Posts Tagged ‘Kim Dong-Won’
Daorum performed at Target Free Thursdays, an exciting series curated by Lincoln Center and presented at the block long David Rubinstein Atrium. As the title states, the admission is gratis, and the night I was there, the house was totally full. It’s a lofty, gracious place to hear music too, comfortable and with excellent sound, overhead projections, a fountain and living green walls.
I knew about Daorum from seeing the wonderful documentary “Intangible Asset Number 82″ in which Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker and Korean traditional musician Kim Dong-Won (as his guide) make the journey to meet Kim Suk Chul, a shaman whose drumming has fascinated Barker enough to make the pilgrimage to meet him. I won’t give away the extraordinary ending of the film (although Barker does, in the second video of this concert.) What is special to me is the insight the film gives into a kind of music whose virtues are alien and inaccessible to most Westerners; it’s a Rosetta Stone of sorts.
The group Daorum grew out of this meeting between Dong-Won and Simon, and with the addition of singer Bae Il Dong, Mat McMahon (piano), Carl Dewhust (guitar),and Phil Slater (trumpet), the band presents a striking meeting of cultures. Free- improv and new music matrices support the sounds of traditional Korean vocals, percussion, and epic tales.
This year the Fes Festival presented two excellent drumming ensembles, The Master Drummers of Burundi, and the Korean Samulnori Hanullim Ensemble. Experiencing these two groups got me thinking about how much we rely on our own cultures to interpret sound.
It’s not that I don’t believe music can cross boundaries, but I also believe that as we grow up our own culture informs us of how to hear things, and even how to evaluate the quality of the music we are listening to. The drummers from Burundi were excitement personified, and they were rightly presented on the big stage at the Bab Makina, where their athletic gestures and mighty, deep-voiced drums matched the grandeur of the setting. The Korean drums were presented in the more intimate Batha Museum, and although they were no less athletic, the statement was nuanced.
Again it had me thinking about what we are and are not comfortable listening to. Two hundred years ago, most occidental opinions of music were filtered through European classical standards. African music was considered barbaric. In the USA things changed about 90 years ago with the introduction of “Race Records” that brought the music of the African American population into broader distribution and the public consciousness. It’s been a love story ever since, and these days most American pop music continues to be a blend of Western harmonic concepts with African American grooves and gospel-influenced vocals. So the drums of Burundi already felt familiar as the progenitors of music I grew up with.
But what of the drummers from Korea? The higher pitched timbres and shifting rhythmic deconstructions that transitioned into ferocious grooves reminded me that sometimes we have to push hard with our own listening to “get” something that has been around for thousands of years. That’s why I thought to insert part of an interview I recorded about a year ago, and to focus on this ensemble in my post.
I had seen Kim Dong-Won in the wonderful documentary “Intangible Asset Number 82,” about the journey of Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker to find the Korean shaman whose music inspired him. Dong-Won had been Barker’s guide, and he was in town, playing with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, so I set up an appointment. I was anxious to get his insights into the film, and I also asked him to talk about Korean folk music: the way the vocals functioned, and about the philosophy behind the drumming technique. I have edited a small part of that interview into my video here.