COURTESY UH / OUTREACH COLLEGE
Kim Han Bok, managing director and one of the four members of SamulGwangDae, will perform the climactic feather hat dance in Saturday's concert.
In the beat with Korean culture
The unique sounds of the janggo and nuk drums, and k'kwaenggwari and ching gongs, will reverberate through the Kennedy Theatre Saturday night, courtesy the Korean troupe SamulGwangDae.
Place: Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawaii-Manoa
Time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $10 to $30
Call: 956-8246 or visit etickethawaii.com
Members of SamulGwangDae have been on Oahu since last weekend, first playing at the Korean Festival in Kapiolani Park, then doing traditional Korean percussion workshops through the week. It all leads up to their showcase concert this weekend.
The four men who comprise SamulGwangDae - Kim Han Bok, Park Anji, Shin Chan Sun and Jang Hyun Jin - are featured on the aforementioned percussion and, said Park in a brief, translated group e-mail interview, all are professionals "of the highest level in the arts of dancing, singing and playing an instrument (in our case, the drums)."
Their performance should make for a lively show, as they reinterpret traditional farmers' band music, shamanistic ceremonies and acrobatic military exercises. Guest dancer Lee Dong Ju joins in the performance.
In 1988, after playing together for three years while in high school, the four joined master Kim Duk Soo's Samulnori Hanullim in Seoul, where they were given their group name.
"We actually met in after-school classes on Korean culture," Kim said. "You see, in Korea, there are many provinces and traditions and the government established these after-school classes to teach young people their culture.
"We grew up in Cheungchong province," he said, ("Known for its ginseng," Jang interjected.) "and we would see farmers harvesting and playing their traditional music as we were growing up. It was all around us, so it became a part of us very naturally."
SATURDAY'S PROGRAM will include an opening prayer song, in which audience members will be invited to approach an altar to offer up prayers (and maybe a small cash offering to help get them answered). Arrangements of rhythms from various rural regions follow, and the show culminates in a modern rendition of the large group dances seen at farming festivals, complete with energetic and acrobatic movements of the sangmo (ribboned) and bubpo (feathered) hats.
SamulGwangDae is looked upon as the successor to Kim's pivotal SamulNori ensemble that has toured and recorded the world over. SamulNori sparked a renaissance for traditional music back in its home country in the late 1970s (also described as "samulnori," with a lower-case "n.")
Kim said folk music "is basic to Korean culture (and the rhythms of nature). The instruments represent the elements of nature: rain, clouds, wind and lightning."
"They're made out of all natural things, wood and leather," added Park.
"Korea is becoming now very Westernized and we want to preserve Korean culture," Kim said. "We have learned, and are still learning, from Kim Duk Soo, but in our performances, there are slight differences in how we play the changdan, the rhythms.
"There are a thousand different names for these rhythms, but how they're played changes with each performance. Samulnori is a 20th century form that looks back at an ancient form called nongak. Now, in the 21st century, samulnori is developing: there's the 'Nanta' show (a stage show with the English title of 'Cookin',' featuring four dancers portraying kitchen workers; it has toured in Hawaii) and 'B-boy,' a group that does break dancing to samulnori rhythms.
"Samulnori is just growing bigger and bigger," he said.