June 4th, 2011
Karjam and I had to leave Bonnie and Curtis's earlier than needed to get to the performance, so we went very slowly to the bus station. Once we caught the bus I started running into my 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak associated friends (인하 was on the bus with one of her friends). Karjam and I walked from 강진 to the training center and greeted various people, many of my friends were there, and of course I know the lion's share of the performers, too. The performance started slightly after 2. At first the group of performers was somewhat small (and a fair number of the afternoon performers did not do the evening, too), but they drummed up a storm in front of a group of tents set up to house a shop selling 파전, 김치전 and 막걸리 and several experiential activities (like making soap, which Karjam did, and making/decorating fans, which I did). After maybe twenty minutes or thirty minutes (long enough for the performers to already be sweaty) they started progressing in a parade across the road, over the small river and up to the sacred tree in Pilbong village (a little more than a kilometer from the training center). It was really beautiful as we walked through the terraced fields of rice seedlings to the tree, an old grandmother of a tree with a wide shade canopy next to an open-walled traditional building for village affairs or just resting on the way up or down the hill to the village. The tree was circled by braided (handmade) rope, adorned with slips of prayers, with an extensive altar set up in front of the tree. The drummers drummed, a ceremony was held with the village leader standing as a representative of the village as he read a long prayer (which was helpfully handed out to us!) then others took turns bowing in front of the altar and the tree. The drummers rested while everyone shared the ritual food and drink. Starting up again we proceeded down to the midst of the fields where many of our number were now engaged in planting rice seedlings into the mud under the layer of water in the flooded fields. Yes, you envy me taking photos of the drummers lined up next to the field as the rice planting continued. Awesome. Also they planted a fairly large field in very little time.
The drummers drummed back to the training center and up to the 한옥 hanok section of the village where the "Fantastic" group took over for a stage show. This group is made up of many of the younger members of the group and I've seen them perform as recently as last summer, but this time was different- there were five women featured as drummers and dancers, but they were not the best drummers and definitely not the best dancers. The show looked good from a photographic point of view, but trust me the moving image was, well, sad. These amazing male drummers (many of my teachers including 김동민, 이재정, 송하종 and so on) were back stage so that women could try to dance, although they didn't have the training for it. I was quite turned off, especially at some of the gestures towards sexual moves that they made in a clear pandering to an idea of what the audience wants. The show also included some other non-Korean instruments- keyboard, violin—but nothing very expert or interesting.
After this show we all adjourned to a free dinner at the training center cafeteria. They did not waste much money on the dinner – small servings of side dishes, none including meat or fish and a large lump of rice, with a watery soup including some meat (obviously I didn't eat any) on the side. So after dinner Karjam and I enjoyed a snack from the snack selling tent—it was actually fried 떡 ddeok, which I had never eaten that way before, but it was very good. Then I decorated a fan while Karjam made a soap in a mold. The music started up again shortly after, with 이종휘 now part of the group. I took quite a lot of photos with flash, not sure if any of them are particularly interesting photographically, but I tried to capture things that are points in my research—including the audience dancing in the middle of the drummers at certain points in the evening and the audience taking over the instruments as the night grew late. Not to mention trying to get some good shots of the key people participating in their art, particularly the 상모 sangmo solos. I spent a lot of time dancing- in the center or outside the circle (when we weren't welcome in the center), often with my 개전연 Gaejeonyeon friends.
Karjam and I needed to get up early the next day so we went to sleep fairly early, around 1.