Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Buying Traditional Music Equipment

August 11th, 2010



At last I have something research related to write about! Unfortunately (picture me kicking myself), no photos. After many firsts (first tea, first cooking, first laundry), I ended up heading to the wonderful street of excellent hanbok 한복 (Korean clothing) and gukak 국악 (traditional music) stores. The first store I went to, I’ve been there several times before, was highly disappointing. The only person there (I’m used to a woman who knows more than I do, if not a lot) was a man who had no idea how to play 장구 janggu. No one in a traditional music store should have no idea how to play janggu. It would be like a music instrument store in the US with a salesperson who could play neither guitar nor piano. I’m not saying he should have been proficient, but it was sort of ridiculous when I asked him why one janggu was 100,000 and the other 150,000. He claims not to know, I ask “is it just the color?” (One was finished with red stain that almost looked like lacquer, the other was just wood with clear finish). Hmmphhh. When I tried to ask him about 상모 sangmo he didn’t even seem to know how to assemble one.

I went down the street (to the store "전통 국악사"). 상호 (Sangho), the nice guy who was my salesperson there told me the different Janggu in front of me were made by three different companies, and came to them at a different price, so they charged differently for each. He then showed me how two were noticeably lighter- better if you’ll dance with the janggu. All three of those were blond wood. I chose one of the lighter ones, in his opinion the best looking one after I narrowed it down to the look the one company was producing. Then (and this is why I wish I’d taken my camera) he put the two heads onto the janggu and strung it while I watched. He broke one head and had to grab another, but it was really fascinating.

This is a video that I found a year or so ago, it’s a different guy in a different shop (Sangho told me each person does it a little different, and this was not the most traditional method because of the materials) but it’s close enough for you to get the idea). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie-eISQe_UQ

I also bought the sangmo (ribbon hat) I needed and two sogo 소고, one for Karjam and one for me (I have two in LA already, with my janggu, but they don’t do me any good there, and I used every bit of my luggage space). I bought the janggu and one sogo for Karjam to use in the short term, because next week having the janggu gives him the option of taking that class and even if he doesn’t do anything else, he can do the morning sogo dance practice. However, I plan to take janggu lessons for several months to improve my playing, so I’ll use this janggu myself, later. And I bought a pair of shoes for folk performing (미투리) and a 민복 (minbok) a white outfit worn under most other folk traditional performance clothing. I can use the shoes and the minbok for other stuff. Of course I have both already in LA.

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