With the great influx of stars in the world of singers, there are eight noticeable women who decided to challenge the world with gukak (Korean traditional music). This group called Miji is the so called Girls’ Generation in the gukak world.
Their performing skills, verified by various contests and awards, came together as a part of the Project for Production of Traditional Arts’ Digital Contents led by Loen Entertainment, was also supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2008.
None of the eight artists applied to the audition with the purpose of becoming a star.
“When I was just a performing artist, my goal was to let people know about Korean music and I thought that it would be a great chance to achieve this goal,” said Park Ji-hye (Chugye University for the Arts) who plays the haegum (Korean two-string spike fiddle).
According to Jin Bo-ram (Chung Ang University, 4), who plays the gayageum (Korean zither with twelve strings), members went through the three-stage audition process, which included a 3-day training camp. The strict screening process evaluated their acting and dancing skills. All of their efforts were to familiarize themselves with the audience. Finally, eight successful candidates made a debut under the name Miji.
“Miji is a Korean word that represents our goal. It means leading people to the unknown world, which for us is Korean traditional music,” said Kim Aram, the manager of Miji.
Most of the prejudice against gugak artists is traced back to the “strictness” of the music. Previous efforts by crossover artists mostly failed due to imbalanced mixing. But Miji is trying to go further by introducing experimental songs. For example, a song titled “Romantic Tango” introduces Korean tango by playing its original rhythms in a minor key with Korean traditional instruments.
“We are not only introducing a crossover of gukak and Korean pop but also trying to integrate the two genreswith classical music while fully using Korean traditional instruments,” said Kim.
According to Park, although Miji has shown lots of experimental performances, they are always aware of their own identity: performing Korean traditional music as an artist not a celebrity.
Also, members try to reach the general public by actively participating in television programs. Their various talents and fluency in foreign languages sets them apart.
“We thought that we all are good at dancing after having one and a half years of training. But when we actually prepared a group dance for one television program, we all realized that we weren’t,” said Lee Young-hyeon (Sookmyung Women’s University Graduate School) who plays the gayageum.
On December 31, Miji finally made its debut on public television at the Korean Pop Music Festival held by MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation).
“It was awesome to appear on such a special stage with various famous singers. Although it was our first performance, we did our best to be professional,” said Jin.
With the release of their first album on January 14, Miji has been busily engaged in their schedule and practice for the best performance.
“It is sometimes hard to be both a student and a performer. I was exhausted both mentally and physically when I was preparing for my graduation performance,” said Shin Ja-yong (Korean Music, Graduate School) who plays both the sogeum and daegeum (small and large bamboo flutes).
However, their strong friendship has pulled the members through thick and thin. Whenever a member is faced with difficulties, the others take care of her with what they know is best: their hearts. While other rookie group singers generally compete to outshine other members, members of Miji say they know that making the group itself outstanding is always the best way to reach their final aim.
“We are trying to overcome the limitation as crossover artists. Further, we try to give new ways for upcoming Korean traditional musicians by reducing the gap between gukak and the public,” said Nam Ji-in (Korea National University of Arts) who plays the daegeum as the group leader.
Further on, Miji plans to introduce their music to delegates of the G-20 summit in November.