The audience fell in love with Gong Myoung, for its mind-boggling range of music and instruments

The young musician with a walking stick enters the stage. With the air of a magician, he pulls out a flower, a drill, and a wooden block from his bag. Placing the walking stick on the block, he proceeds to drill holes through it. He slides the flower's stem into the first hole, and starts blowing a little tune on the “flute”. His three colleagues join him with drums, gongs and pipe. The audience laughs and claps as they swing themselves into lively tunes.

Hilarious drama

Suddenly, the flautist comes down into the audience to guide a little girl and boy to the stage. Now the team plays to the children's dance. The flower is gifted to the girl. The boy gets the flute. Little cheeks redden and swell, as the little one blows on, stunning the audience by actually producing notes. The last visual in this hilarious drama is of the child refusing to get off, and “performing” with all his might at extreme stage right, as the father scurries up to “download” him.

And, that is what Gong Myoung, the four-member band from Korea did — involving the audience wholly into their original songs, played by an array of instruments: some of them “invented” by group members. Naming their band after one such instrument crafted from bamboo, Park Seung-Won, Cho Min-Soo, Kang Sun-II, and Song Kyong-Keun created a pleasant evening of sweet sounds, perky rhythms, and fine showmanship. Nothing was strident or aggressive. More markedly, everything was in good taste. The puckish sense of fun made the band endearing.

There was no introduction to the songs which followed one another, as the team's lone speaker said he knew “two languageee… Korean and English, my English very short.” He couldn't go much beyond “Thank you” and “I love you”. “Me too!” was the input from other members.

What they did do was to play melodies pure and piercing, and rhythms supple and zestful. Both were extremely simple — the tunes suggested folk, tribal melodies, one or two offered just primal music of a few notes.

Tonal diversities

The rhythms were neither complex nor challenging, but offered many tonal diversities in straightforward counts of twos, threes and fours. The range of instruments intrigued — from miniscule rattles to huge cymbals and drums. The pipes too were of many kinds — moving from shrill babbling to deep reverberation (in an impossibly long pipe that snaked down to the floor). The single guitar provided mostly percussive support while coming into its own at strategic moments. The flutes proved enchanting at all times. The melodies were often played slowly, and moved up to second speed.

The two arresting pieces had the musicians seated on the floor, firstly to play with sticks on large, narrow-“waisted”, two-faced drums. Eight hands proceeded to orchestrate accelerating beats in perfectly synchronised movements.

The second drum medley had the additional merit of being totally unexpected. And, what a striking visual it made with the musicians in a row, beating wooden blocks with two fat vertically held bamboos of odd heights! From whispers to clangs, they evoked a subtle range, punctuated by sandy, pebbly sounds from other small instruments. The voices cut in with cries and shouts, as did head shakes and rhythmic gestures. There were notes too — in fours or sevens — beaten out of this percussive ensemble. There was flair in every move.

The musicians entered and ended their journey through the audience, making every listener feel part of the process of music making. The experience, as a whole, brought a feeling of oneness with Nature and natural sounds — pleasant, soothing, and refreshing, not only to the large number of Koreans in the hall, but also to Indians to whom this was an introduction to music from a little-known culture. The music took listeners to a walk in the woods, up the gentle slopes where meadows rippled under a kind sun, and a stream trilled on...

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