Devolution


So all year long I played the kids indie music before class started – that is, until they started demanding all music and no lesson…

Anyway, they would ask me if I liked K-pop and I told them it wasn’t very original, of which some would get offended and some would agree.  I even tried to talk about how ART changes lives and makes us see the world in new ways, and that maybe some of their vocal and musical talent could be used to say something important, or to push their cultural heritage in new directions.

Well, this is an example of Korean pop music trying to push their cultural heritage in new directions.  I couldn’t make it to the end…

Believe it or not, this won some music award…and that snake charmer music in the beginning of the song is the Korean traditional instrument, the Taepyongso, which is very similar to the Cornetta China that John plays for his traditional Cuban Conga and Comparsa music.

It’s really too bad.  Some Korean music is hauntingly beautiful, and I’d like to hear more of it.  The traditional Korean vibrato singing called pansori that grates on so many western ears is at times really spooky and hauntingly beautiful.

Here’s a sample from the movie Sopyonje that is tonight’s movie fare.  Just the first few minutes of this movie can give you an idea of its expression of melancholy and han, and of its importance as an oral tradition.

and I can’t find the words for this…

The song she is singing is from a Korean folk tale about filial piety.  Sim Chong is a girl born to a blind man.  When her mother dies, shortly after her birth, her dying wish is that the girl becomes his eyes.  The father’s name is Sim.  The daughter’s name is Chong, which means eyes.  Chong becomes an accomplished seamstress and one day a noble woman is impressed by her industry and offers to adopt her, but she refuses out of loyalty to her father.

While she is being delayed by this woman, her blind father goes searching for her and stumbles in a creek.  He is rescued by a monk who tells him that if he donates 300 sacks of rice to the monastery, Buddha will restore his sight.  Sim vows to give the monastery rice and is warned he will receive terrible retribution if he breaks his promise.

Chong, fearing her father will die and knowing there is no way they can make enough money to purchase 300 sacks of rice, tells her father the noble woman has offered him the rice for allowing Chong to be her daughter.  To save her father, she sells herself to sailors to be sacrificed to appease the Gods of the sea whose storms are wrecking many ships.  When she walks overboard, the seas calm and the sailors are convinced it is because of her devotion to her father.

This film won best director at the 1993 Cannes film festival, btw…watching it made me wistful.  I am just a cultural tourist in this land.  There’s so much cultural heritage we adoptees have been severed from, but we’ve got han in spades.

I wish I could afford to go to more cultural concerts, before this legacy disappears.  Every now and then, I’ll pass a small shop with old people in it, and this kind of music will be playing, and I know that in a few short years this isn’t something anyone will experience just walking down a street.

Fortunately, some people in the country are trying to keep this tradition alive:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Lineage Of The Voice Korean Documenta…“, posted with vodpod
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One thought on “Devolution

  1. We took our boys to a Korean cultural sort of concert here some months back by Choon-Mok Lee (Important Korean Intangible Asset No. 29) and it was incredible. As I understand it we were lucky to see such a concert outside of Korea.

    The Korean mothers in the seats in front of us gave the boys lots of attention, especially when they weren’t behaving perfectly. I always like that. It’s like Korea is reaching out to them.

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