Collaborations between different music genres are not new, but what would it sound like if an instrument that we only have heard from old, traditional music plays music that caters to the ears of a much younger generation?
The Korea Times had an interview with a Haegeum performer who just recently started her own YouTube channel "Edahaegeum" where she shares videos of herself covering various music genres with the traditional Korean instrument Haegeum.
This young Haegeum artist explains, and demonstrates, how Korean traditional instrument Haegeum can beautifully blend into any genres of music - even K-POP.
Question. What made you create cover songs with the traditional Korean instrument Haegeum?
Answer: I wanted to play music familiar to many people with an instrument that is not familiar as much as the music itself. That was how I first started to produce cover songs. The Haegeum is a Korean instrument but most people are not familiar with its sound and rather think it as a difficult instrument to play. I wanted to familiarize them with the Haegeum by playing popular music with it.
Q. Can you tell us about the instrument?
A: This instrument makes sound by putting a wooden bow between two strings and rubbing them back and forth. These strings are made of silk and the bow is made of wood and the tail of a horse. The horse tail goes in behind the string and makes the sound. The tail is bleached until it turns white. To tune the instrument, we adjust the upper part of it and it makes higher pitched sounds when the bow moves down to the lower part of the instrument. The Haegeum does not have a finger board, so the player has to fiddle the strings like this. And players like me who have played the instrument for a long time all have calluses on their hands.
Q. Among all the music you have played with the Haegeum, what cover songs were the most popular?
A: Cover songs people like most is music they easily get to listen to in their daily lives. For example, like the melody people get to hear when they transfer from one subway line to another. It's a sound familiar to anyone who uses the subway. I combined the melody with the traditional Korean folk song "Arirang" and many people really liked it. Also, people loved drama OST (original soundtrack) cover songs which are what people unconsciously listen to all the time whenever they turn on the TV to watch their favorite dramas. I have received many positive responses for that one as well.
Q. When did you first fall in love with traditional Korean music?
A: Traditional Korean music is the core of Korean culture. When people think of it, what first comes to mind is female players wearing Korean traditional attire, hanbok, and playing music hard to understand inside an old palace. But that authentic Koreanness was something I fell in love with and I first started playing Korean music because of that. The beauty of traditional Korean music comes from its purely Korean elements, and what's fascinating about it is that it can only be found in Korea too.
Q. Then why did you choose the Haegeum among all other Korean instruments?
A: The sound that the Haegeum makes is something that can be made only by the instrument. It is made of raw materials like silk and horse tail and this creates a very special and unique sound. Many people can easily distinguish the sound from other instruments. Also, the Haegeum has an amazingly wide range. It has almost no limitations in making sounds both extremely low and high. So its sound blends easily into that of other types of instruments when doing collaborations with other musicians.
Q. What plans do you have other than playing cover music and introducing the instrument to people?
A: There was someone who posted a comment that she started learning how to play the Haegeum after watching my video. I felt proud of the fact that I was the one who first introduced the instrument to some of my viewers and even had them start taking lessons. There are people who request the sheet music of the songs I covered and some ask questions about my posture and other technical stuff. So I am also thinking of creating tutorials for songs that are easy to follow.