A traditional wind player Hong Ji-hye attributes K-pop’s global popularity to its unique features handed over from Korea’s traditions.
“At the bottom of the globally appreciated K-pop, there lie Korea’s unique music culture and customs, especially those with ‘Heung’ (joy and excitement),” the 32-year-old musician said.
Hong is a member of the National Gugak Center, a state institution responsible for preserving and developing gugak, Korea’s traditional music.
She majored in piri, a double-reed bamboo instrument. But she also often shows herself as saenghwang player on social media.
Saenghwang is a double-reed mouth organ with 17 bamboo pipes, which can make multiple tones of sound simultaneously.
Boosting listeners’ interest in Saenghwang, Hong plays music familiar to modern listeners such as Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and collaborates with western instrument players.
While promoting traditional instruments to the public, Hong also hopes to expand global appreciation of gugak and Korea’s traditional culture.
Hong sees the vocal sound “Seongeum” and rhythm “Jangdan” as something in gugak that reflects Korea’s traditional culture the best.
Every tone of seoungeum conveys the ideal of spreading benevolence and harmony through music. Jangdan reflects unpredictable and capricious beauty from Koreans’ everyday life, according to Hong.
Hong finds gugak’s potential to garner international attention from the unique and colorful background culture also shared with K-pop.
“The rise of Korean culture in the world would lead to the growth of influence that Korean traditional music has,” Hong said, hopefully.