a new style of performance by combining Eastern culture with Western satirical musicals. This Saturday and Sunday, Jaram Lee will be performing 四川好人 (The Good Person of Szechwan) at Asia Society Hong Kong Center as part of the 'Rising Stars of Asia' Series presented by Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Miller.

Get to know more about her through this Q&A session with Asia Society Hong Kong Center (ASHK).

ASHK: Can you tell the Hong Kong audience a little more about yourself, how did you come to contact with pansori and how you are inspired to modernize this traditional musical performance into Sacheon-ga?

Jaram Lee (JL): Hello, I’m Jaram Lee, a Pansori artist from Korea, creating original Pansori pieces, and my role includes being a writer, composer, music supervisor, and storyteller (actress). I’ve been performing in various places around the world, mainly Korea and Europe.

Sacheon-ga was the first original Pansori work I created 8 years ago. Back then, I was 27 years old, and I felt that the world did not guide me in how to live, but just kept forcing me to be better. I wanted to convert this story into Pansori, and I know well the culture today, such as music, rhythm, and stories, so they naturally fell into my work. People see it as great example of a modernization of Pansori.

ASHK: Why did you choose to adapt The Good Person of Szechwan into a pansori? How did this piece inspire you?

JL: I wanted to convey stories and questions about the world into Pansori, but I thought I didn’t have a talent to write my own story. So I read quite a lot of plays and novels, and I discovered The Good Person of Szechwan by Brecht. I felt the main character of the story and I (or people around me) were so much alike, therefore I chose The Good Person of Szechwan without hesitation.

ASHK: What is the motivation behind your performances?

JL: It is probably the point where traditional Pansori and my own story meet. I didn’t really have a role model or anything to refer to at that time. There was nothing like Sacheon-ga, and I was very anxious in the course of creating the piece. However, I think it’s one of the reasons why people loved it so much because it was new and they’ve never seen anything like it before.

ASHK: With Sacheon-ga looking into contemporary issues of injustice, selfishness, and materialism, which seemed to be rampant in Hong Kong, what message would you like to convey to the Hong Kong audience with your performance?

JL: In fact, I do not try to deliberately convey “message” with my work. Nevertheless, wherever I perform Sacheon-ga, I see people try to find a bit of joy of life in this world, full of worries, suppression, rages, and sorrow and it’s a greatly rewarding experience as an artist. Even though I’m not being able to show a full performance of Sacheon-ga this time, I hope I could share many ideas with audience in Hong Kong and I’m very curious to hear their thoughts as well.

ASHK: Is this your first time performing in Hong Kong? Do you have any expectations or anything that you would like to do here during your trip?

JL: Yes, and it’s actually first time I ever perform in Asia, apart from Korea. I am so thrilled to perform Sacheon-ga in Hong Kong, which, to me, is very urban and futuristic. I’m so looking forward to experiencing wonderful dish and beautiful scenery.