The Touch, Bringing the Tango to Full Bloom
The Touch, Bringing the Tango to Full Bloom
  • Lee Park Jeongeun
  • 승인 2024.03.04 10:31
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<strong>ALL PHOTOS FROM YHN</strong><br>


An instrument called the bandoneon is mainly used in the performance of tango, Argentina's representative popular music. In Korea, there is a musician who continues to make efforts to promote the tango by creating a melody that captures the mind through delicate touches. This SMT reporter met Yeon Ha-nel, a bandoneonist and pianist who considers the tango as her music and keeps promoting it steadily, hoping for its popularization.


Before starting the interview, please introduce yourself to Sookmyungians.

Hello, I am Yeon Ha-nel. Now I am a tango musician, both a pianist and a bandoneonist in the group, Sciammarella Tango. Also, I play the role of leader in the Yeon Hanel Band. Nice to meet you.


It is known that you majored in composition at Sookmyung Women's University. When did you decide to go down the path of music?

I've always believed since I was young that I would live with music, and I'd never thought about anything else. However, I didn't think I would become a performer, but after majoring in composition, I got to know the tango and bandoneon, which led me down the path of a performer.


What is the most memorable experience about music in your university life?

I participated in a famous contemporary music festival in Darmstadt, Germany, with several of my colleagues. At that time, I had fun doing various new things, such as inquiring about applications by e-mail and sending applications to foreign exchange organizations. In Germany, I got to know about Yun I-sang, who I hadn't come across in Korea, and I was able to interact directly with composers from all over the world. Even before that, I had always had a dream about studying abroad, so I think this actual experience in Germany influenced my departure to a foreign country, Argentina.


It is known that the bandoneon has the nickname of the "Devil's Instrument" because of its difficulty. We are curious what you think of this nickname.

Personally, it is not my favorite nickname, but I think I know how it came about. Like all instruments, it takes a lot of practice and effort to play well, but maybe the bandoneon's hurdle is too high from the beginning such as a difficult playing method. Even though there are some hurdles, I feel that more people are becoming interested in and like bandoneon than before. However, there are still a lot of people who don't know the name of this instrument. I had the experience that even a composer, who was looking for an accordion player, didn't care about the fact that I am a bandoneon player in that accordion and bandoneon have similar features. At times like this, I felt a little exhausted.


What difficulties have you encountered while working as a musician and how does it affect you currently?

The biggest difficulty while working as a tango musician was coming to Korea where I had to start from nothing. It is also hard to meet like-minded musical colleagues, and it's still a long way from attracting an audience who fully understands the tango. At last year's album showcase, I brought an Argentine pianist to Korea, and we played together, but it is difficult to continue to play like that. So, I'm thinking a lot about my music life in Korea, too.


You released your first full album [Vals Del Sí] last year, and all the tracks are self-made tango songs. What did you think was the most important part while preparing for this album?

Just like I had performed in groups and orchestras and released albums in Argentina, I needed something that represented me in Korea. I filled the album with songs that I wrote over the course of a month. Also, what I emphasize every time I play is delivering the local tango in Argentina. The songs have to be performed by a musician who knows tango, so I invited Argentine friends over and recorded them. It was a very tight schedule to get everyone together about two times in less than a month and record it in two days, but somehow, I'm satisfied with the result. Moreover, thanks to this album, we were nominated for the Best New Artist of the Year and the Best Global Contemporary in the "Korean Music Awards."


As the songs on the album, "Contrabando 1 - Comienzo" and "Contrabando 2 - Calle 2940" have similar titles, it seems like there's a continuation of the story. If there is a big story behind the album, what is it?

In fact, there are songs that I wrote with the title in mind, and there are songs that went with the title later. "Contrabando 1 - Comienzo" is my second self-written tango song after "Ninina," and I've always thought of a duo song with the bass, my favorite tango instrument. The starting point was "Contrabando 1 - Comienzo" and then somehow I ended up writing one more song, which was "Contrabando 2 - Calle 2940." The title of the album, "Vals Del Sí," is my autobiographical song. I asked Denise Sciammarella, who worked in the Sciammarella Tango, to write the lyrics and record the song. After having decided to come back to Korea after a long time in Argentina, it was a song about my last performance with my family-like friends, my regrets before leaving, and my fear of a new place. And many songs are filled with homages to my tango teachers. In a way, it's a projection of the story of me living with the tango as a stranger and as half a local in Argentina, right? I sent this album to my friend in Argentina who happily said, "You've extracted the essence of Buenos Aires." Therefore, I think I showed the color of Argentina's tango well through my own songs.


Last year, you hosted the tango music play named <Vals del Sí> as a barrier-free performance. What kind of process did you prepare for this play?

Actually, it was planned as a large-scale cultural foundation project, but it was eliminated from the support project and went ahead as a small support project. I couldn't professionally look at the content due to budget issues, so I wrote the script and planned everything. Honestly, it was a storytelling music play that lacked a lot, but in that it was the first barrier-free performance with disabled performers, the play was also quite meaningful.


We think the melody of tango is unique and has its own beauty. What do you think is the greatest beauty of the tango?

Since tango started with dance songs, it has the characteristic that most songs end in about three minutes. Everything is contained in that short time. Once you get to know the lyrics and contents of the tango, you can enjoy it in more depth with less difficulty. Also, if you experience the tango firsthand and learn and feel the culture, I think you can appreciate it more easily. Luckily, I was able to experience it all, so I decided on tango music as my music and I'm continuing to do it.


We expect that there will be more things you want to achieve in your music life in Korea. Please tell us your future plans.

I'm planning to record and play solo songs this year. Along with bandoneon solo songs, I'm preparing piano solo songs, too. I play both instruments, but when I came to Korea, I couldn't play the piano much because I was only focused on playing the bandoneon. Since I took a long break from piano practice, I would like to introduce the tango as a pianist now. Furthermore, as I was selected for the Mapo Music Creation Center's record support project, I am preparing songs and bandoneon duo songs. They will be released in the first half of this year.


Do you have any advice to the Sookmyungians who want to play an active role through music and realize their dreams?

I don't think I'm at the stage to give advice, but if you don't let go of the music, I'd like to say let's do it together until the end.


Finally, please one word for Sookmyungians who are trying to follow their dreams.

College life is short, but I think it's a time when you can have a lot of experiences. In addition, please don't forget that there's another big world after graduation. El Mejor está por venir (The best is yet to come)!



- Sookmyung Women's Univ., (B.A.) Department of Composition (2007)
- Graduated from Orquesta Escuela de Tango Emilio Balcarce (2016)
- Performed as a stand-in of Seo Ye-ji's hand in the tvN drama <Eve> (2022)
- Discography of [Vals Del Sí] as a full-length album (2023)
- Appeared ONSTAGE for the NAVER Cultural Foundation (2023)
- Nominated for the Best New Artist of the Year and the Best Global Contemporary category at the "Korean Music Awards" (2024)

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