It was somewhat natural for Gi Yoo-jeong, a 30-year-old gayageum player, to turn to the Korean traditional twelve-string instrument.
“My mom was a gayageum player, and I grew up listening to her playing it at home all the time. And naturally, I became one too,” she said.
“My mom didn’t say a word about my career. It was solely at my will to play gayageum,” said Gi, as she played the instrument at her home.
When she began to play gayageum, her first child Ji-an sat beside her to sing a song. Her second child Yu-joo also stretched her hand out to the instrument, showing curiosity.
Gi is a specialist of gayageum byeongchang, which means she plays the instrument and sings at the same time. She hopes to fully inherit this genre of music that has been enjoyed by the Korean people since the late 19th century, and spread its beauty to audiences today.
A group she formed with her two musician friends called “Samzichang,” which literally means a trident in Korean, is part of that effort. The team name comes from the three members’ names — Gi Yoo-jeong, Kim Sol-ji and Kim Min-ji — all of which include characters that sound similar to “Zi.”
“We want to show younger generations that traditional music is not boring but something that they can enjoy,” the members said.
In their hands, Korean traditional music, or gugak, is evolving.
The group blends modern style with the traditional music and perform in front of an audience.
“Through the team, I hope to let people know that traditional Korean music is as fun as popular music,” she said. “But, through my individual performances, I focus on following the tradition.”
“I think having accurate knowledge about the tradition is essential for a better reinterpretation of it,” she added, explaining the reason for having different aims when performing with her friends and alone.
She dreams of a future where the traditional culture earns broad appreciation from many people.
With this hope in mind, Gi said she will continue her efforts to preserve and flourish gayageum byeongchang.
Photos by Park Hae-mook ([email protected])
Written by Lim Jae-seong ([email protected])