Festival set to celebrate ‘Arirang’

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Festival set to celebrate ‘Arirang’

The traditional folk song “Arirang” makes most Korean adults feel somewhat sorrowful, as it reminds them of the nation’s struggle for independence from Japan’s colonial rule and decades of division and separation with North Korea.

But despite the mournful emotions the music stirs, the organizing committee for this year’s Arirang Festival says it hopes people will “sing of hope and harmony” because the folk song can also be reworked in a positive way, accompanied by dancing or various musical instruments.

The Arirang Festival was established last year to celebrate the song’s official recognition on Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This year’s three-day event, which will be held from Oct. 10 in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, will revolve around the theme “A Song of Hope, Arirang.”

“The festival has been organized not only to celebrate the Unesco inscription but also to spread the creative value of ‘Arirang’ and encourage participation, communication and sharing among citizens,” an official from the planning committee said.

To promote sharing, the festival will include a special donation event.

Participants can either sing, play a musical instrument or dance to “Arirang” and the event’s sponsors will give 10,000 won ($9.41) to ChildFund Korea on their behalf.

The “Show Off Your Arirang” stage will be installed on the northern side of Gwanghwamun Square.

The main festival will begin on Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. on the central stage in front of the King Sejong statue in the square.

Performers of traditional Korean storytelling singing called pansori, such as Kim Eun-hee, Kim Soo-yeon and Kim Young-im, will sing different variations of “Arirang.”

This will allow young Koreans and non-Koreans to “realize how ‘Arirang’ can be sung in such diverse styles,” the festival representative said.

Just as Koreans sang “Arirang” in times of struggle, the festival’s organizers say there are similar folk songs in other parts of the world. After collaborations from soloists for “Arirang of this Land,” next up on stage will be people from countries like Nepal and Thailand, performing their own folk songs.

On the second day, traditional performances such as samulnori (Korean percussion performances), tal chum (mask dancing) and plays will be staged on the northern stage at Gwanghwamun Square.

The organizers said the traditional shows planned for this day are especially noteworthy as these types of performances are rarely seen in regular theater halls.

For a touch of modernity, there will also be DJs and rock bands from 8 p.m. on the second day.

This show, “Dance Arirang,” will be followed by various indie bands, including Jang Kiha and the Faces, who will show off their own versions of the folk song.

The highlight will be the “Arirang Parade” set to take place on the final day of the festival from 5 p.m. on Oct. 12. Participants will march from Gyeongbok Palace for 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles), which will take about two hours, together with various performance groups and bands.

“Arirang is not a mere traditional folk song but the voice of our history and our sorrows,” said Yoon Young-dal, head of the organizing committee.

“I hope to see more participants in the Arirang Festival so that they realize the value of our cultural contents and revitalize traditional arts and culture.”

For more information about the Arirang Festival and its timetable, visit seoularirangfestival.com.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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