[ON STAGE]A Whole Lot of Thumping Going On

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[ON STAGE]A Whole Lot of Thumping Going On

What is a tokebi? These Korean mythological goblins are ugly, short and mischievous, but also all too human. They love feasting and playing wild games and loud music. They are always playing harmless, impish tricks on people.

"Tokebi Storm," by the Korean percussion troupe Pungmuak, introduces these creatures in an exciting, nonverbal percussion performance.

The story begins with a businessman, Mr. Lee, terribly bored by his job and dreaming of an escape from his mundane life. His boss is insufferable, too, screaming all the time at Mr. Lee.

One day, Mr. Lee works late and falls asleep at his keyboard, leading to the entrance of a fabulous tokebi party. Unexpectedly, this mild-mannered office worker plays melodies and pitches along with the tokebi by tapping his cheek like a drum. The engaging percussion perfectly complements the story.

This nonverbal performance may sound similar to other shows, such as Stomp or Tap Dogs. Viewers might fear "Tokebi Storm" is just a copycat of such productions, especially the home-grown Nanta. Fortunately, some features of this production are quite distinctive.

"Tokebi Storm" centers around tokebi (naturally enough) and pungmul, synthetic Korean percussion music in combination with dance and singing. The performance uses several Korean traditions, not simply goblin stories.

The troupe Pungmuak has newly created more than 30 instruments and is still working on inventing more. Most of the instruments are modified from everyday tools in a traditional Korean household. Bamboo poles, pots with water and a little drum inside, wooden and metal gongs, ceramic pots covered with leather, janggu (the hour-glass-shaped drum) and plastic drums with colored Styrofoam balls inside are transformed from simple appliances to fantastic instruments.

At times, the performers appear as will-o'-the-wisps, flourescent flashes on the dark stage.

Last summer, several buyers from the United States and Canada viewed a 30-minute sample performance and liked it, leading to several contracts for the group. During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, "Tokebi Storm" won the Angel Award for music, given only to nine groups out of the 1,500 participants.

by Kong Seo-hee

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