Gugak is Korean traditional music. Gugak’s status has declined as people have become indifferent to it. Many people enjoy listening to foreign pop music as well as K-pop, while only a few people still enjoy listening to Gugak. Many even think that Gugak is boring. So, the number of Gugak performances at famous music halls has become less than half the number of Western music performances. As the music representing our country, it is a pretty sad thing. Therefore, in this issue, I want to talk about enjoying a Saturday Performance of Korean Music & Dance, one that was representative of Gugak and performed at the National Gugak Center. From now on, let’s fall for Gugak’s irresistible charm.
The National Gugak Center is a national art institution that conducts traditional music and dance performances. As of June 2016, 17 performances had been being held there and the Saturday Performance of Korean Music & Dance is one of them. The Saturday Performance of Korean Music & Dance is the best traditional arts performance in Korea and has been performed for more than 30 years. The National Gugak Center presents various Gugak performances with different compositions every Saturday at 3p.m. Tickets are 20,000 won for A seats and 10,000 won for B seats. However, the National Gugak Center has introduced various discount policies for the performance, such as discounts for university students, low-income people and older people. So you may be able to enjoy performances at a lower cost.
Let me introduce Gugak in the order it was performed. The first performance was The Royal Ancestral Ritual in the Jongmyo Shrine and its music. It is a creation that blends ancient court music of Northeast Asia and Korean traditional music from the 15th Century and is one of the best Gugak performances that is performed today. The scale and sound of the performance was grand enough to be performed during memorial rites for kings of the Joseon Dynasty at Jongmyo Shrine. The performance is harmonized with the playing of instruments, singing and dancing. And those three work perfectly together as if they were one. I could feel the grace and spirit of Confucianism.
The second was Chunhyangga, one of pansori. A singer tells a story using songs and a drummer's drum to create dramatic effect, which is then heightened by 'Aniri' and 'Palim'. The drummer’s ‘Chuimsae’, often used to spice up a performance, was very attractive. Also, it is fun to rediscover the lyrics I know during the performance, such as “Love, love, my love”.
The third was Cheoyongmu. It is a dance to exorcise the demons and pray for Chosun royal peace. Dancers were wearing masks and made me feel their brave and masculine grace with their simple but energetic dance.
The fourth was Singing Out Arirang. It is a Haeju Arirang that is played gayageum and geomungo. As well as sounds, the gestures of the performers were nice and elegant.
The fifth was the Arirang Medley. Six musicians in colorful hanbok sang a medley of different versions of Arirang from different regions. All the audience sang along and enjoyed the exciting rhythms like in Jindo Arirang by clapping their hands. In this way we came together through our singing and sounds.
The final performance was Gang-gang-sul-rae. It is a common Korean folk game used to pray for prosperity and fertility in the southern region. Company dancers in colorful hanbok performed various dances and their performances were compelling. I felt the wisdom of our ancestors who sublimated all sorts of human emotions into songs and dances.
What is your opinion about Gugak? Did you remember it by reading this article? Actually, the four reporters who accompanied me said, “I realized the beauty of Gugak through this performance. The variety of sounds seemed like one and Gugak has many unique characteristics. If I get the chance, I want to see the performance again.” As such, Gugak contains the beauty of our unique sound that cannot be felt from other music. Isn’t our interest in Gugak the best way to improve its image and to promote Gugak to the rest of the world?
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