Songs in the Shadows: Taroo’s Tradition Project

Once again I spent a great time in Bukchon, thanks to the Taroo Tradition Project. The last installment of this series had taken place on a sunny afternoon in late April (see my review in English and Korean at 소리타래). Back then, it had been cool and fresh in the shadow of the hanok that hosted the performance (Gahoe Hanok Cheheomgwan / 가회한옥체험관). Now it was full summer, unfortunately not raining, but hot and sweaty. Therefore the show started a bit later (5 pm instead of 2 pm) and lasted just until nightfall.

We arrived a bit late—the first act had begun a few minutes ago—received a plate with fresh fruit and fried vegetables and sat down on the large straw mat that was spread in the center of the madang.

There were already about two dozen spectators and they would become more in the course of the afternoon as people were coming and going. Mostly young people in their 20s and 30s, but also a few small children and not so few older people had gathered to hear excerpts from the classical pansori pieces, performed by different members of Taroo. While most activities of this “gugak musical collective” involve new stories or re-interpretations of classical material, the declared goal of the Tradition Project is to revive traditional pansori by staging it in place that allows for easy appreciation and a relaxed atmosphere.

This plan worked fully out—listening to the singers while eating some food and having a refreshing drink (later we switched to pancake and makkeolli) provided for a laid-back mood where emotionnally intensive moments, some of them marked by loud chuimsae, some by breathless silence, came out even better.

Here are some impressions and a few comments on the four sections, each of which lasted about 40 minutes with short intermissions in-between. Each singer presented a part from a different canonical pansori-song and as the Traditional Project is an ongoing series the songs continue from performance to performance—people who attend all performances will have seen the whole songs in the end.

  1. First, 조엘라 performed a later part from Chunhyang-ga, including the famous episode “Ssukdae meori” (쑥대머리, lit. “scattered hair”). She kind of simplified the spoken passages to make it more understandable. A few times she could not find the right lyrics, but the audience stepped in, supporting her with loud calls of encouragement—while the prompter silently told her the right words (춘향가 中 춘향이 매맞은 뒤부터~박석치 대목, 고수: 한솔잎).
  2. Then 송보라, a new member of Taroo, gave her debut in this format with Simcheong-ga, right from the start. Especially the part where Gwak-ssi dies and Sim Beongsa, her widower, keeps looking for her, unable to realize the facts, was very moving. She made the audience sing along for a while, supposedly as a kind of mourning choir. (심청가 中 초입부터~심청이 밥빌러 다니는 대목, 고수: 정종임)
  3. Third, 이원경 continued her performance of Sugung-ga, getting a lot of laughs not only for the hilarious storyline, but also for her humorous rendering thereof (수궁가 中 상좌다툼~자라먼나는 대목, 고수: 최혜원).
  4. Finally, as the night fell, 서어진 sang a part from Heungbo-ga in his very affective style, punning jokes and addressing members of the audience as “yeobo manura” (Heungbo’s wife) while waving his fan. (흥보가 中 제비날개 공부하는 대목~놀보제비 후리는 대목, 고수: 김인수)

The next installment is scheduled for November—hopefully in the Gahoe Hanok Cheheomgwan, once again, if the weather is warm enough. Save the date!

— 21 July 2012 (土)

  • 국악뮤지컬집단 타루, 전통 Project, 타루 판! 소리, 가회한옥체험관, 2012년 7월 21일 (토), 17시~20시30분까지.
  • Gugak Musical Collective Taroo, Tradition Project, Taroo Pan! Sori, Gahoe Hanok Cheheomgwan, 2012-07-21 (Sat.), 5 p.m. – 8.30 p.m.

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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4 Responses to Songs in the Shadows: Taroo’s Tradition Project

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