Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sangmo Class at Imshil Pilbong Nongak Training Center

August 15th, 2010
After an initial misunderstanding about how to find the meeting place for the buses to the 임실필봉농악전수회관 Imshil Pilbong Pungmul Music Training Center, we met up with 도령 Doryeong (a nickname, her name is really Eunjeong), one of my super cool friends that I was at the training center with last summer. She wasn’t going with us, but she sent me off with cans of tuna fish and dried seaweed to tide me through the days when the food was not going to work for me. So sweet. She was also sending off the students from her team at Ewha Womans University [sic], a group of about seven including (!!!) a guy.

At the training center almost immediately Karjam and I bumped into 양진성 Yang Jinseong, the head of the group, a Human Treasure for this art, and someone I’ve known since 1998 (though I think he only pretends to remember me from back then). He invited Karjam to perform at the training center at a concert on Saturday (this was later changed to Friday). I started to get to know the other students in the 상모 sangmo class, since almost all the people who came alone or in groups of two were part of that class. We had a 뒤풀이 duipuli (after party) in the evening, and by then I had already decided that the leader of our indepent group, 구환 Guhwan, was quite a nice guy. Responsible and sincere. Karjam, still very tired and jetlagged went to sleep only shortly after dinner.

August 16th, 2010
In the morning we had 소고 sogo class outside in the 마당 madang. The instructor was 하중 Hajung the short (and sweet) guy who does 열두발 Yeodubal (a hat with a weighted rope and then a nearly 20 foot long ribbon that you spin in various ways, different from the 상모 sangmo, a hat with a 3 foot rod and then an arm’s width of ribbon on the end of the rod). He was not so sweet when he was instructing, though. When the students (around 80?) didn’t immediately do what he wanted he punished us (twice) by having us squat and then jump up in down (in the squat 1,2,3 turn 90 degrees, 1,2,3 turn and so on… it really kills me horrible knees. He also didn’t allow us to do all four motions of the sogo, we spent the whole time repeating the same ones, the first two. And he was late. For the entire camp the sogo instruction was very spotty, we had 5 different instructors for the 6 different days and only (ironically) the instructor on the last day made it out by 7:15 for a class that we’re supposed to be in place and ready for at 7:00. This is one of the ways that this summer was different from last summer, when we had 최호인 Choi Ho’in teach us sogo everyday.

상모 Sangmo class began with me learning how to assemble my sangmo and then how to put it on my head. 구환 Guhwan helped with that. After I had it firmly fixed on my head I was able to try to turn it around, that didn’t go so well. Almost an hour later our instructor, 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi, showed up. He was late because they have an instructors meeting on Monday mornings. Hmmm… so each week’s class starts off late? I thought we would get the same guy as for sogo class. After his sogo instruction I was glad we didn’t. We sat and introduced ourselves, then began. The class has one other guy who is a beginner like me, and Gu Cheolhoi began by dividing everyone up according to ability. The first day there were 12 of us, but we knew two more would arrive on Tuesday. Each person or two (up to four occasionally) worked on a certain motion-set that could be done with the sangmo. I know the names of two, 왜사위 Waesaui, which is what I am trying to learn, and 나비사 Nabisa (butterfly) which is one circle to each side then forward in the middle, then back. It’s a motion people learn about fifth or sixth, I think. Gu Cheolhoi circled amongst us, he worked with me and the other beginner with his hands, physically correcting us, talked to some, and with the most advanced mostly just showed them the motion. The very most advanced of all is a woman, 노다지, she’s shy of five feet and totally cute and though she seems spunky when spinning her sangmo, she’s very mellow the rest of the time, except for when she gets excited and jumps around like popcorn in a pan.

I went to 뒤풀이 duipuli in the evening—we pooled our money to have food for the sangmo people and Gu Cheolhoi bought us 막걸리 makgeolli. I mostly talked to 동주 Dongju, another student of the sangmo class, and then with 우석 Useok, the other beginner. Some Useok quotes: “I don’t even miss TV this is so fun!” “Drumming while cheering during World Cup 2002 changed my perspective and got me interested in learning to really drum.” “서태지 Seo Taiji used some 태평소 taepyeonso (Korean style oboe), that’s so great, so many Korean songs aren’t really markedly Korean.” I went back to bed far before getting any impact from the 약 medicine (makgeolli).

