Korean Traditional Music in Church
Korean Traditional Music in Church
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2005.10.05 00:00
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▲ Lee (second row from front, far left) poses after a performance at the Youngnak Presbytarian Church. Photo provided by Lee Roo-ji
    It is a great wonder how so much energy comes out from the petite figure of Lee Roo-ji ('04, Korean Traditional Music) as she blows a Piri, a Korean flute, during the morning service on Sundays at the Youngnak Presbyterian Church in Jung-gu. Lee is a member of the band, "A tree planted by streams of water," which is unique not only in that it's a Korean traditional music band, but also in that it plays church hymns.      Discussed in 1996 and finally created in 1998, the band has 14 players and is supported by the Youngnak Presbyterian Church. Lee shares her passion for Korean traditional music and talks about exploring the unexplored.
   How it all began
   The beginning of the band was rather simple. "Korean Traditional Music majors started this band because we simply wanted to play music with the talents and instruments we had," says Lee. However, as time progressed, this simple purpose evolved into something bigger; the band came to recognize that most CCM (contemporary Christian music) songs were very Western-like. And that led them to want to make CCM more Korean-like.
   Bumps on the road
   Difficulties were twofold as the band was created when Korean traditional music was not as familiar to people as it is nowadays. The idea of playing hymns with Korean traditional musical instruments often puzzled people. In addition, the "Gut-geo-ri" beat, a common beat used in Korean traditional music, stirred up voices saying it resembles shamanistic practices and thus isn't appropriate in a church. Despite these difficulties, the band's first performance at the Youngnak Presbyterian Church in 1998 was very well received, which enabled the band to cross waters and give performances in Japan in 2001 and in the U.S. in 2003. The band also made albums of their music.
   On Korean Traditional Music
   These days, there are various approaches to making traditional music more friendly to people. Playing pop songs with traditional musical instruments or making "Pansori musicals" are a few examples. But Lee says,"When playing hymns and CCM, we try to keep the colors of traditional music by playing in the traditional styles." Believing that a day will come when people will look for traditional music, she thinks it's the band's duty to keep traditional music as it is. ?he challenge of our band is to make Korean traditional music easily approachable, but with extreme care so as not to change it," she says.
   To Ewha Students
   "Make the most out of your time during the weekly chapel at Ewha! Where else can you see wonderful performances by students majoring in ballet, traditional music and other areas, free of charge?" says Lee. "I hope a day will soon come when the word 'common' rather than 'unfamiliar' goes well with hymns played by Korean traditional musical instruments,"adds Lee.

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