Luna Lee: The Gayageum Rocker

I recently discovered the incredible and unique sound of Luna Lee while watching a YouTube video of her playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” on a 6th century Korean string instrument. I was blown away and instantly became a fan — the super excited kind of fan who wants to watch all the videos on an artist’s YouTube channel and who says, “You have to watch this!” to everyone who walks in the room while I’m trying to do so. Many of you likely saw the same video as it’s gone viral and has over 4,000,000 YouTube views to date. But if not, you really need to see it now:

Luna plays R&B and Rock classics on a traditional Korean instrument known as the gayageum, a 12-string zither-like instrument related to the Chinese guzheng, Japanese koto, and Vietnamese đàn tranh. A quiet instrument with a beautiful sound, the gayageum was originally designed to play traditional Korean music in a small room during intimate gatherings. But Luna plays it like a rockstar. She saw amazing potential and possibilities in the gayageum, even though she recognized that its quiet sound was not well-suited to music created for drums, bass, and guitar. So Luna got busy. First she re-developed her gayageum for a sound that better matched modern instruments – increasing the volume and pressure, developing the tone, and increasing the sustain. Then she studied guitar effects and amplifiers, experimenting to see how they fit her instrument. And finally, she started playing contemporary music on it. The results of her efforts are stunning. It is as exciting to watch Luna play her music as it is to hear her play. Her passion for the music is obvious. Whether she is playing a rock classic like “Voodoo Child” or an iconic R&B track like B.B. King’s, “The Thrill is Gone,” Luna’s body language expresses the same mix of tension and ecstasy you see when great guitarists/musicians lose themselves in the music.

Luna is also an indie artist. She has talent, ingenuity, and drive, displays a willingness to work hard at her craft, and she has an artist’s passion to create and share her music. She first started sharing her music in 2009, posting her videos on YouTube. She uses social media to keep in touch with her fast-growing fanbase. She even released a well-received debut album in 2013 on a an indie label. More recently she decided to use the crowdfunding platform Patreon in order to gain more support for her music. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms that focus fan donations on just one creative project at a time such as an album, EP, or video, Patreon allows fans to become ongoing patrons of their favorite artists. Luna set up her Patreon page using the “pledge per thing” model which means her fans can make a pledge in any amount on a per video created basis (with a maximum of four possible videos per month). Luna hopes using Patreon will eventually allow her to focus full-time on creating her unique fusion of Korean traditional and western contemporary music, and bringing our worlds closer together one note at a time.

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1 Comment

  • Marguerite,

    Hello from a fellow Luna fanatic. Happily the patreon thing has worked and Luna has been doing music full time for almost 2 years. The improvement that has afforded her music has been quite noticeable.

    Of course more support would be better. She got lucky to have her fans rally to raise the money to get her to SXSW in Austin this week. Happily, she got rave reviews for her two showcase performances. With continuing support additional US tours are already in the planning stage.

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