Karjam took this photo of sogo class in the morning:

August 17th, 2010

We woke up early this morning because my cramps were so severe I could no longer sleep. Karjam is still falling asleep early because of the time difference, so he was ready to wake up anyway. It had rained straight through the night, causing storm damage allover Korea. The campus here was also affected with bricks washed right out of the road in one area, and a stream gone loose from its proper course, now trying to flood the basement of the building we had practiced in the day before. It was still drizzling enough that we assembled in the main hall for our morning 소고 sogo practice, but shortly after entering the close confines of the room crowded with stale-sweat smelling students half asleep and stumbling, I started to feel incredibly nauseous. Right after the instructor (today it was my teacher, 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi) entered the room I couldn’t handle it anymore. I ran outside and dry heaved in the rapidly running ditch, but nothing came out, despite knowing I’d feel better for it. I tried to go back inside but three minutes later I was out the door again. I didn’t try to go back in again. I knew that I needed food in my belly to balance some painkiller that would address my cramps, but had to wait till breakfast.

Breakfast was more of the same, some rice, some kimchi, and some side dishes. This time the breakfast soup was just sprouts in water boiled with garlic, salt and pepper. After eating I rested until time to go to class, when we discovered that due to the flooding we would have to practice in another area, because our room was hard to get to and needed some serious love and care. Since the sun was now out and drying the world rapidly, we adjourned to the roof of the museum. I grabbed my sunglasses and another day of neck and upper back torture began. In the morning I felt okay about my progress but by the afternoon I was very frustrated (because though I’d accomplished a certain degree of fluidity and reliability in my circles, they were far to the side and my knees still weren’t bending enough while my neck and head was moving far too much). I eventually had to turn away from everyone and stare out across the fields to the beautiful mountain in the distance to keep anyone from seeing grimaces and occasional tears of frustration. I even punched the wall until my knuckles didn’t want to take it anymore (they hadn’t done anything wrong).

In the afternoon we had two significant breaks, partially because we had leftover money from the night before and we used it to have the Terminal Market drive us out a bunch of cold bottles of things to drink (I had Pocari Sweat the first time and 2% the second time). I got 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi to talk about his background, and we found out he went to university as a traditional music major and how he first started Pilbong (양진성 Yang Jinseong and two others were guest instructors at the special school he was attending in 남원 Namwon).

In the special education hour we waited to be shown a video, but no one ever came with a projector or video (of a past performance) so… we didn’t. We just sat there until dinner. Karjam came, too, and we worked on his Korean. He’s learning the alphabet and how words are constructed. After dinner Karjam was able to quickly get on the internet and download the Tibetan news. I went back to practice, from 7-8:45 when 노다지 No Daji and I went to take a shower. I think one of the biggest reasons I’m frustrated right now is that I was better than 서우석 Seo Useok, who is also just starting, for the entire first day, but today I was worse, and he kept improving! Anyway, I’m happy for him, because he’s really sweet, but it made me feel better when I wasn’t the least skilled. Actually a latecomer arrived today who is less skilled; another small woman built a bit like Daji. But I have a head start, so I should be better than she is!

After the shower I decided to try beating my cold by sleeping early and skipping 뒤풀이 duipuli. I like everyone here, but it’s not the same as last summer, I’m not actually that close to anyone yet. Partially cause Karjam’s here, of course, and I sit with him and talk with him and don’t sleep and wake up in the same room as everyone else.

August 18th, 2010
This morning I felt just fine and we practiced sogo for almost the entire time period, but without an overall instruction. 김동민 Kim Dongmin came out to teach, but he did it by going from group to group. He left our group alone, though he did check us out for a few minutes. After breakfast I arrived on time for practice but almost no one else did. When 구철회 Gu Cheolhoi arrived about half the people were still missing and it was 9:20. Of course he’s given us no right to expect him to be so close to on time. Since 구환 Guhwan, our group leader wasn’t there on time, Gu Cheolhoi made him buy everyone ice cream from the Terminal Market. We had the ice cream mid-morning. Otherwise it was an entirely frustrating morning for me. My technique does not seem to advance, even though Gu Cheolhoi says I’m getting better. Lunch was the best meal so far, which dampened my excitement that 김월덕 Kim Woldeok, was coming after lunch time and could take us to lunch with her friend who she was driving out to the training center. We went to town with Woldeok and her friend, while they ate Karjam and I walked around the tiny confines of the village, buying a few things and also taking Karjam for 만두 mandu since he’s been getting really tired of the non-stop Korean rice and side-dishes. Not that mandu isn’t Korean, but it’s made with flour (a break from 3 meals of rice per day) and has meat in it, so he enjoyed it. We then went to a tea shop overlooking a nearby lake. Woldeok’s friend is a 제일교포 Korean-Japanese who learned about Korean culture and now teaches at a special school for Korean-Japanese in Japan and also teaches local teachers about Korea so that they can help overcome prejudices. She did her MA at 전북국맆대학교 Jeonbuk National University and during that time she once spent two months at the training center. If we’d stayed at the center in the afternoon I would have participated in games, not training, it’s a Wednesday afternoon way to break up the week.

