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Samulnori, sanjo and jazz from the SOAS Korean Drumming Society

The SOAS Korean Drumming Society
The SOAS Korean Drumming Society

The SOAS Korean Drumming Society gave an interesting and varied recital in the Lucas Lecture theatre on Monday 3 June.

Kim Hyelim plays daegeum sanjo
Kim Hyelim plays daegeum sanjo

After a daegeum sanjo from Kim Hyelim, accompanied by Keith Howard on changgo, we had a very effective jazz improvisation by Choi Jeung-hyun (changgo) with Shzr Ee Tan (piano) using two samulnori rhythms, the daseureum and the gutgeori. The collaboration of styles and instruments deserves to be heard again.

Some of the SOAS Korean Drumming Society in action
Part of the SOAS Korean Drumming Society in action

Kim Suji performed an energetic solo hwimori, after which the full society performed together on massed changgo drums and then on all the samulnori instruments.

The official programme notes follow.

Programme notes

SOAS Korean Drumming Society – Samul nori

Samul nori, a contemporary Korean genre of percussion music, was developed from the p’ungmul music of traditional local percussion bands which now forms a significant aspect of the musicscape of today’s Korea.

Performers use the four core percussion instruments: two gongs — the small kkwaenggwari and the large ching, and two drums – the hourglass-shaped changgo and the barrel-shaped buk for the p’ungmul bands, which are usu-ally divided into amateurs and professionals. The main pieces consist of newly reorganized p’ungmul rhythms from three regions of South Korea: Gyeonggi and Ch’ungchong-do / central region; Yongnam / southeastern region, and Honam u-do / southwestern region. Yet their performance context reminds us of that of the professionals; samul nori is performed seated on stage, whereas p’ungmul is performed standing and dancing in the daily context of ritual, communal work, or recreation. In this light, samul nori can be summarised as a genre of music which upholds the tradition of professional p’ungmul groups, in terms of this presentation style, based on developing the p’ungmul rhythms of certain regions.

This evening,the SOAS Korean Drumming Society is proud to present to you various styles ranging from taegum sanjo, (accompanied by changgo), to samul nori rhythms for piano and changgo, to solchanggo (solo changgo) performance), to standards of the samul nori repertoire.

1. Taegum sanjo

Sanjo is a prominent Korean folk genre for solo melodic instruments. It developed in the 19th century. ‘Sanjo‘ literally translates as ‘scattered melodies’,and consists of a series of back-to-back movements that gradually speed up from one to the next. The melodic instrument is accompanied by the changgo. The origins of sanjo are associated with elements of the music prevalent in Southwestern region, including shinawi (a shamanistic instrumental ensemble), p’ansori (epic story-telling through song) and additional regional styles. The school (ryu) system was a way of transmitting a style of sanjo across generations, and each school is defined by stylistic traits and is labelled after the name of the first iconic performer. The school of Won Changhyon per-formed here is characterized by a variety of key changes and the particularly frequent use of differing registers to create an exuberant spirit.

2. Samul nori rhythms for piano and changgo

For the last 30 years, the group SamulNori and professional samul nori musicians have taken many opportunities to develop the core repertoire, collaborating in performance and mixing the genre with music from other cultures of the world. In the case of the first generation,particularly well-known are the pioneering collaborations of Red Sun, a jazz group led by the Austrian saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig (1989, 1994, 1995, 1997) and Lim Dong Chang, a Korean composer and pianist (1993). For this concert, Dr. Shzr Ee Tan and Jeung Hyun Choi will be innovating with two samul nori rhythms, tasurum and kutkori, using the piano and changgo.

3. Solchanggo

Solchanggo refers to a splendid group performance or dance of changgo performers in the kaein nori, an ‘individual play’ movement of an entertainment-based p’ungmul performance, p’an kut. For this concert, Suji Kim will be performing the rhythmic cycle hwimori as a soloist.

4. Samdo solchanggo (samul nori piece)

Samdo solchanggo (1982) is a samul nori piece for four changgo combining changgo rhythms, which was developed from those performed by the masters in three regions of Korea. It consists of five rhythmic cycles, tasurum, kutkori, tongdukk’ung, tongsalp’uri, and hwimori. Each cycle accelerates gradually from slow to fast, while developing dynamically on a motif. For this concert, the last two movements will be played on eight changgo.

5. From yongnam to uttari (samul nori piece)

This is a piece which combines two samul nori pieces, ‘Yongnam nong’ak‘ – a ‘southeastern style’ (1978) and the dramatic last movement of a ‘central style’ piece featuring the call-and-response of two small kkwaenggwari. For this concert, this will be played on two small kkwaenggwari, one large ching, three changgo, and three buk.

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