Welcome to the sixth episode of <Gugak Wednesdays: Online Korean Music Concerts>.
June 10th is Korea’s 33rd anniversary of the June Struggle for Democracy. The June Struggle for Democracy is a demonstration that happened nationwide in Korea for more than 20 days in June of 1987.
More than 5 million people participated in the demonstrations calling for anti-dictatorship, a direct presidential election for ending the military regime, and democratization. The June Struggle for Democracy is an important historical movement that enabled the ideology and system of democracy to take root and leap forward in Korea.
We present “Namdo Sinawi” today.
Sinawi is an improvisational instrumental ensemble music genre originated from shaman rituals. In Korea, different regions have developed their own sinawi versions using diverse instrument combinations, keys, rhythm cycles, and playing styles. After the 20th century, as shaman rituals gradually disappeared, the concept of sinawi was reduced to one of the conventionalized music genres performed on stage. Nowadays, it’s used to refer generally to a “folk instrumental ensemble.”
“Namdo Sinawi,” the most popular among the various regional sinawi, is based on Namdo (Southern region of Korea) shaman music, and is characterized by intense emotional expression. It fully expresses sad emotions by using the typical Namdo gyemyeonjo (gyemyeon mode) characteristics, which employs a lot of ornamentations such as low trembling sounds, sudden appoggiaturas, and smooth flowing melodic lines. It is regarded as the highlight of Korean folk music because players incorporate a lot of improvisations when they perform solo or together, but at the same time, they play harmonious melodies with each other.
“Harmony in disharmony, Order in chaos.” This can be the characteristic of sinawi in short. It is an impromptu performance, but at the same time, it takes into account not only the flow of the entire music but also the ensemble between the performers.
The 1980s were a turbulent time, but through protest and progress during this period, Korea achieved democratization, restoration of human dignity, and individual human rights through fortitude and solidarity.
We are currently in 2020, and are facing compounding difficulties of our own time. However, we believe that we can get over these difficulties as we try to harmonize and take care of each other. Through watching today’s “Namdo Sinawi,” we hope for harmony and peace.
Geomungo (Six-string board zither)
Geomungo, one of the three string instruments of the Unified Silla Period, is a six-string board zither made of paulownia wood with three movable bridges called anjok (wild crane feet) and sixteen convex frets called goae. Three of the strings of twisted silk are supported by the bridges while the other three rest on the tallest fret. The strings are plucked and struck with suldae (bamboo stick), which is held between the right index and middle fingers.
Ajaeng (Bowed zither with seven strings)
Ajaeng is a bowed zither with seven strings. Its lower body is bent like the “large zither,” or daejaeng, but the ajaeng is smaller and uses a bow.
© 2020 Korean Cultural Center New York. All rights reserved.
*This content was produced based on the original performance video of the National Gugak Center and a description of the work.
Performance by the National Gugak Center Folk Music Group
Gayageum (plucked zither) performed by Mun Kyeong-a
Geomungo (fretted zither) performed by Lee Jae-ha
Daegeum (long transverse flute) performed by Won Wan-cheol
Piri (double-reed oboe) performed by Lee Ho-jin
Haegeum (two-string fiddle) performed by Kim Seon-gu
Ajaeng (bowed zither) performed by Yun Seo-gyeong
Janggu (hourglass-shaped drum) performed by Jo Yong-bok
Jing (brass gong) performed by Kang Hyeong-su
Venue: Myongwon Folk House, Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea
Source: National Gugak Center