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Yukjabaegi from the Jeolla region

#Sounds of Korea l 2023-03-23

Sounds of Korea

Yukjabaegi from the Jeolla region

Welcome to “Sounds of Korea” on KBS WORLD Radio. This traditional music program invites you to deepen your understanding about Korean traditional music by taking a closer look at various music-related topics every week. Today, we’ll talk about yukjabaegi, a representative folksong of the Jeolla region. I’m your host ________. Please stay tuned, I’ll be back shortly.  

 “Yukjabaegi” is a typical Jeolla-do folksong. A person is not considered a Jeolla-do native if he cannot sing “Yukjabaegi,” and the common features of Jeolla-do folksongs are called ‘yukjabaegi tori토리.’ What a yukjabaegi exactly means is not known, but the most widely accepted explanation is that it came from the song’s six-beat rhythm. Since the song is very slow, six repetitions of one-two-three beats make one beat cycle. “Yukjabaegi” was originally sung by farmers, but it became much more refined ever since the traveling bands of professional performers called sadangpae사당패 started singing it. When a faster-paced yukjabaegi was added to the original “Yukabaegi” song, the former was called ‘Gin긴 Yukjabaegi’ meaning a slow version and the latter ‘Jajin자진 Yukjabaegi,’ which may be followed in a medley by the even faster Samsan삼산 part, which include ‘Banlak반락,’ ‘Gaegori개고리 Taryeong타령,’ and ‘Seoul Samgaksan삼각산 Mountain.’ The first song we have for you today is “Yukjabaegi,” which encompasses all the parts from “Gin Yukjabaegi” to “Seoul Samgaksan Mountain.” Bang Su-mi sings “Yukjabaegi” to the accompaniment of a western string orchestra. 

Yukjabaegi/ Sung by Bang Su-mi

As mentioned earlier, “Yukjabaegi” is a folksong that best represents the Jeolla-do region. But there is another folksong very similar to this – “Heungtaryeong흥타령.” Both “Yukjabaegi” and “Heungtaryeong” are slow in rhythm and their lyrics describe sad goodbyes or painful breakups, often confusing those who are not familiar with these songs. While “Yukjabaegi” is a six-beat tempo, “Heungtaryeong” is even slower with a moderate 12-beat tempo of jungmori중모리 jangdan장단.  

It's a dream, a dream. Everything is but a dream.

You and I are in a dream. This and that are but a dream.

I’m again in a dream after waking up from a dream. 

A dream waken is also a dream.

Life is born from a dream, lived in a dream and dies in a dream.

Futile it is. If you want to wake up, what use is dreaming?

These lyrics sound so profound that it would take ordinary folks like us many years to understand this truth about life. But if you sing these lyrics to the tune of “Heungtaryeong,” you may come to realize what these words mean a little easier. Let’s listen to Kim Jun-su singing “Heungtaryeong” to the accompaniment of crossover band Second Moon.

Heungtaryeong/ Sung by Kim Jun-su, performed by Second Moon

Folksongs that originated from Jeolla-do Province are called ‘namdo남도 minyo민요,’ meaning folksongs of the southern region. Traditional namdo folksongs are generally mournful like the one you just heard. 

Coming up next is a song entitled “The East Sea.” Female operas were quite popular in the 1950s and 60s. Unlike in a pansori piece, usually a solo act, changgeuk창극 is a traditional musical genre in which multiple actors sing different roles in a pansori piece. Female opera is a sort of changgeuk in which the cast is made up entirely of only female singers who sing even male parts. Because there are only five works in traditional pansori, new changgeuk productions were written, inspired by historical events or mythical stories, and also new songs to go into those productions. New folksongs sung in namdo style were created during the 1950s and 60s, but many of them were more cheerful and faster than traditional namdo folksongs. “The East Sea” is one of the folksongs written back when new changgeuk pieces were created. It became an even merrier song when Soul Sauce arranged it into a funkier version. This week’s Sounds of Korea will conclude with Kim Yul-hee singing “The East Sea” to the music of fusion band Soul Sauce.  

The East Sea/ Sung by Kim Yul-hee, music by Soul Sauce

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