The chemistry is in ‘gugak’ and street culture

Lyna Mohammad

The Korean percussion group Jin Myung rocked audiences in Brunei Darussalam with an electrifying performance at the opening of the Korean Festival 2019 at Times Square Shopping Centre and at the Jerudong International School (JIS) Arts Centre recently.

Jin Myung comprises a team of young percussion players who met in their early teens during an after-school activity class in their first year of middle school.

Jin Myung’s Team Leader and Artistic Director You Byoung-wook shared that it was their first performance in Brunei, while describing the country as an exotic and wonderful place. He said the group was very happy to see the crowd respond with enthusiasm to their performance.

Prior to their visit, the group had never heard of Brunei. The first thing Byoung-wook did was look it up on Google and saw that it is a peaceful, healthy and very green country.

Arriving in Brunei on the day of their opening performance at the Korean Festival in Times Square, the group was tired from their long flight and transit in Singapore but the enthusiastic crowd enjoying their first performance made them feel refreshed.

Touching on their beginnings, he said that Jin Myung started with a small group of friends 20 years ago who studied at the same arts high school. They later scouted for additional members and currently have eight members in the group.

They formed the group through an extra-curricular club and named themselves Jin Myung. They were always together, learning and practising traditional Korean music as well as performing across the country under a teacher’s guidance.

The Korean percussion group Jin Myung. PHOTOS: JAMES KON/LYNA MOHAMAD
The Korean percussion group Jin Myung performs during the Korean Festival 2019 at Times Square Shopping Centre

Jin Myung plays Korean traditional music, gugak, and incorporates elements of street culture. The group presents fusion performances with three invited guest artistes, a breakdancer, a beatboxer and a juggler to mix gugak and street culture in new ways.

Their great concern was that traditional Korean musicians like them were perceived as dull and lacking pop culture elements.

After having thought on methods to make gugak more appealing to the masses and adding elements of street culture and performances, Jin Myung has successfully proven that gugak and street culture can make great chemistry together.

Byoung-wook felt the responsibility to share Korean culture through the drums but with a modern twist so that when they go around the globe, it is more approachable to the crowd.

Prior to their performance here on invitation by the Korean Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, Jin Myung had performed in Brazil and due to the popularity of the Korean Hallyu (Wave), they are planning to perform in China as well.

The Korean Wave refers to the global popularity of South Korea’s cultural economy exporting pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies. It is a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture, encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and Korean cuisine.

Byoung-wook noted that their performance invitations vary, as sometimes they get funded by the government and sometimes cultural exchange or Korean embassies. He said they are invited because they are so approachable and there is not much between the young and the culture because they bring a fusion of modern and traditional music.

In an interview with The Korea Times, a member of the group pointed out that they are considered as gugak-dol (idol group performing gugak) and have created numerous pieces by themselves under the lead of Byoung-wook.

The band now performs about 60 times a year, both in Korea and overseas.

Although the group presents fusion performances, much of their performances are still pure traditional Korean percussion music as they believe it is integral to have their traditional roots focussed in their creation, while still creating something new and fresh.

Their visit to the Sultanate was part of the cultural night of the Korean Festival. At their second performance at JIS, Jin Myung showcased a dynamic, passionate and trendy show that was reinterpreted from Korean traditional performance.