Korean Rock Recall: Explore The Rising Momentum Of Electric Samulnori's 2014 Performance Of 'Drunken, Drunken' [AUDIO]
Music, like nature, hates a vacuum.
Music that is never heard sits alongside that famous tree that fell in the forest when no one was around to witness its fall. It may as well not exist. It's a social art, meant to be enjoyed in groups.
Before the rise of the EDM laptop wizard, it was meant to be written by groups, as well.
On the live version of their song "Drunken, Drunken," released last February, the fascinating South Korean rock group Electric Samulnori exemplify the tradition of music as a collaborative act. Over the song's epic 11-minute duration, the seven musicians engage in an organic give-and-take that continually builds momentum.
Electric Samulnori are a new experiment in the cross-pollination between the old and the new that is becoming increasingly common in Korean music. The group is itself a collaboration between Kim Duk Soo, a longtime master of the samulnori ensemble, and indie rock band nuTrip.
Kim debuted Electric Samulnori the same month that this live performance of "Drunken Drunken" was released. Particulary in light of this fact, in the masterfully captured live video of "Drunken, Drunken" the group's potential scope is on full display.
Simply put, this is music that could only be created by these seven performers, live in a room together.
One could attempt to generate a wimpy electronic facsimile, but why bother? This is clearly a music that benefits from its organic constituent parts.
The three members of nuTrip that are a part of the Electric Samulnori lineup, guitarist Jung Jun Suk, keyboardist Lee An Na and bassist Kim Jae Ho, bring a bluesy saunter to the table on "Drunken, Drunken." The rhythm is then given a shambolic jolt by the four-part percussion of traditional samulnori instruments. The pairing is so natural, it almost seems that both styles emerged from the some primordial place.
Throughout the piece, guitarist Jung displays the sort of singing voice that many virtuosic bluesmen are often burdened with. That is to say, as a vocalist, he's a great guitarist. However, the rough-around-all-edges quality doesn't detract from the song, so much as it adds to the flavor.
The call-and-response between Jung and his bandmates gives the song a 20th century chain gang feel, complementing the metallic clang of the percussion.
Kim and his samulnori players drive the rhythm, either giving the song a halftime shuffle or a syncopated aggression. Where the song goes often depends on cues from Kim, who exhorts his bandmates with yelps and shouts or imploring Jung to let her rip.
Jung's guitar solos range from tremulous swells to wah pedal buildup to ripping leads. And the band follows him wherever he goes.
Throughout this performance of "Drunken, Drunken," these musicians are clearly listening careful to one another, giving the music shape and character. This isn't only a worthwhile way of making music for its compositional qualities, it's also clearly a lot of fun as well. The percussionists of Electric Samulnori bounce in place, grinning to one another as the music reaches new peaks.
By the song's eighth minute, the group begins to mount the piece's ultimate rave-up. At this moment, the marriage of contemporary blues rock and traditional percussion seems completely natural. The result is evident in the audience's faces and cheers; this music isn't just a social experience for the players, but an interaction between the band and audience as well.
The rise of the iPod and the laptop artist raises a few grave concerns about technology's effects on our music consumption. But if "Drunken, Drunken" is any indication, music as a social act is still a living art form.
Watch a live 2014 performance of Electric Samulnori's song "Drunken, Drunken" RIGHT HERE
Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been developing crock pot recipes and studying arcane musical tuning systems.
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