Kicking off 2012 with traditional art

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Kicking off 2012 with traditional art


Performers of “Bujihwa” practice playing the drums prior to their performance this weekend at the Namsan Traditional Theater. Provided by Yumin Co. ltd

The beginning of the New Year is a time of reflection - an opportunity for evaluations and resolutions. But the Namsan Traditional Theater is offering an alternative start to 2012. Seoulites can dive into the arts of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) through the “Bujihwa” performance series.

Bujihwa, a term that indicates ignorance of the arts, is derived from the artist Cho Hi-ryong, who suggested that the educated elite were only familiar with poetry and were ignorant of contemporary art during the Joseon period.

Kang Hyung-jun, the executive director of “Bujihwa,” said the performance hopes to send a clear message to the audiences about the importance of Korea’s musical heritage.

“ ‘Bujihwa’ conveys a meaningful lesson to those who neglect their own culture and are obsessed with provocative and addictive culture,” Kang said.

Many people neglect traditional arts while eye-catching performances by K-pop stars steal the spotlight, Kang said. To break the prejudice against traditional arts, “Bujihwa” tries to appeal to a young audiences by incorporating music from a well-known film, “King and the Clown” (2005).

“ ‘Bujihwa’ is not a one-time short performance,” Kang said. “It’s a long-term project that has valuable traditional content and the potential to become a global art.”

The performance includes folk songs, folk dances, pansori (narrative singing), interpretative dances and fusion-percussionist performances.

The director did not forget about the importance of interacting and communicating with the audience, with performers handing out bokjumeoni, or “lucky bags” that are a traditional Korean gift exchanged to celebrate the New Year, during the goblin performance. Since the performance is meant to celebrate the New Year, audiences are also given a piece of paper to write down their wish-lists, which will be collected during the show and used as surprise performance props.

“Bujihwa” uses a fusion-percussion ensemble that has been used continuously Korean traditional performances.

“Fusion-percussion instruments are made up of a blend of traditional Korean music with sounds that cannot be made by the traditional instruments,” Kang said.

“Bujihwa” also incorporates various other traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum (12-stringed zither) and the geomungo (six-stringed zither made of oak). The percussionist group will take up one section of the performance and play a track from the film “Spare.”

In order to maximize the potential of the traditional Korean arts performance, the director cast well-known performers such as Lee Chun-hi, intangible cultural property No. 57 who specializes in Gyeonggi minyo, or folk songs mostly sung in the Gyeonggi region; and Lim Lee-jo, leader of the Seoul Metropolitan Dance Theater. The two prominent performers will work alongside young professional artists.

“Bujihwa” is relatively short compared to operas and musicals, which allows for a fast-paced, high-energy extravaganza complete with vibrant songs, dances and instrumental performances.

“The show is purposely only 80 minutes long,” Kang said. “Selecting the core elements of traditional art and making audiences enjoy every second of the show is our main goal.”

“Bujihwa” offers a unique opportunity to enjoy Korean traditional art in a modern way. With part of the profits going toward a future international performance in support of underprivileged teens, audience members can both connect with Korea’s cultural heritage and start the New Year on the right foot.

*“Bujihwa” will be performed at the Seoul Namsan Traditional Theater on Saturday and Sunday. The performance starts at 3 and 7 p.m on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from 70,000 won ($61) to 100,000 won. Go to Chungmuro Station, line No. 3 or 4, exit 3. For more information, call (02) 3444-8996 or go to

By Shin Ji-ye []
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