After dinner I practiced for three more hours, to make up for the short day otherwise. Another member of the Imshil Pilbong team came and coached me a bit, if he’d stayed for longer I think it really would have helped. He just got right in there, grabbed my head in his hands and manipulated my body. I need it done a few more times, I think, with plenty of practice between each time. I also talked to Gu Cheolhoi. He said he hasn’t been correcting me much because I already seem so stressed, but I told him he wasn’t going to be giving me more stress by giving me more intense correction, that I was the queen of my own stress, and that I’d be less stressed if I got the motion down. 김림하 Kim Rimha, one of the guys in our group, a very sweet boy with bushy hair told me it took him two months to learn that first motion. Great, is that supposed to make me feel better? It’s certainly not very encouraging, especially since Useok was doing it already, in two days. But someone told me he actually practiced before. I don’t know if that’s true (I asked again later, he said it wasn’t true, he’s just done this type of music a long time). While we practice in the evenings in the big hall, the 설장구 seoljanggu practice is also going on. Tonight Kim Dongmin came to teach it. He’s amazing. Karjam came to watch and stayed almost an hour and a half, that’s how interesting it is to watch.

Before going to sleep I talked to 제종민 Je Jongmin a little. He’s a high school student who’s here studying like a regular student, which is very unusual, the only time I’ve ever seen such a thing. Actually at the moment he’s mostly doing volunteer work, preparing for the festival (I’ll miss that because of the performance and practice next weekend). He expressed frustration that other students didn’t want to participate in activities like this. He’s been coming here since he was in middle school! He said his parents trust him so there’s no problem with him coming here. He’s going to be a total hottie later, and he’s already so darn mature. Korea needs more like him.

August 19th, 2010

Today was both a high point and a low point. In the morning Gu Cheolhoi told me to start walking while I spun instead of just standing still. It really did help it feel much more natural than it had before, and aside from the fact that it forced me out into the hot sun away from the shade, it was great. Then in the afternoon he had me start drumming on the 소고 sogo while I spun the 상모 sangmo! During the long morning break I brought everyone cold 참외 chamoi melons that Woldeok had brought, peeled and halved, everyone ate half a refreshing melon. In the afternoon around four we went to the stream and ordered cans of beer for everyone except me (I had 막걸리 makgeolli) and ate 새우강 saeugang (shrimp flavored chips) and drank and skipped stones and floated in the water. The water was really pretty clean, too, very nice, but it was not as refreshing as I wish it had been, the heat must be up over 100 (okay, I’m probably exaggerating, my friend said it was 35 in Daegu, known for being very hot, and 37 is 100). Can you imagine spending all day outside (mostly in the shade) with no breeze, doing intense physical exercise in 100 degree heat? For fun? I mean, I’m even paying for this!

The low part of the day came near the end when 김림하 (한? 헌?) Kim Rimha got really frustrated with me and how I was hitting the sogo. I actually have prided myself on my sogo technique for a year, since 최호인 Choi Ho’in told everyone I was the best sogo player in the entire group and since Kim Dongmin had me take a sogo solo last year in our student performance. But when trying to spin my sangmo and drum the sangmo my technique got rather sloppy so then Rimha got sort of in a twist about it. I think he felt I was intentionally disrespecting by doing it wrong or something. Anyway, he drilled me on it in a not very friendly way, though he’s a very sweet and friendly guy. I think he was frustrated, or he’s a really crappy teacher. Every mistake, every time had to be pointed out, instead of saying “work on this I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you” or something. And he was really barky about it. That was the low point. Because I was sort of gritting my teeth to take it, because on the one hand I need to be corrected and I want others to help me, but his manner was so hard to take. At any rate, he was right about how to drum the sogo, and it did help.

윤원로 Yoon Wonno, 동령 Doryeong and handsome what’s his name showed up today to hang out and encourage us, so we got to eat dinner together and have 뒤풀이 duipuli. We didn’t do anything so special at our duipuli, although I was impressed with how much Wonno and Doryeong had brought for the Ewha students (and me and their other friends) to enjoy eating and drinking. They brought sausage, hamburger patties, pork, mushrooms (for frying) all packed in ice, plus a bunch of beer (more expensive than makgeolli) and especially for me, nectarines (my favorite fruit that’s easy to get, hard to get fruits like figs and pomegranates also being huge faves).

August 20th, 2010
Sogo in the morning was nothing special, during our sangmo practice people were mostly preparing for the special final performance on Saturday night. At first Gu Cheolhoi picked Daji to be part of the performance and she was so excited, she immediately sent text messages to all her friends (right there while sitting in the middle of the group) including of course her boyfriend, 지용 Jiyong, who had left either during the night or early that morning, but also to her other 선배 seonbae (‘seniors’ the older members of her drumming group who didn’t come with her and Jiyong). Cheolhoi picked out a special solo for her to do with 동주 Dongju, but then later on it turned out Daji had to leave early, too, so Dongju will solo alone. Dongju has the whole thing memorized, then Daji wrote it down and I took a photo. I’ll try to remember to attach the photo of her notes for which moves to do (and how many times). Cheolhoi picked out several people to do the final performance. Of course not Useok, 하나 (Hana, the other beginner woman) or me. Only five out of the fourteen of us will perform, but of course Daji and Jiyong took themselves out by leaving and one other guy will probably play taepyeongso and so he won’t do sangmo.

