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Songs for and by women

#Sounds of Korea l 2023-12-07

Sounds of Korea

Songs for and by women
Punggu풍구’ is a Korean word for the bellows that blow wind to help fan the flames. In the old days, people lit fires in the kitchen furnace to heat the rooms and cook food and the bellows would be used to make the fire stronger. It was a useful tool in blacksmiths’ shops where high heat was needed to hammer out steelier instruments. Punggu was an essential tool for farmers as well. Harvested grain would be full of chaffs or impurities which would be blown away with a punggu, leaving only ripe, heavy grains. Because of its versatility, the bellows was used in almost all regions, causing the tool to have different names depending on the area. There is a passage referring to punggu in “Punggu Taryeong풍구타령” passed down in the western provinces. 

The bellows in Singye and Goksan may melt down iron ores.
But my dear husband melts down only my heart. 

Singye and Goksan are two areas in Hwanghae-do Province in northern Korea known for iron mines. Here is Yegyul Band singing “Punggu.”
Punggu/ Sung by Yegyul Band

That was Yegyul Band singing a new arrangement of “Punggu Taryeong.” People familiar with Korean traditional songs are sure to count “Arirang” among Korea’s most iconic folksongs. They must also be aware that there are many versions of Arirang depending on the region. For instance, the Arirang from the Gyeonggi-do region sings about the pain of breaking up while that from Jindo Island is more cheerful and has a simpler melody, often making it a perfect chorus song to wrap up an event. “Jindo Arirang” was reportedly arranged by daegeum virtuoso Park Jong-ki박종기, the creator of daegeum freestyle solo, who in turn was inspired by “Sanaji Taryeong산아지타령.” This song was called under a different name, “Nonmaegi Sori논매기소리” or a weeding song, in the areas near Jirisan지리산 Mountain and the Seomjingang섬진강 River. It was the perfect work song to sing while digging the dry, rocky earth with a hoe. But in the western part of the country with vast muddy plains, it was easier to use bare hands to pull out the weeds than to use a hoe to dig them up. So, people in the western regions sang “Sanaji Taryeong” largely when they were having fun rather than when weeding. When you listen to this song, you would realize that it sounds very much like “Jindo Arirang.” Here is Oh Dan-hae singing “Sanaji Taryeong” to the accompaniment of gugak ensemble Second Moon.
Sanaji Taryeong/ Sung by Oh Dan-hae, performed by Second Moon

The Jindo area in Jeollanam-do전라남도 Province is known as the cradle of numerous musical geniuses in South Korea. Yonggang용강 in Pyongannam-do평안남도 Province appears to be such a place in North Korea. That community produced many famous singers, but its top specialty is folksongs “Ginari긴아리” and “Jajinari자진아리.” These songs were sung whenever some lifting up was needed, such as when weeding the fields, driving an ox-pulled cart, or collecting clams in the tidal flats. These are all occasions that required a lot of energy and encouragement. Its lyrics were amusing as well.

Catch the clams to make salted clams.
Catch the loved one to make him love me. 

Then there is a part in which a man accuses a woman of a changed heart when she marries another man. The woman coaxes the man to follow her as a manservant to her husband’s house and promises him that she would make socks for him. The man would be in big trouble if he fell for her temptation. Let’s wrap up this week’s Sounds of Korea with Chu Da-hye singing “Jajinari.”
Jajinari/ Sung by Chu Da-hye 

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