Yeowoorak festival allows artists to take their own turn on the gugak


Master ‘Jeongga’ (traditional Korean songs based on Korean poems) Kang Kwon-soon, the Song Hong-seop ensemble and Sinnoi’s collaborative performance “I and My Fellow Traveler” will be staged at 3pm on the 4th July. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

Gugak, or traditional Korean music, has definitely gotten trendy.

This can be largely contributed to the four-member group Leenalchi, which took the world by storm, with the Korean contemporary dance troupe Ambiguous Dance Company, presenting a whole different style of pansori (Korean traditional musical storytelling performance). What surprised audiences was how eccentric traditional music sounds when combined with beats of electronic dance music, topped with hybrid dance performances presented by a contemporary dance troupe.

BTS also played a role. Just before Leenalchi became a celebrity last year, Suga, a member of the superstar band K-pop, released a rap song “Daechwita” last June based on a gugak genre, daechuita (parade music played by wind and percussion instruments, usually walking). The song even reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the top 10 on the UK’s official singles chart.

But industry insiders say they want to give credit to the country’s Yeoworak Festival which has hosted an annual music festival featuring purebred and crossed gugak concerts for more than a decade in an effort to popularize the traditional musical genre. country and shatter the prejudice that it’s boring. .

To celebrate the musical genre which is now starting to be recognized by a wider audience around the world, the Korea National Theater, the organizer of the annual festival, said that this year’s 12th Yeoworak Festival will feature many more “stages. experimental showcasing unprecedented collaborations between musical groups of different genres who have come together to produce the traditional sounds of Korea.

This year’s event takes place July 2-24 at the Korea National Theater in central Seoul.

Instead of separately appointing an artistic director and a musical director as in previous years, the theater decided to appoint a single creative director this year to lead the festival.

Acclaimed Korea geomungo (Korean six-string zither) Park Woo-jae has been named the Creative Director of this year’s event. Park said at the festival press conference, held at the Korea National Theater last week, that “Yeowoorak has positioned itself as a cutting edge festival.”

“Musicians who practice gugak and other genres got together and tried different things to make the sound of gugak more fun and engaging,” he said. “We believe it’s time we took it to the next level and showcase more experimental work that hyper-connects different genres within the performing arts genre, including music, dance and even media arts. But in its essence, we still focus on presenting the gugak in a refreshing way.

A total of 13 performances will be presented, which have been divided into four categories – Director’s Pick, Yeowoorak Collabo, Yeowoorak Choice and Director’s Lab.

"Both eyes" will premiere at the opening of the festival on July 2. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

“The Two Eyes” will premiere at the festival on July 2. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

A new work titled “The Two Eyes”, in the Director’s Pick category, will open the festival on July 2nd. This is a collaborative performance between Muto, a music group made up of two media artists, an electronic musician and Park as a geomungo player. , and a pansori group MNH Studio.

The work is based on Simcheongga, one of the most famous of the five surviving pansori tales.

“By organically combining cutting edge technologies such as LED kinetic imaging and media art with pansori, the eccentric stage will no longer be the background for the musicians but will play a role as one of the performers.” , Park explained.

According to the organizers, four performances under Yeoworak Collabo are “new collaborations between groups of artists that you can only see in the festival”.

"Shaman and Photographer" will take place at 3 p.m. on July 11. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

“Shaman and Photographer” will be staged at 3 pm on July 11. [NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]

There will be a collaborative performance between Shaman Lee Hae-kyeong and photographer Kang Young-ho titled “Shaman and Photographer” on July 11. While Lee is dancing the Daedong Gut of Hwanghae Province (intestine is the traditional Korean shaman ritual) to the rhythms of the gugak, Kang captures Lee’s dance movements on his camera and transmits them to the backdrop in real time.

Yeoworak Choice consists of performances by groups of artists who have created their own unique musical worlds and who have been recognized for it. One of the troupes is Chudahye Chagis, a psychedelic shamanic funk group, who will present “Underneath the Dangsan Tree Tonight” on July 10th. The group won the Korean Music Awards this year for the song that crosses different genres of gugak and hip-hop, but they call their genre of music “psychedelic shamanic funk”.

For the upcoming performance, the group, made up of frontman Chu Da-hye along with four dancers, a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, three gugak instrument players and a shaman, said they will present a performance. bowel to console people’s hearts.

Audience members who want to see the more experimental performances can check out all three performances under Director’s Lab. For example, there will be a tofu-making demonstration on stage in one of the performances on July 21 at 7:30 p.m. Entitled “Le tempo du tofu”, it is presented by the duo Dal: um, composed of a gayageum (12 string zither) Ha Soo-yeon and a geomungo player Hwang Hye-young.

For more information about the festival, visit

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