After lunch we had our big happy final all-student performance. People who wanted to didn’t drum and just danced around with bottles of water to help all of us who were dancing in 100 degree heat—on a YELLOW surface that was reflecting light back at us! I have a sunburn on my arms and neck, but not in the center of my throat where my ties are from my sangmo! The performance was more than two hours, no shade. Karjam took video of this (and many other things) so hopefully we’ll learn how to edit up a nice video I can link you to see from this entry later on. Everyone was streaming with sweat. I found it very hard to drum the sogo while spinning my hat and dancing around in the heat plus matching to a rhythm created by others. It’s like rubbing your belly and patting your head and tapping your toe and doing all of that to different beats—sangmo around counter-clockwise, drum stick and sogo out to opposite sides (breast height), then in (belly height) then up (over head height- two strikes of the stick) down (upper chest height) then out again while my feet dance forward and back as I bend my knees up and down. Daji collapsed after twenty minutes in the heat and didn’t reappear.

In the evening there was a big performance, with 사물놀이 samulnoli, various dancing and other drumming combos, excerpts from 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak and Karjam sang two songs (a cappella). His voice was not at its best, but he was well received.

I went to duipuli (again for the sangmo group) where we ate potato pancakes, battered and fried sesame leaves and the others ate meat. Of course everything was washed down by makgeolli. It felt really nice, I talked to 기호 Giho a fair amount of the time, and just enjoyed the group energy.

August 21st 2010
In the morning we had the final sogo class, with the woman who’d taken a sogo dance solo the night before at the concert. The class was actually pretty good, she really worked to teach us and we had the longest class of the entire week. There was stuff that was challenging, too, not just a bunch of what felt like review. If only we hadn’t all been so exhausted. Night after night most of the participants drink until after one or two in the morning, for some there are all-nighters. People are looking haggard from lack of sleep and excessive exercise (especially for the advanced students who have to move as they drum often and most of all for the sangmo students who dance and drum). In addition everyone has been hand-washing their clothes… not necessarily with perfect results. So it’s good that we were outside because everyone is just really ripe. Standing still almost anyone will be running with sweat, at 7:30 in the morning after ten minutes of skipping (fast, two steps with left forward, two steps with the right) while swinging the sogo up and above our heads and down and out, no one had a totally dry shirt.

After a short final sangmo class and conducting my second and third interviews (Gu Cheolhoi and Je Jongmin) we went to watch the competition to become the 상쇠 sangsoi(lead 괭과리 gwaenggwari player). It was so impossibly hot that Kim Dongmin and Gu Cheolhoi had a nice student behind them holding an umbrella/parasol above their heads. The two instructors took turns drumming on the janggu while one student played buk and one jjing with the single sangsoi contestant while other accompanied him or her on sogo (to see how danceable their leading was). Finally three finalists were chosen, and then one of them (the one that both Karjam and I agreed did the best) came out on top. Everyone adjourned to lunch and preparations. In the later afternoon (after more interviews) I went out and joined the scene. Now all the players who were chosen by their groups or in our sangmo case, the instructor, to represent them that evening (and to fulfill the quotient of instruments for a good (but not too huge) performance) were in their full dress clothing with many 잡색 japsaek performers decked out in outrageous outfits. A huge pot of rice and chicken was cooking outside, and one of the practice rooms looked like a 파전 pajeon factory--- everyone had a camp stove, oil, fry pan, and stack of completed green onion pancakes.

The performance continued for over two hours, with 막걸리 makgeolli flowing and people feeding each other pajeon. Of course for me the highlight was when 동주 Dongju took his sangmo solo. He stumbled, landing white-clad knees in the mud as he went through the complicated (and extremely dizzying) series of moves, but that was the only rough spot, the rest of his performance was ideal. After eating and drinking, believe it or not, they went back to performing, but by 11 pm the people not in the performance costumes were just as likely to be sitting down while someone in a t-shirt danced and played janggu. Exhausted I went to sleep around midnight.

August 22nd, Leaving
In the morning we woke up and packed the rest of the way, and I cleaned up the room (more than I had the previous day), then we jumped onto the bus to Seoul. Jongmin, 송하중 Song Hajung and others were there to see us off. Arriving home Karjam noticed that I have a heat rash in my armpits, the back of my neck and behind my knees. It’s so nice to be home where I don’t have to wear much of anything and can shower often… hopefully the rash will go right away. I’ll talk about the afternoon performance of 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli in another entry.

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