“Nanbongga” is the iconic folksong of Hwanghae-do Province. In general, “Kin긴Nanbongga,” sung slowly and Jajin Nanbongga, sung to a cheerful and fast beat, are sung back to back before “Taryeong타령 Nanbongga” and “Saseol사설 Nanbongga” are sometimes performed. There are Nanbongga named after a geographical location, such as “Yeonpyeongdo영평도 Nanbongga” or “Gaeseong개성 Nanbongga.” “Jinju진주 Nanbongga” is another well-known version although it is not exactly a Hwanghae-do folksong.
The term ‘nanbong’ usually refers to debauchery and ‘nanbongkkun난봉꾼’ to troublemaker. But the lyrics of “Nanbongga” hardly mentions such a reckless scoundrel. Instead, most of the “Nanbongga” songs are about unrequited love. So, it is assumed that the term ‘nanbong’ in “Nanbongga” is probably a combination of two Chinese characters that mean “hard to meet.” The first piece we’re going to listen is “Nanbongga” sung by modern gugak band ADG7
Nanbongga/ Sung by ADG7
Next up is “Yeonpyeongdo Nanbongga.” Yeonpyeongdo Island is located in the West Sea, about 145 kilometers and two hours of boat ride away from Incheon. But the island is said to be only about 13 kilometers away from Gangnyeong강령 Peninsula in Hwanghae-do Province in North Korea. Ironically, it means that South Korea’s Yeonpyeongdo Island is located closer to North Korea. It also means that the island is home to many North Koreans displaced from their homes during the Korean War. Since it’s an island, most of its residents rely on fishing to make a living. “Yeonpyeongdo Nanbongga” is regarded as the song of women who wait for their fishermen husbands to return home safely. Here is a part of the lyrics.
The waves of the sea rise on time, but I long for my beloved regardless of time.
The drum on Jangsangot promontory is sounded and the boat returns after three days.
Another version of “Yeonpyeongdo Nanbongga” features the following line.
My new husband is so skilled that he can go fishing riding on a crab shell.
These words describe the pride a woman feels as she watches her hard-working husband sail out to the sea. She must have felt proud and worried at the same time. Here are traditional singers Ko Geum-seong and Kim Bo-yeon singing “Yeonpyeongdo Nanbongga.”
Yeonpyeongdo Nanbongga/ Sung by Ko Geum-seong and Kim Bo-yeon
Folksongs are the sounds of the common people. They sang these songs while working, playing, and crying. The songs are rich with Korean culture, customs, and Korean people’s sentiments. But it is hard to see young Korean people enjoying such folksongs. One of the biggest challenges facing Korean traditional musicians is finding a way to share such precious music with a wider range of people. It is encouraging to find young gugak musicians who reinterpret folksongs through various means to make them more popular among ordinary people. The last song for today’s episode of Sounds of Korea is “New Nanbongga,” a pop song version of “Kin긴 Nanbongga.”
The trees at Jeongbang정방 Fortress are lush and dense, but the rooster that should crow at dawn is crowing at midday.
The reason I get chills and aches is all because of you.
Jeongbang Fortress is located in Hwanghae-do Province and the song blames one’s love for being sick. It was popular in the late Joseon period and is characterized by a lengthy and sorrowful tune. Here’s Kim Ju-hong singing “New Nanbongga.”
New Nanbongga/ Sung by Kim Ju-hong