February 7, 2004

Korea Herald

To those unfamiliar with Bobby McFerrin, he's a one-hit wonder. But to those who saw him perform in his first featured appearance in Korea last Thursday, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was probably the last song on their minds. The world's best-known vocal innovator wowed audiences with his on the spot, vocal pyrotechnics. But the spontaneity and infectious joy that McFerrin brings to music making was a rare treat to Seoul Arts Center audiences who usually aren't accustomed to being so taken to task by the performers on stage. By the end of the concert, which started politely enough with Mozart's overture to "The Marriage of Figaro," the whole audience literally found themselves singing along with Bobby.

"It's as simple as a kid walking around in circles in his room, making up things," he explained to reporters following a rehearsal Wednesday. "It's like having a musical adventure. Everyone can do it." His program, which included duets with cellist Yang Sung-won, and him conducting the Korea Symphony Orchestra and a young concert choir, also showed his wide range of musical interests outside his activities as a solo vocalist.

McFerrin has always been regarded as a natural wonder of sorts, with a limitless vocal technique and an imagination to match, since he ventured as a soloist in the early 80s. Then came his 1987 song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," a Grammy award winning hit that inspired nothing less than a worldwide cultural phenomenon. But since, that ditty has often casted a disproportionately large shadow over everything else, especially to foreign audiences who have had less exposure to some of his more recent ventures.

"I know it's still working. I know it's still alive," he said of the song he has refused to perform since 1988. "I sang it a hundred million times and I just got sick of it." In the past 15 years, McFerrin pursed more unconventional projects for an artist of his commerical stature. Most notably, he focused much of his attention towards conducting classical music. "Conducting is a strange profession," he explained. "But the approach is basically the same (in conducting as in singing): be as spontaneous as possible and to have fun."

Posted by acapnews at February 7, 2004 9:06 AM


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