Currying favor with Korean, Indian music

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Currying favor with Korean, Indian music

Once upon a time about two millennia ago, there lived a princess in a small but blessed state called Ayuta in India. The princess went on a voyage to the east on a red-sailed boat to reach the Gaya kingdom, then the southernmost tip of the Korean Peninsula, and imparted Buddhism to the natives. Now in 2002, a group of Indian musicians is coming to Seoul to perform under the theme, "Wind From Ayuta."

The event is experimental in that it tries to blend authentic Indian meditative music, or raga, with sanjo, a type of Korean traditional music. Sangeet Friends, made up of five Indian musicians, are to play in concert with Baek In-young on the gayageum, a 12-silk-stringed instrument.

Raga, which means "color" or "passion" in Sanskrit, is a traditional form of northern Indian classical music, which emphasizes melody over harmony with vocals and string, percussion and wind instruments. Indian music is acclaimed for its long, sophisticated theory, dating back to 1,000 B.C. For Indians, music is a means to facilitate meditation and to give glory to the gods rather than just something to enjoy.

Master raga performers have an impromptu performance style. Sanjo, on the other hand, is a solo recital on the Korean traditional instrument, a disciplined and gentle performance.

"Raga and sanjo have much in common, in the sense that they are both contemplative and thought-provoking," says Kim Jin-mook, a music critic and the man behind the scenes at the performance. Mr. Kim, enraptured by the beauty of the Indian raga, has worked to create a crossover of Indian and Korean traditional music. He invited Mr. Baek, the gayageum player, to perform raga with the Sageet Friends earlier this year; that worked out well. "Listening to raga and sanjo gave me a feeling that it could be a new crossover genre for the 21st century," Kim says.

You can listen to what happens when India meets Korea this Wednesday at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts in Seoul. The Indian performers are also taking part in this year's Jeonju International Sound Festival from Saturday to Tuesday.

Ticket prices for the Wednesday concert are from 10,000 won to 70,000 won ($8-$56). For more information, call 02-704-2705.

by Chun Su-jin

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