Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pungmul Performance at KOUS

December 22nd, 2010
I went to Severance again and got my ear cleaned again. Please, remember what I have learned about ears: don’t screw with your ears. Q-tips, fingers and other items should NOT be inserted into ears, ever (wet or dry). If perchance your ear is gunky and not cleaning itself like it should, go have your doctor clean it out.

My big research-related event for Wednesday was to attend a performance with 양은석 Yang Eunseok and one of his former university club fellows who I’ve met and two who I had not met before. The performance we went to see was featuring a female 상쇠 lead soi or 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari player. The player, 유순자 Yu Sunja plays호남우도Honam Udo 풍물 pungmul music (Pilbong is 호남좌도 Honam Jwado). I didn’t know how they were going to set it up as a distinct performance (the show was at KOUS and last featuring a set of three lead soi players). Although of course I assumed that the performance would feature the lead soi and include at least some straight up pungmul pieces. There is a lot more to being a lead soi player than just playing the ggwaenggwari or soi. Here is a video (an ad plays first) of a man playing ggwaeggwari (the man who talks at the start of the video is 김덕수 Kim Deoksu, the most famous 장구 janggu player in Korea). I chose to show this video partially because it demonstrates the vital dance component of playing the gwaenggwari. This video shows how a gwaenggwari player, the lead soi in particular is also sometime singing or chanting, the man singing here is 양진성 Yang Jinseong, who runs the 임실필봉농악Imshil Pilbong Nongak preservation association and is the lead soi player for the group.

The show was much more than I had expected, although I do have some confidence in KOUS arranging good shows. First of all it was amazing to see that not only was the lead soi player a woman but most of the group was made up of female performers. The only men were two 소고/상모 sogo/sangmo guys, the 태평소 taepyeongso player (who is actually employed at the same place that Yang Eunseok is working so he’s not the usual taepyeongso player for the group) and a man who came out and did a special sogo/sangmo solo (who I think was just there to show some visual variety, not a member of the same group). Although the lead soi player was great, the costumes were bright and fun (not being an ‘official’ protected group allows you to do things like wear feathers in your hair instead of big puffball flower hats), and everyone was really on top of their game it was one sixty-something year old lead sogo/sangmo woman that impressed me the most. She was so much fun! First of all, her sangmo and sogo were amazing. Even though she did not leap that high, she was fast and nimble, she accented motions so expertly and was so amazing that she was immediately the favorite of many in the crowd. She was also a total ham, dancing as though she was retarded at times (this is traditional in Korea, I don’t know what will happen if PC thought ever hits here- it’ll really screw with some traditional arts), demanding more applause before she went on and in general dancing at an energy level you’d not expect in a woman her age.

The lead soi and the second janggu player sang at one point, at another the MC pulled a famous singer out of the crowd and she and the lead soi player sang while everyone else was off stage. There was a solo by the sangmo/sogo lead and the first and second janggu player danced 설장구 seoljanggu together. The one strange thing was that there were no 북 buk players in the group! A guest sangmo/sogo man came out, he looked magnificent—the black and white makes it look like he was wearing black, silver and white—he was. It was really cool looking. He had to have had his sangmo custom made in that color scheme. The entire performance was really fun and I wish I could have gone out with Eunseok and the others for some makgeolli but Karjam is against women drinking… so I came home instead.

The Lead Soi:


Janggu Ladies:



One of the only two guys in the group:


Really amazing sangmo/sogo woman:







These flips are hard if you're twenty:



Clowning around:


Cool Sangmo/Sogo Soloist Man:



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