A Taste of Korean Tradition

A few months ago, I got a chance to enjoy a Korean folk music and dance performance by artists from the land. I love folk dances and music. They are so original and fresh! I hate it when they do not get their due in these times when pop culture rules.

This performance was electrifying. And I was heartbroken to learn from the Korean Director of this group later that folk in Korea, as everywhere, dying a silent death and nobody is bothering.

With their colourful attires, impressive techniques and lively music, this ensemble of 10 Korean artists, four men and six women, had me totally thrilled. They performed in a mall in the evening.

The artists belonged to a performing group named Hata, founded in 1995 and known for their fusion Korean folk.

In one music performance named Samul Nori (Samul: four and nori: to play), said to be the farmers’ band music, four artists seated on the ground, sporting hats with white feathers, each playing a different Korean traditional percussion instrument namely the Kkwaenggwari (small hand-held gong), Jing (large hand-held gong), Janggo (hourglass drum), and Buk (barrel drum). Played simultaneously and in impeccable synchronization, the instruments created an exciting music that rapidly shifted from frantically loud to deep sonority. The visible delight with which the artists played only added to the magic.

A dance segment, Pan Gut, defined by the group as a “rite of exorcism”, was amazing. Male artists donning Sangmo, a specially designed hat with a flowing long ribbon, danced skillfully to the rhythmic beat of drum. The men performed breathtaking acrobatics as they swirled and squatted with technique, spinning their heads as if to create mysterious designs in the air. Koreans believe that the ribbons snaking through the air chase away evil spirits.

Apache Chum Being Performed by Korean Women

Also captivating was a skillful dance named Apache Chum by a troupe of Korean women, dressed in flowing, colouful costumes named Hanbok and sporting crowns. The women held large floral fans in their hands, opening and closing them gracefully to a soft rhythm, complimented by beautiful smiles. It was a sheer delight to see the women sway and flow and create exuberant symmetrical patterns with fans such as a flower in full bloom and butterfly. I later found out that this dance was traditionally performed in the royal courts of Korea and that the fans find space in a number of rituals and dances in the land, and are used widely for decorative purposes.

Next time, if any of you ( though I doubt this piece is being read) gets a chance to witness this magic, please don’t miss!

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Hello Blogging!

Having harboured a secret wish during school days to see my writing in print and a couple of stints as a reporter and a copyeditor later, I finally open a blog of mine. Part of the reason for not doing it earlier was that I have always found blogs to be quite self-indulgent in nature. But then, wasn’t it self-indulgence in the first place that inspired me to choose this career path? A black, emboldened, important-looking by-line gives me a kick like nothing else does, almost making me forget the impending gloom at the month end when I receive my slim paycheck.

As a journalist, the glory attached to this fancy title seems miles away. But the good news is that despite being a graduate in Science (and Honors in Physics no less!) I was able to get a foot in the door of the world of journalism. A losing decision, some might think. While a degree in, say, engineering wins you a six-figure salary, office provided cab, foreign trips and two offs in a week, one in journalism results in initial offers to write for free (sometimes even making you pay from your pocket to meet the traveling and telephone expenses) and eventually a paid job with a pay matching a clerk’s.

Nevertheless, I didn’t go for engineering for reasons other than the fact that no college really offered to take me in; I was fascinated by the world of printed words. But today, having collected a couple of hundred bylines, I wonder if I am doing the right job. Sometimes I am gargling out the nonsense taken from Bollywood actors on the paper, at other times I am pretending to take the views of 20-somethings on national budget seriously. While the rest of the learned world sits in swanky air-conditioned offices, I am out on the streets under the scorching sun and choking on road dust. The constant doomsday predictions of print journalism don’t help either.

Despite all this, I know there is nothing else I would rather do. I love my work, I don’t want this fun to end. My job expects and pays me for travel, meet all sorts of people and do what I love doing – write. This is one job that allows me go to office in pajamas or skirts and high-five my colleagues when I show up in office only at six in the evening. Facebooking, Tweeting, generally Googling and even mindless chatting over the phone are perfectly acceptable. And people around me find it really cool to know a journalist.

Convinced that I chose well, I hope to make this blog interesting enough for somebody to read.