|A pansori singer gives performance at Bukchon Traditional Crafts Center in Seoul, Saturday. Yonhap|
Tradition gets modern makeover from young artists
By Lee Suh-yoon
Starting this month, the streets of Bukchon Hanok Village and the stone wall paths along Deoksu Palace will come alive with traditional Korean music, or "gugak."
Gugak ― which literally translates to "national music" ― refers to both traditional folk and court music of Korea.
|Arahan Pungmulnori group in action / Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Participating gugak teams come from a wide spectrum in terms of genre and style. Many add modern interpretations to classical folk songs and "gayageum" (Korean zither) ensemble pieces.
Seoul Metropolitan Government started the annual outdoor program in 2014 to foster better appreciation for traditional music and arts ― largely overshadowed by mass media and K-pop.
|Fusion ensemble Leesang performs. / Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government|
Gwanggaeto, a city-designated professional "samulnori" troupe, is in charge of selecting performance teams and schedules this year. Samulnori is a folk music performance genre known for its contagious beat and loud rattling percussion sounds. Organizers will try to give newcomers more chances to perform and develop their presentational skills, the press release read.
Gwanggaeto Samulnori troupe incorporates breakdancing and beatboxing into its performances. It collaborated with famed idol group BTS in the group's live performance of hit song "IDOL" at Melon Music Awards last December. The troupe's percussionists and performance artists doubled as backup dancers for the show.
Samulnori originates from "pungmulnori," a more dynamic version that wandering troupes performed in outdoor markets or squares. In pungmulnori, the style Gwanggaeto troupe adopts, musicians dance in ringed formations while beating on drums or gongs in outdoor performances.
At 1 p.m. this Saturday, pungmulnori group Arahan will give a lively performance at Gamgodang-gil that leads to Bukchon. At 3 p.m. on the same day, gugak ensemble Leesang will present its own songs at Bukchon Cultural Center. Leesang is known for incorporating instruments like bass guitar and keyboard alongside the traditional Korean flute and gayageum. On top of this mix, a pansori artist will add vocal flourishes that stray far from modern conventional styles. Pansori is a type of expressive storytelling that employs musical tones and stylized speech.
Another location for an upcoming performance is Bukchon Traditional Crafts Center. The first performance of this year's program ― a pansori piece ― took place in the center's open-air hanok last Saturday. On July 6, a dance troupe called Sori will present traditional choreography.
Some performances will have interactive sessions at the end, letting visitors try performers' equipment, such as the ribbon hat used in pungmulnori.
All performances are funded by the city and free of charge. Visit the Gwanggaeto Samulnori site at blog.naver.com/kgtart for performance details and schedule.