There is an ancient saying in Korea that goes, “The extremely good things are like water.” Water changes its form in different environment but still retains its properties. So the adage implies that it is best to maintain one’s natural qualities while flexibly adapting to the surroundings. Even good intentions can undermine one’s relationship with others if such intentions are forced upon. Rather than bringing change in others, it could end up hurting oneself. Traditional culture works the same way. It is important to preserve the original form, but it would be more enjoyable for many if tradition adapted to modern society and is naturally incorporated into our everyday lives. Today’s Sounds of Korea episode will feature folk songs and pansori pieces rendered in a modern fashion. The first piece is “Doraji,” meaning bellflower, sung by SinaKowan Duo.
Doraji/ Sung by SinaKowan Duo
Gyeonggi-do folk song “Doraji” sounds different this way, doesn’t it? SinaKowan Duo is a jazz duo made up of Korean jazz vocalist Sina and French guitarist Regis Coisne헤지스 코완 and formed in 2007. The two musicians release an album titled “Korean Music Jazz-Folk” in 2017. Fascinated by Korean songs, Regis Coisne reportedly proposed to make the album first and even personally arranged and recorded the songs. It is apparent that he took great care in making this album. Many Koreans were leery of the fusion gugak genre because some combinations of traditional and modern elements ended up quite awkward. But recently, many such integrations of different factors resulted in quite refreshing and unique works. Next piece is a folk song and a pansori piece sung a cappella. The term a cappella originated from medieval church music. Back in the Middle Ages, the purpose of church music was to communicate religious meanings, so the songs were played without music to make listeners pay more attention to the lyrics. Nowadays, a cappella music means a singer or a group of singers performing without instrumental accompaniment. The first piece is “Like Seeing a Flower in December” sung by music group Maytree, followed by a passage from pansori “Chunhyangga춘향가” where government inspector Lee Mong-ryong이몽룡 shows up at Magistrate Byeon’s birthday party sung by Toris.
Like Seeing a Flower in December/ Sung by Maytree
Passage from pansori “Chunhyangga”/ Sung by Toris
Maytree is an a cappella group formed in 1999. “Like Seeing a Flower in December” was commissioned by the city of Miryang밀양 and the Miryang Cultural Foundation as a part of the Miryang Arirang Globalization Contents Project. Maytree, which wrote the song, is comprised of gugak vocalists, and is Korea’s only a capella group specializing in traditional folk songs and pansori pieces. The attributes of regional folk songs are called “tori” in Korean. The group’s name Toris mean a collection of folk song characteristics from different regions. Today’s last piece is “Catch a Rabbit” by Soriquete소리께떼, a group composed of flamenco guitarist Park Sung-jin, sori singer Jeong Ae-seon and dancer Choi Yu-mi. The group’s name Soriquete is a combination of the gugak term sori which means a song and the flamenco term soniquete소니께떼, which refers to free rhythm. The pansori aria “Catch a Rabbit” is featured when the rabbit was deceived by the turtle and taken to the sea god’s underwater palace. The rabbit’s baffled and frightened emotions are well depicted in the fast beat of the guitar. Try to imagine what kind of dance moves go well with such music. Here’s Soriquete performing “Catch a Rabbit.”
Catch a Rabbit/ Sung by Soriquete