Janggu and a dash of Hindustani

Dhum, tha! Dhum tha; ttagdada ttagdada ttagda... Minwang Hwang imitated the sound made by the janggu (traditional Korean drum).

By trying to make the audience repeat after him, the percussionist, along with the flautist of the group, Aram Lee, succeeded in garnering attention. The crowd nodded, as they discovered a comforting familiarity in the music — oddly similar to a jathi (rhythm scale).

NaMu, the four-member Korean traditional music ensemble, has a penchant for contemporising its music to make it universal. On Saturday, it made the lean crowd in the courtyard of the Phoenix Market City groove to the interesting tunes and beats of the daegum (flute) and ajaeng (string instrument). They were here on the invitation of InKo Centre in collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Sports and Tourism, Korea Arts Management Service and Center Stage Korea.

“Korean traditional music does not have harmonics. So I think it could be boring for people who are familiar with Western music. However, there are so many dynamic changes in rhythm and the strong narratives with the gut (rites performed by Korean Shamans characterised by songs and rhythmic movements), pansori (musical storytelling) etc,” said Aram Lee, who captains NaMu.

Janggu and a dash of Hindustani

He effortlessly shifted between a daegeum and a smaller flute in the performance, as mellow tunes with overtones of Korean folk music filled the air. Starting with a track titled, Be-na-ri, a traditional song connotative of the importance of health and happiness, the group played ballads inspired by different provinces of South Korea. Peppered with vocal interludes by Seongryong Yeo, the songs spoke of varied concepts — from the melody of the Lion Mask play to the people of Seoul. ‘Ttagdada, was one such track inspired by the beats of janggu, as daegum and the bass guitar added to the musical conversation.

Janggu and a dash of Hindustani

NaMu is not unfamiliar to Indian music as was evident in the title track of their first album, Yangryu-ga (Song of the Willow). Though based on the folk music of the Kyoungi province, the track had evident influences of Hindustani music.

“About 13 years ago. I had seen the concert of Remember Shakti, led by John McLaughlin, the jazz guitarist and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. I still can’t forget that feeling. After that, I fell in love with Indian music. At that time, many people around me suggested that I listen to Hariprasad Chaurasia. He is an absolute genius, I adore his music,” continued Lee.

NaMu started out as a trio at the Yeowoorak Festival in 2015 in Korea. It is one of the biggest music festivals that focusses on Korean traditional music. The band’s works are based on Korean traditional music and is inspired by contemporary jazz, Indian traditional and electronic music and various other styles from across the world.

Janggu and a dash of Hindustani

The representative track of the group, titled ‘Both Sides’ is an apt example with its complex rhythm structure enhanced by the introduction of electronic music.

Janggu and a dash of Hindustani

“I think we can show the charm of Korean traditional music to our audience and can have an interaction with them when we have achieved refinement and contemporaneity, “ observed Lee. NaMu has not felt any difficulties in thriving as a traditional music ensemble in this day and age where K-pop is taking over the Korean music industry. In fact, Lee believes that K-pop is an integral part of the Korean culture and can act as a channel to introduce traditional music to the world.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 2:52:43 AM |

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