Wild Beats, the musical show by Korean artistes, Ha Yong Bu and Dulsori, at the The Hindu Friday Review November Fest on Saturday, was a great interactive experience for the audience as it was for Anasuya Menon

Watching Dulsori perform is like getting a recurring headrush. Throughout the 75-minute performance, they hold you under a spell, the drum beats pounding your soul and the music tingling a few raw nerves. As the spectacle unfurls in sudden spasms of wild rhythm, you can't help but lose yourself in the sheer excitement of sounds, colours and movements. Rightly has the show been titled ‘Wild Beats'.

The artistes make a startling entry from behind the auditorium, beating their janggus (hand-held drums) and kkwaenggwari (gongs) and swirl their way to the stage. As they bob their heads to the beats of the drums, the silk ribbons attached to their hats create a fascinating tapestry of patterns in the air.

Connect with audience

Performing at the Kerala Fine Arts Hall as part of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest, the team of seven young artistes made an instant connect with the audience, talking to them in a smattering of English and urging them to participate in the revelry. Their joyfully athletic movements, lively facial expressions and infectious energy kept the adrenalin levels at an all-time high.

Dulsori is a traditional arts organisation from South Korea which has developed a unique percussion-based ensemble by combining ancient musical instruments with contemporary techniques. “We were a country bound by hierarchy. The kind of music the royalty listened to was entirely different from what the poor farmers enjoyed. Dulsori fused the styles together, modernising it a bit, to remind ourselves and the world that we have a wealth of talent in South Korea,” says Lilian Yoo, manager of the group.

So, forgotten folk songs from the heart of the farmlands mix with fervent incantations and solid beats to create an art form that is helping Korea revive its richly layered traditional music. The spirit of the rhythm is borrowed from the dance of the erstwhile farmers, who, after a hard day's work, drowned their worries in a clamour of energetic steps.

Formed in 1984, Dulsori has been working to spread the understanding of Korea's cultural heritage and has been performing around the world. The collaboration with Korean ‘national treasure', Ha Yong Bu, since 2009, has added a fresh twist to its repertoire. Ha is Korea's Intangible Asset No. 68, a title given to accomplished dancers by the government, to appreciate their talent and encourage them to pass it on to future generations. Korea lost many of its art forms during the Japanese invasion and preserving the art and dance forms that survived the cultural suppression was a challenge. Hence the living artistes are fittingly recognised with a title.

Ha, however, makes an unceremonious entry to the stage. But very soon, he goes into a meditative trance even as the drummers reach a rapturous crescendo behind him. He crouches, squats, balances on his toes, stands still, all with inexplicable grace. Ha evolved his own style of dancing called the Chum Pan, which incorporates breathing techniques with body movements.

Hailing from a family of Mogabi (dancers), Ha's dance reflects the various manifestations of nature, the ripples in a river, a bird that is about to take wing, a serpent waiting to strike, a monk in prayer, the free flow of air, and calm nothingness. His dreamlike performance was perfectly backed by the accompanying artistes playing the flute and the singing bowl and sprinkling confetti all around.

Even in its attempts to appeal to the younger generation, Dulsori has managed to retain the purity of the indigenous rhythm. “Modernisation does not mean letting western influences sneak in. We have just modified the instruments,” says Lilian. The Gayaeguem (a traditional stringed instrument) they use has 25 strings whereas the original instrument has only 12. The use of the Pugbo Poms (big drums used in the Buddhist monasteries), too, is a new technique, as they are only used by monks during meditation. All the artistes are trained professionals who can handle up to five instruments.

Surprisingly, most of them are women. “The young men tend to look for better paying jobs,” says Lilian.

This is Dulsori's 52nd performance and their first season in India. Though the show was themed ‘Well Wishing Binari' (Korean for wish you luck), the artistes did a lot more than just that.

They leapt off the stage, clapping and ushering the audience out into the open, dancing with them. An evening of unbridled fun Kochi is unlikely to forget any time soon.