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이춘희 - Lee Chun-Hee

I have listened and reviewed before a lot of new folk, folk-rock and combinations of American and Korean folk from the 60s and 70s. I have already mentioned how Korean folk music gained popularity over the years, together with genres that were stimulated from the Japanese occupation times, like Trot, together with the safe genre of popular singing styles. While all the psychedelic elements that were first associated with the creative period of the 60s/70s, a period that was sponsored by the Americans in exchange for contributing soldiers in the Vietnam war, after the Americans stopped their sponsoring of music after having lost the Vietnam war goals, the government started to filter out that genre for a long time, denying even that history, while the good thing was that folk music got it’s full attention again. In the end we must realise how much this Koprean folk music did express something that is undeniable Korean that you cannot find anywhere else in that degree or into any other creative form of music.

I have also explained before that if you want to experience the essence of the Korean folk songs repertoire there are a few different ways and entries for that. You can easily get dragged along the colourful perfection and beautifully controlled senses that are provided on TV shows, that are perfected in colours, in stage design, showing beautiful traditional silk clothing and subtle folkloristic dances during national television shows. Here you can feel immediately how much anybody in the Koreans public is moved by these songs and how they show a delicate sophistication, a certain inner purity and a noble emotional delicacy which is not bound by an association with a level aristocracy but which is even part of the soul of most common people. You could also decide to experience the original folk songs in the originating context themselves thanks to the movies of director Im Kwon Taek called “Chunghyan” (as the romantic and noble story situated in 15th century Korea) or via “Soponye” (which more is like a sad flamenco-like folk story).

Lee Chun-Hee, a South-Korean popular singer from young age, was chosen by the government as a skill-professor and art director of Folk Music Ensemble Of The National Gugak Centre, had already spontaneously represented the Arirang when UNESCO accepted its importance for the international heritage for the world’s repertoire of culture. Also this release is meant to represent the two main folk genres of Arirang (national hymns) and Minyo (folklore songs).

Minyo are folk songs that originate from daily routine activity. It has two categories : the indigenous songs (hyangto minyo) and the popular songs (tongsok minyo), which also includes the popularisation by certain local singers of shamanic songs that were also sung by common people. Each of the individual singers often showed something of their originating region, regions that were only administrated by natural paths like rivers and mountains. Like it is common, many songs show love stories but also situations that are poetically described by the natural conditions.

Lee Chun-Hee sings a few variations of the songs that made it to a national anthem kind of heritage, the Arirang songs, with voice only, or with sparse percussive accents. A few more instruments like zither and flute accompany some of the other folk songs. In several of these songs you can hear how the musical singings or themes are also led by different singing vibrations as if having their own world of rhythmical micro-movements to it as an extra form of musical expression, with its own emotional or different accentual and thus also musical effect. There’s also one longer track of over 10 minutes. Two songs have a Buddhist origin and are meant as being a kind of missionary songs, introducing Buddhism to the people and a different approach to life via the same kind of life stories and people’s desires. In such songs a small gong, just like the association with a temple bell, seems to be meant to catch the attention differently.

Arirang :

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