Korean Classical Music gets younger
Korean Classical Music gets younger
  • 박경민
  • 승인 2009.11.10 20:23
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Innovative gukak (Korean classical music) has made its debut in 21st century and captured young people’s attention, being spotlighted in the media and the music world. Gukak with new sounds, sensibilities, and energetic dances have fascinated the audience in the season of gukak festival. Young generation is remarking gukak to be more enjoyable to young generations. Kinetic gukak group Yen creates fusion Korean classical music, ensemble Su:m tells adolescence’s minds, and gukak oriented musical troupe Taroo shows their diverse talents, such as dynamic dances and plays.


1.             Kinetic Gukak : Yen

When most of Korean youngsters feel unfamiliar with traditional Korean music, Yen is focusing on modernizing the classic.  

The Yen is a shortened name of Ye-in (meaning artist in Korean), and the word ‘kinetic’. Overall, it means movement in art. Composed of seven members, Yen started its meaningful movement since 2004.

“Together we want to make Gukak to be more up-to-date and modernized genre, which people will not feel bored,” said Kim Mi-so (’03 Korean Music), the director of Yen. 

Seven members of the Yen are composed of five instrument players and two managing directors. Korean traditional instruments include gayageum (a twelve-stringed Korean harp), geomungo (a Korean zitherlike instrument with six strings), Piri (a Korean pipe), and Haegeum (a Korean fiddle).

Last December 19th, Yen held a party, Trendy + Traditional, at a club in Chungdam. It was modernly designed adding electronic sounds and visuals in order to get younger generation’s attention. 

Yen is periodically performing since their debut in 2004, and a few months later it set its record by attracting most audience at the Fringe Festival held in Hongik University. Every seats of Yen’s debut performance in 2004 was sold out and in 2005, Yen was nominated as ‘Greatest Artist of the Year’ from Arts & Culture Council. Following year, Yen was also highlighted for screening the topic of ‘gisaeng,’ (a singing and dancing prostitution in Chosun Dynasty)

“We wanted draw primary reason of gisaeng’s being,” said Kim. 

Yen is looking forward to its first album, which will be released on October 15


 2.      Creative Gukak : su:m

           Su:m, a Korean word for ‘breath’ is chosen as the named to convey the idea that music is natural like breathing. The ensemble Su:m is composed of two women who graduated Korean National University of Arts last year. Although its formation was two years ago, Su:m is a powerful ensemble who won Experimental Award from 21C Korean Music Project, held in The National Center for the Korean Traditional Performing Arts on September 1.

           “For the last performance, we played Voyage to the "I"-II, to convey to convey shaking identity of adolescence,” said Seo Jung-min, the gayageum player. As Su:m only performs with music that they have originally made, for the performance, they usually put tremendous effort to compose the songs they will present.


“Sometimes, we go to mountains to camp. There, we can only concentrate on composing. We play whatever comes to mind, and listen to the records of impromptu music to select the good ones,” said Park Ji-ha, the Piri player. “It takes some amount of time to compose a song. In case of Voyage to the "I"-II, it took 5 months to finish.”

Su:m will perform at Ulsan World Music Festival, which invited 21 performing groups from Korea and abroad.

“We are preparing to perform to anybody even to the foreigners. What we hear is same for all people,” said Seo.

Su:m had done two independent performances and is preparing for its third on October 16 to 17.



                 3.             Musical group : Taroo


Taroo casts away several prejudices people have: such as joining gukak with western contrabase, and making Pansori (a traditional Korean narrative song) dynamic enough to enjoy. Taroo was established in 2001, at Seoul National University, and members joined from other universities such as Ewha womens University, and Hanyang University.


As Taroo is Korea’s first exclusive gukak oriented musical group, it composites music and play all by itself. Last performance they had in Moyeonolgi Progect 2nd, Pansori, Eat applegreen, is designed to make all age group attract. The first play is about snack characters parodying Romeo and Juliet, which attracted children and teenagers. The second grabbed 20’s minds, which was about 23 years old girl with dream of sorikkun (pansori singer) and love. The last play, Chosun Nike, set its settings in 1970’s to attract the upper generations.


Taroo is also stretching its wings abroad. On June 8th of 2007, Taroo performed at London, England. “It was the experience that could see how people with no prejudice in gukak could think of us. Even though they could not understand the meaning, they were excited to just hear us play,” said Jung Jong-im, the representative of Taroo.


This year, Taroo has already done more than 80 performances, and is preparing for two other plays. Taroo will be introduced in government designated middle school music textbook with the play of Pansori, Eat applegreen at 2010.



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