East meets West at fusion music festival

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East meets West at fusion music festival

On every national holiday, TV specials feature people wearing hanbok, the traditional Korean costume, while singing or playing gugak, Korean classical music. It is the same every year, without exception. Some young people find this boring, and immediately switch the channel because it seems to be an old tradition that has nothing to do with them.
But this Chuseok holiday, you may find that gugak is worth listening to after hearing a fusion version that combines Korean classical music with western music.
On Sept. 16, Clazziquai, an alternative pop group, will perform its new song “Ibyeol,” or “Parting” in Korean, on the piri, a wooden Korean flute, and gayageum, a twelve-stringed Korean harp, at Agua, a club in the fashionable Cheongdam-dong area of Seoul as a part of the 2005 Gugak Festival.
“This is the first time that we used Korean classical music in our songs. We hadn’t recognized that the piri could make such a sad soulful sound,” said Kim Sung-hoon, the composer. “I decided to use gayageum in order to give a pizzicato effect, and I’m very satisfied. Actually, we worried so much when we first decided to try this.”
The 2005 Gugak Festival, hosted by the Korean Culture & Arts Foundation, is an attempt to commercialize and modernize the tradition for a wider public, by crossing genres. The festival, which started last Sunday, goes through the end of the month in 11 cities around the nation.
The organizers chose a club as a venue in order to appeal to foreigners who may have nowhere to go during Chuseok.
Hwang Byung-ki, the master of gayageum, will also play two pieces that he himself composed.
Vinalog, a quartet, will also appear at the club. Three of the musicians have traditional music backgrounds and the fourth is trained in western music. Collectively, they refer to their songs as “Koreanized world music.”
“We are not Korean classical musicians, although three of us have traditional music backgrounds,” said Jang Jae-hyo, the vocalist. “We’re seeking to make popular music.”
Nah Youn-sun, a jazz singer, has done adaptations of Korean classical music by arranging “Jeongseon Arirang” for jazz. “While performing overseas, I was embarrassed that I didn’t know much about gugak,” Ms. Nah said. “I enjoyed working on it a lot because the lyrics, melody and rhythm were very interesting. I will look into gugak more with this chance, by listening to minyo (folk song) and pansori (traditional opera).”
On Sept. 15, check out the Ansan Culture and Arts Center for the harmonization of Korean classical music and western music.
Kim Young-gil will play ajaeng, a seven stringed instrument, and Chee Jin-kyung will play cello; Tori, a fusion gugak band, and Defconn, a hip hop singer, will perform alongside break dancing and mask dance performances.
In this year’s festival, 12 pop singers, including Shin Hae-chul, Lee Sang-eun and Han Young-ae, will perform new songs that have integrated gugak and western music.


by Lee Jang-jik

Book tickets via email to gugak2005@hanmail.net. For more information, visit http://www.gugakfestival.or.kr//eng/index_eng.html.
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