Leenalchi Releases Pansori Pop Version Of Theme Song “Pachinko”

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When producer Soo Hugh was looking for music for Apple’s title sequence

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TV series Pachinkoshe played various songs and finally chose Let’s live for today a 1967 Grass Roots cover of a song originally performed by British band The Rokes in 1966. The Rokes recorded it as Piangi with me (cry with me).

The upbeat song lights up the multigenerational melancholy saga adapted from Min Jin Lee’s bestselling novel Pachinko. In the title sequence, the actors, including Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Min-ho, Minha Kim, and Jin Ha, dance to the song in a Pachinko hall. The characters’ happy dancing moments contrast with the difficult experiences their Korean immigrant characters face in Japan. Ethnic Koreans in Japan, known as Zainichi, have faced decades of discrimination.

Although the saga begins in Korea during the Japanese occupation (1910 to 1945) and ends in 1980s Tokyo, Hugh chose a song popular in the United States in the 1960s, to reflect the broader experience of the Korean diaspora, including immigration to the United States. Still, since the show is shot in English, Korean, and Japanese, Hugh felt it was appropriate to reinterpret the song for the final episode.

“Since I knew that the last episode of the season was going to end with the interviews of first generation Zainichi women, I thought it would be appropriate to change the intro music to a Korean version so that the episode definitely more Korean than the previous ones,” Hugh said. I wanted it to be a celebration of Korean resilience and pride. And thinking of who could do a cover of a song that we all loved so much, the the only ones I knew capable of doing that were Leenalchi.

Leenalchi is a group made up of four singers – Lee Na-rae, Kwon Song-hee, Shin Yu-jin and An Yi-ho – who attended the Department of Traditional Music at Seoul National University, along with two bass players and a drummer. Bassist Jang Young-gyu created the musical scores for the films The Lamentations (2016) and Train to Busan (2016) and also played bass for fusion band SsingSsing. Fellow bassist Jeong Jung-yeop played bass for indie rock band Kiha and the Faces, while drummer Lee Chul-hee was also a drummer for SsingSsing. The group is named after Lee Nal-chi, a pansori master of the 1880s.

Pansori is a Korean genre of musical storytelling performed by a singer and a drummer. It probably originated in the late 17th century, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), with artists who were probably shamans and street performers, but it eventually won favor with the elite. A pansori fusion trend, which began in the 1990s, sparked creative musical fusions such as pansori-reggae, pansori-classical music, and pansori-rap.

The modern version of Leenalchi’s traditional music has been used for the Korean Tourist Board Feel the rhythm of Korea video series and the group won three awards at the Korean Music Awards in 2021 for Musician of the Year, Best Modern Rock Song and Best Jazz and Crossover Album.

Hugh was impressed with their distinctive sound.

“I first heard about them when I was in Korea a few years ago and heard The tiger is coming and it was an unforgettable sound,” said Hugh. “I needed to know who they were and since then I’ve been a big fan. What they do is so unique and distinct, blending old and new in such a fresh and infectious way. What they do is exactly what the show aims to do in content and style – blending Korean influences into an overall sound. I love their rendering.”

Leenalchi’s version of Let’s live for today does not appear on the official Pachinko – Apple TV+ Series Soundtrack, an evocative score that showcases electronic and acoustic instrumentation. The soundtrack is the work of American classical music composer and arranger Nico Muhly (Kill your darlings, End Howards).

“Music for Pachinko had heavy work to do,” Mulhy said. “The show gracefully jumps from Japan to Korea, the 1930s to the 1980s, and everywhere in between. The music had to bridge those time periods, tie the characters together, and keep the audience focused on the incredible on-screen performances.

The official soundtrack was released on March 25 via Lakeshore Records. Leenalchi’s exuberant take on the theme song premieres in conjunction with the series’ final episode, which airs April 29.

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