Ah-ha!

An email has just dropped into my inbox, quite nicely solving a recent mystery for me.

It’s from the Daejeon International Community Center, a really nice place that exists to help foreigners and integrate them into the local community. I’ve taken some Korean language classes there, and I’m on their mailing list so I get notified of interesting things that are happening. Today’s email said this:

Korean Music Class for English speakers

1. Time & date: 19:00 to 21:00 on Monday

2. Participants: 15 English speakers on a first come, first serve basis

3.Venue: Performanc group “Mori” near Rome night club

4. Program Learning Samulnori a part of Farmers Folk music(Nong Ag) playing four percussion instruments.

5. Period March ~ October(20 sessions totally). Starts at 7 pm on Mar. 15(Mon.), 2010

Intrigued, I looked up Samulnori and Nong-Ag, and discovered a Wikipedia page that explained Friday’s bizarre office-and-roof-dancing carry on. Hurrah!

Drumming is the central element of pungmul. Each group is led by a kkwaenggwari (small handheld gong) player, and includes at least one person playing janggu (hourglass drum), buk (barrel drum), and jing (gong). Wind instruments (t’aepyongso, also known as hojeok, senap, or nalari, and nabal) sometimes play along with the drummers.

Following the drummers are dancers, who often play the sogo (a tiny drum that makes almost no sound) and tend to have more elaborate—even acrobatic—choreography. Finally, japsaek (actors) dressed as caricatures of traditional village roles wander around to engage spectators, blurring the boundary between performers and audience. Minyo (folksongs) and chants are sometimes included in pungmul, and audience members enthusiastically sing and dance along.

Mystery solved. Traditionally, this caper existed as a ritual that was “traditionally performed in rice farming villages in order to ensure and celebrate good harvests”. The four main instruments represent forms of weather, and when played together are meant to create a sense of harmony: heavens and earth, y’know, yin and yang. But mostly, people nowadays just like to dance around and clap – it’s more of a performance art than a shamanistic ritual. And I fell in love with it when I saw those office workers dancing to the beat on Friday, and when I boogied with a bunch of nutters on the roof of a nearby building.

So, guess what I’m going to be doing on Monday nights from now on?!

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