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‘Manyo,’ hilarious but pitiful folk songs comes to stage in July

June 26, 2022 - 16:08 By Park Yuna
Lee Eun-hye, a singer of traditional Korean music (Bujihwa Arts Company)

When Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, people here needed a way to relieve their grief, even in a sarcastic way. Although it is no longer widely performed, there was the genre of “manyo,” a popular form of folk music in the 1930s.

Usually performed by musical troupes at the time, manyo songs generally had comic lyrics set to a melody that belied the sorrow and sarcasm underneath. Bujihwa Arts Company stages “Story Manyo,” a musical performance of manyo mixed with a play.

The performance will feature Lee Eun-hye, a singer of traditional Korean music, or “sorikkun.” Lee is a successor of “Gyeonggi minyo” -- folk songs handed down in the Seoul and Gyeonggi Province areas, designated as the 57th National Intangible Cultural Heritage. The performance will accompany a play in which the singer talks about stories involving manyo and sorikkun.

“Manyo was like today’s trot music in South Korea. While the lyrics could sound funny, the songs actually deliver some criticism from the suppressed people under the colonial era. I hope minyo songs can offer some comfort to audiences who are exhausted from the pandemic,” said Kang Hyun-jun, who heads Bujihwa Arts Company.

The performance will be staged at 7 p.m. on July 13 at Oryu Cultural Center in Guro-gu, western Seoul. The art center is run by the Guro Cultural Foundation. Bujihwa Arts Company has staged Korean traditional music such as gugak fused with modern musical elements to promote genres of traditional Korean music.

By Park Yuna (