Tag Archives: Korea

Extraordinary sounds from Korea

Extraordinary sounds from Korea last night in a recital/lecture at SOAS! The group of outstanding musicians had only arrived from Seoul a few hours earlier (for them, still on K-time, it was 3am) and played incredible music to a small appreciative audience. Unique sounds – geomungo (a kind of zither), played with a bamboo stick: percussive, expressive, incredibly jazzy in partnership with floor drum changgu; taegum (transverse flute) with its little sister piri – taegum has a unique membrane of paper-thin bamboo that vibrates to give it a beautiful, buzzy, almost otherworldly sound; like being in a forest… And the strident taepyeongso, that made our ears ring – in a good way; it seemed as powerful as a bagpipe but in a handy size;) Then gayageum, a 12-string zither, again in partnership with the drum, but with a softness and intimacy that came from using fingers directly on the strings (no plectrum or stick) – like someone reading you a love poem in music. At the same time this was exciting music – rhythmic, dazzling, energetic and modern-sounding! Last but not least came the pansori singer – sometimes described as a ‘one-person opera’, this was a revelation. The singer (incredibly skilled, as with all of the night’s musicians), accompanied only by floor drum, puts across the story so well, with such expression (and playing all the different characters) that it doesn’t matter at all that we don’t understand the words – we’re totally riveted. He’s funny too – “I sing even better when you give me money”…

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This was an informal performance and taster of this music – but it’s really amazing and worth exploring! The musicians are playing again tonight in Kingston and I’m thinking they might also be involved in the Korea Day in Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Unfortunately they go back to Korea on Monday – too short! Hopefully they’ll all be back…

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Kingston details http://www.kingstonwelcomeskorea.org

Trafalgar Square Korean Festival http://www.gokorea.co.uk

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