Yiruma blurs the boundaries. The entire output of understated South Korean pianist falls between hazy genres lines, neither fitting in with the contemporary classical or new age tags that it is often lumped in with. What can't be disputed is the emotive effect of Yiruma's output, which has inspired sold-out tours in South Korea and brought him a number one hit across several territories in 2000. Born in Seoul and christened I Ru-ma, he started to play piano at the age of five, his preternatural ability on the instrument reflected in the compositions he wrote at a young age. Vociferously encouraged by his mother, she was instrumental in Yiruma making the long journey to London in 1988 to study at the Purcell School of Music. Yiruma was a diligent student whose natural ability was matched by his passion to learn and he graduated in July 1997 he participated on the album The Musicians Of Purcell. His next stop was London's King's College to pursue a Masters Degree in composition. He was in his last year in 2000 when he released his first solo album Love Scene, a florid set that was heavily inspired by the romantic music of Paris. There was a similarly romantic tale behind his stage name; a statement of intent that translates as 'I shall achieve' in Korean.
The most startling thing about it was the bittersweet emotions that it inspired in listeners. From his early interviews, it was clear this was what its author intended, the pianist gnomically revealing: 'I try to recall the memories of my past, my childhood, sometimes my lovers'. However, it was his next album, 2001's First Love that resonated far beyond a small cognoscenti of enraptured listeners. Most of the hard work was achieved by its first single, 'River Flows In You', which became a number one hit across the Far East and was proposed for the first movie in the Twilight franchise. While the movie's producers ultimately declined to use the piece for 'Bella's Lullaby', a series of YouTube videos applied Yiruma music to the scene, becoming a minor viral sensation. The album also boasted an orchestral version of his second hit 'Kiss The Rain', whose minor tonality was quickly becoming Yiruma's trademark. Critics, however, were still at sixes and sevens trying to pin him down, his unique patterns and wholesome embrace of repetition marking him apart from other solo pianists.
In 2002 Yiruma became the first ever Korean artist to be invited to perform at MIDEM in Cannes. It was also the first year his evocative and filmic music made the transition to the big screen, when he composed the score for feature film Oasis, directed by Lee Chang-dong. With a stark plot that dealt with a difficult romance between a mentally disabled man just out of jail for manslaughter and a woman with severe cerebral palsy, he rose to the challenge, delivering a sweeping and emotive suite that moved all who heard it. 2003's album From The Yellow Room was another introspective gem that helped him sell-out all the dates on a 12-city Korean tour, as well as a concert at the prestigious 2,500-capacity Seoul National Arts Center in November. On top of his albums and film scores, Yiruma also wrote for plays and musicals as he created music to help various Korean charities and non-profit organisations. He showed a much more playful side with his next film outing, somehow managing to make viewers emphasise with the loneliness of the titular character in 2004's stop-motion animated film Doggy Poo, directed by Kwon Oh-sung.
Three more studio albums followed until in July 2006 Yiruma gave up his British citizenship and entered the Republic of Korea Navy, where he began the military service that is mandatory for all male South Koreans. When his stint in the forces was over he composed the main theme piece for popular South Korean television series KBS drama 'Spring Waltz' in early 2007 and married Son Hye-Im on May 27th, the sister of well-known Korean actress Son Tae Young. Typically romantic, he composed the piece '27 May' to mark the occasion. Five years after his last major shows Yiruma announced his comeback tour in 2008, Ribbonized, which took in 20 cities across Korea and coincided with the release of his eighth album P.N.O.N.I.. At the start of the following year he added disc jockey to his long list of accomplishments, presenting the show Yiruma's Music From All Around The World for KBS1FM.
Following a long legal dispute with his former label Stomp Music he signed with Sony Music Entertainment Korea in 2010 and celebrated with a best-of tour while his biggest hit 'River Flows In You' became a European dance hit in the hands of German DJ Alex Christensen. Yiruma also took to the pop charts and collaborated with a number of South Korean pop and R&B acts after recording a new version of Beyoncé's 'Halo' with Hyolyn in 2012. Further collaborations followed in 2013 with Baek Ji-young ('I Hate It'), 2AM ('One Spring Day'), Shinee ('Selene 6.23'), Ailee ('Higher') and G.O & 2Face ('Play That Song'). It helped to dispel the new age tag he had been continually burdened with since he first found success.
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