|SOREA (Photo courtesy of SOREA)|
A beautiful lady wearing a short Hanbok skirt is playing a janggu, a Korean percussion instrument, under the glamorous lights of the stage. Dynamic breakdancing is also being performed at the same time. The dances and the janggu, as well as a gayageum, or Korean table harp, and a haeguem, or Korean violin, are accompanied by an electronic violin. This is what Koreans call "fusion gukak" meaning Korean classical music with western instruments. When a vocalist singing pansori, a style of Korean traditional music, is added to those instruments, that is what the audience would see at a concert of the fushion gukak girl group SOREA.
Gukak girl groups that are both beautiful and amazingly talented at Korean music have caught public attention through their modern approach to Korean music. Some of them are as small as a school music club, while others have been selected through auditions in which they had to compete against hundreds of people to win a position in a group. Some of them perform overseas throughout the year promoting Korean music and the country.
From former models to members of the Korean National Music Band, the backgrounds of performers in these groups vary. Becoming more popular and famous, most gukak girl groups have as many fan clubs as K-pop singers do. They say the Korean wave will spread gukak girl groups inevitably.
|Hwang Jini (Photo courtesy of Hwang Jini)|
One of those groups is SOREA. SOREA is a compound word of ‘Sound of Korea’ and ‘Symbol of Korea.’ The group opened new horizons of fusion gukak by mixing Korean traditional music and breakdancing. Members of the group have been selected through auditions. Training, practicing, working out, and studying foreign languages show that the group’s schedule is no different from any other Korean idol singers who push Hallyu abroad. “Because we perform overseas a lot, we study foreign languages really hard,” said Hyeonhwa, one of the members. “We want to be recognized as gukak missionaries rather than a pretty girl group.” For more information about the group, please visit http://www.soreagroup.com
During the Joseon Dynasty, Hwang Jini was one of the most famous gisaeng, the Korean equivalent to the Japanese geisha, and she was famous for her exceptional beauty, charming quick wit, and extraordinary intellect. One of the gukak girl groups is named after her. The group consists of players of gayageum, daeguem, haeguem, and violin. A vocalist sings in pansori style and plays a synthesizer. The band formed in 2005 through an audition of 500 talented girls. The most important factors that members had to have were talent, intelligence, and resemblance to Hwang Jini.
The band has played more than 200 concerts in and out of Korea, having performed in Italy, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates. “Some people say that fusion gukak spoils traditional Korean music,” said one of the members. “However, once we start playing the music on the stage, everyone just falls in love with fusion gukak and eventually becomes a huge fan of our music.”
|DoDo (Photo courtesy of DoDo)|
Another group, DoDo, was formed in 2008. This percussion group consists of five girls mostly playing Korean drums with traditional dancing. Sometimes jazz music is added to the performance. One of the members, Kim Yang-sun, said, “Dynamic rhythms of traditional percussion music make not only us but also the audience move to the music and get excited.”
"I’m learning drums and modern dance for a better performance," said Kim Jeong-hwa, also one of the members and a successor of Namsadang Nori No.3. “I believe that there are many ways to inherit traditional heritage.” For more information about the band, please visit http://www.excitingdodo.co.kr/(Korean
Eppleshes is a fusion gukak group that was formed to advance into overseas markets. They interpret modern styles including pop music on instruments such as gayageum, haegeum, and synthesizer. Ever since the group started to get famous by playing its music on the street, it now has a number of fans. One of the members, Um Hyo-il, used to work for KBS as a reporter on a program about Korean classical music. She said, “We are very active when it comes to promoting Korean music, gukak.” During a performance in Thailand in 2009, some of the audience got too excited and jumped on to the stage. Sometimes, people would give them pocket money as if the members are their granddaughters.
“Our music is enjoyed by a wide range of ages,” said member Lee Na-sil. “I hope we get more popular by the music rather than our looks.” For more information, please visit http://club.cyworld.com/eppleshes
By Jessica Seoyoung Choi
Korea.net Staff Writer