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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