Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Hanna PK
Hanna PK is a solid pianist, soulful vocalist, and vibrant performer, born and raised in South Korea, currently residing in Rochester, NY. She plays a wide variety of the blues & swing, old school folk, and boogie-woogie. She has a dynamic songwriting style – ranging from a funky tune with socially conscious lyrics to a mournful slow blues, from a pop-edged ballad to an uplifting swinging number, and from barrelhouse boogie to jazz. Her seemingly sweet and soft-spoken appearance often leads to surprise when hearing her rich, resonating voice that goes from a whisper to belting with intensity. Her piano style is much more lyrical and imaginative than simply repeating so-called “licks”, though she knows when to toss them in the mix for a thrill, and is always in the groove. And what draws the audience closer to her heartfelt, honest music are her genuine passion, and the originality that comes from within.
When meeting Hanna, a vocalist, pianist, and band leader born in South Korea, currently residing in Rochester NY, it’s not uncommon to wonder how a young woman born and raised in Korea stepped into the Blues. But her music makes it clear she is not only touched by it, but also dedicated to this great art form. Hearing her strong left hand bass rocking steady with her swinging right hand on the piano, one cannot deny she has done her homework and is carrying on the tradition. Her original songs from two self released CDs also proves her to be a creative artist who will continue to build her fans in wide range of ages and backgrounds.
On stage, her warm personality invites the audience right to her heart — she is a soulful singer who can accompany herself on a piano, with an impeccably steady and strong left hand bass, and a swinging and shuffling right hand freely cascading over it. She also plays the guitar and a few other instruments. This all-in-one package allows her the flexibility of being able to play as a solo act or in any ensemble small or big.
One evening in 2014, when she first heard local blues legend John Cole and his band, she found what she was looking for. All along, it was the blues calling for her. She then totally immersed herself in this music, to which she felt so strongly called, by listening and later playing in clubs and jam sessions, and by collecting and hearing the recordings.
From those records, she came to love and be inspired by many of the great piano-playing singers of the Blues and Jazz such as Memphis Slim, Big Maceo Merriweather, Otis Spann, Hadda Brooks, Nina Simone, Norah Jones and Aretha Franklin. Through all these experiences she learned (and is still learning) the language and the meaning of the blues. It was her luck that even though Rochester isn’t exactly in the Delta region, the area’s blues scene is still carried on with authenticity by nationally-recognized bluesmen like Joe Beard and John Cole. In fact, the first time she got a chance to play with Joe Beard was at a festival celebrating Son House, and just a few years later, she is subbing on Joe’s band, and has performed with him in several duo shows.
In the summer of 2015, she formed Hanna and the Blue Hearts and in the summer of 2016, she released her 1st CD “Rearview Mirror” which includes Hanna’s original songs showing that she’s not only a traditionalist but also a creative songwriter. In 2018, she released the new CD “The Blues Is Here To Stay” which includes classic blues tunes like “Worried Life Blues” by Big Maceo Merriweather, two versions of boogie-woogie piece by Meade Lux Lewis, “Honky Tonk Train”, Sippie Wallace’s hit from the 1920s “Up The Country Blues”, and story telling, and soulful originals like “Dirty Dishes” and “Love Keeps Walking In”.
In June 2018, Hanna and guitarist Aleks Disljenkovic won 1st place at Memphis Bound and represented Western New York at the International Blues Challenge took place in Memphis, TN in January 2019 and made it to Semi-Finals.
She’s releasing her debut album on the Booga Music label of internationally-known bluesman, Kenny Neal. Though Kenny had met her in Memphis, and during his tour in upstate New York, what got his attention to sign her to his label was a video of Hanna’s performance on a Curtis Jones’ tune that she’s recorded in her U-Haul storage room.
But words, and even recorded samples, cannot fully convey the essence of Hanna’s music — to really understand it and feel it, you have to hear her perform live. Her music continues to evolve and reflects the very moment she is living in — the happenings and vibe in the room, the reactions of her listeners, the musical contributions of each band member, and even the events of the week in the world, all combine to inspire a new and different performance of each song. As is the case with all true blues performers, she works from and in the tradition of the music while bringing her own stamp of creativity and originality to it. Her music tells a story, sometimes an age-old one, but she tells it in her way from her perspective, which in turn informs and expands our experience