My brain aches from concentrating too much (maybe I should relax and go with the flow, but that only happens when at least three pints of London Pride have gone down my neck). The insides of my legs ache: in order to play the changgo you need to be at least a black belt in the lotus position. Ridiculously, my left arm aches. It’s not as if the stick weighed anything: it’s just that you end up moving the arm more than you usually do in daily life. And my back aches through the strange “breathing” we were asked to do, which involves performing strange circular motions with your shoulders and solar plexus, while in said seated position. Most of us ignored the breathing business, and just concentrated on hitting the drum.
There were seven of us: four Koreans (a mother/son combination, and a father/daughter combination); a Korean-Dutch; a Japanese; and yours truly. And three tutors from the percussion troupe Dulsori. About 60% of the talking was in Korean, but us non-Koreans muddled through.
After a brief introduction, and a virtuoso demonstration, we were away. Breathing exercises, introduction to the left hand stick and the right hand stick, then straight into learning our first rhythm sequence: the Gutgori. After articulating some strange syllables by rote, we were permitted to start hitting the drum. Remarkably, we all kept together.
So we went on to the next one: the Chajinmori. If it all sounds easy, it wasn’t. And there was no respite. We then had to learn to sing a Korean nursery rhyme in the Gutgori rhythm. It was all about the Dokkebi in the mountains at night time. Or something. Mercifully, the non-Koreans were exempted from public performance, but we were warned that the next lesson we would be provided with the text, so that there would be no excuse.
Having concentrated on rhythm patterns in 12/8 time, we had some variation with a 4/4 pattern, the Obangjin. It was only midway through the obangjin, assisted by rather exaggerated demonstration by the instructors, that I cottoned on that when they said “Dong”, we were meant to whack the drum with both sticks, and when they said “Koong”, it was left hand only. I had already realised that “Ta” was right hand only. Oh well. Problem was, that even once you realised what the instructions were, transmitting what you intended to do to your flailing arms was something entirely different.
To round up, we put it all together. An Insa (an annyeong haseyo) a Nanta (a drum roll calling you to attention, starting lentissimo and accelerating to a prestissimo), followed by a Gutgori-Chajinmori (plus nursery rhyme)-Obangjin combo completed by another Nanta and Insa. Almost absolute chaos, but somehow we kept it all together.
Huge fun. Goodness knows how we’re going to keep up this pace for the rest of the week. I’ll let you know.
(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.