Saharial meets with the members of Noridan, the unexpected stars of the Dano Festival.
Before going to the Dano festival in Trafalgar Square this year, the highlight for me was going to see the Yoon Band play again and feel thoroughly spoiled for having the opportunity twice. Much to my surprise, I actually found that the Performance group Noridan was the real highlight for me to the extent that most of my pictures and video clips were of the three sets they did.
As the opening act of the festival, they began with a parade around Trafalgar Square pausing in front of the main steps for dance and drumming before continuing back to their start point. Despite the weather being already hot, there was no lack of enthusiasm or sign that it was wearing on them at all, the dancing consistently energetic and full of joy for life. The catchy beat and cheerful nature of the performance really lifted the mood of the crowd to a proper festival feeling.
Taking a break before the second of their performances, they held informal workshops for anyone interested in playing with the instruments, pose for photos and chat to them about what they do. Every age group seemed fascinated with the recycled instruments and the smiles seen on the Noridan performers faces were not just for the show.
Begun on 12th June 2004, at the Haja arts centre, Seoul, the name Noridan comes from ‘nori’ to play and ‘dan’ – group/team. With instruments built from recycled materials, it is a combination of art, craft, music and dance that uses the environment wisely and advocates living life with joy and enthusiasm. The troupe that came to London was only a small fraction of those that participate, and the age range in S. Korea ranges from 9 – 50, each bringing their own set of skills and enthusiasm to the project.
In an interview with their manager Miya on Monday morning, I asked who designed the sprocket, the musical ‘car’ that was the central part of the two performances at 3.30pm and the end of the day. She told me that is was the idea of their mentor, an Australian man called Steve Leighton, an eco-craftsman who based it on the tractors often seen in India. There have been three made and, as can be seen from the following photo are entirely powered by the performers:
Being 21st century Salmunori is, she said, one of the labels the troupe has been given, though not one they would apply to themselves. Pungmul, or nongak, a traditional form of drumming is maybe something closer, as it was always performed outside and as a way of gathering people. Miya would prefer to have the group remembered for being full of ‘bright heart’ with performances that ‘are a feast and a present for the audience life’.
The music itself is truly ‘world music’, for when I asked, I was told its roots were in more than just one culture – some Asian, some western, some African – ‘different types of roots’ – something that makes it easy to understand why it appeals to so many people. ‘To us’ she continued ‘music means communication with people and we’d like to communicate all over the world, so we are trying to enjoy together. We don’t isolate people or ignore the audience – we invite people to join in and it’s something we always think about’
So how was the London audience compared to those elsewhere on the globe? ‘They were about the same, though they hesitated at first. They all had enthusiasm in their hearts.’ This is something I can attest to as an observer – that everyone who joined in whether pushed, invited or spontaneously stepped into the throng enjoyed the experience.
And what would they like for the future? Miya told me they were planning a ‘big top’ type of event, or theatre like the Cirque Du Soleil that people could come to and join in with. Support is what they need the most though as they get little funding and they need to work hard to be able to stay alive. They dream also of having Noridan centres across the globe, in all countries and have, in the spirit of this, made instruments in Japan and left them there.
The idea of recycling to create instruments might not be new, but the philosophy Noridan adds into it is definitely refreshing and inspiring. The idea that people and the environment can be used and ‘recycled’ promotes a considerate way of living, to live with joy. It’s a simple and unpretentious philosophy, and it’s the kind that works the best.
Many thanks to Miya for the interview and the members of Noridan who performed with such energy under such a hot sun! Also many thanks to Shiru for showing me how to play the marimba and the lady who played the Arirang for me that resulted in an impromptu chorus from all who knew the words.