Traditional Music Meets New Age

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Traditional Music Meets New Age

Guitars and Synthesizers Spur a Revival for Old Korean Tunes

Amid all the pop songs, rap music and techno beats, Sullgidung stands out as the guardians of traditional Korean music.

Eight musicians in their 20s got together to form the group in 1985, and they made their debut shortly thereafter on a youth radio concert. They have been recording and performing since. The group has received wide acclaim for its efforts to revive traditional music by blending it with modern themes and instruments. The guitars and synthesizers they use have opened new horizons for Korean classical music and for traditional children's songs and dances.

"A lot has changed over time," said the composer and conductor Lee Joon-ho, "but the underlying theme that made Sullgidung possible remains firm - a challenging spirit based on our classical music."

Sullgidung, which now has 17 members, will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a special concert at the LG Arts Center in southern Seoul on Nov. 13. Joining the celebration will be other new-age classical groups including Puri and Kongmyung.

The groups will perform well-known songs including "Hangyeryung," "Kotbunnaeya," "Santokaebee" (Mountain Goblins), "Sokeum-jangsu" (Salt Seller), "Soul of Koguryo Kingdom," "Shin-puri," "From Night 'Til Dawn," "Shinbaet-nori" (New Boat Ride Song), "Jigae-sori" (jigae is a wooden rack worn on the back and sori is a melody) and more.

Hong Dong-gi's "The Sky of Tibet," Lee Joon-ho's "Reunification," "The Wind" and "Sound of Peace" and Kim Young-woo's "Chang-Taryung" will be performed in public for the first time.

The name Sullgidung is taken from the sound made when up to three kayakeum strings are played simultaneously. The kayakeum, or kaya zither, is a 12-stringed instrument. The musician plucks the strings. The kayakeun music book "Yookbo" refers to the plucking of certain strings as "dong-dang," which reflects the sounds.

The members of Sullgidung fall into two age groups - older and younger. The older musicians focus on traditional music, which is often played on synthesizers, while the younger members add energy and vibration with percussion and other instruments.

Among the senior members are Mun Jung-il (flute), who is a professor at WooSuk University; Min Ui-shik (kayakeum), who conducts the KBS Korea Traditional Music Orchestra; Lee Joon-ho (seogum) of the Kyonggi-do National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts; Kang Ho-jung of Chu-gye Arts University (flute); Chung Soo-nyun (haegum), a professor at the Korean National University of Arts; Noh Bu-young (yangum), a member of KBS Korea Traditional Music Orchestra, and Kwon Sung-taek (percussion), a member of the National Center for Korea Traditional Performing Arts.

The younger members include Huh Yoon-jung (ajaeng); Won-il (flute), director of the National Center for Korea Traditional Performing Arts; Kim Young-woo (a singer); Kwon Sung-taek (drums), a member of the National Center for Korea Traditional Performing Arts; Hong Dong-gi (synthesizer), who is a composer; Min Young-chi (kwanegwari); Na Won-il (kayakeum), Chung Gil-sun (kayakeum), Choi Yoon-sang (chaggu - a small drum).

Sullgidung's seven successful albums have inspired many chamber groups, including Haeoreum, Ohullim and Onurum. Other such groups are said to be in the works.

For information about the Nov. 13 concert, call 02-732-4690.

by Lee Jang-jik

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