Sunday, March 28, 2010

Libertango - the Gugak Version

Today's video showcases a most unusual setting of Libertango. The introduction is in English, the instruments are Korean and the music is unmistakably Piazzolla although your ear may not recognize any of the timbres involved. The style is traditional Korean music, a style known as gugak, and the group is known as Garamhui. The instruments are listed in the notes with the video. The wind instrument in the center is a Saenghwang, a Korean relative of the Chinese Sheng. Like a bandoneón, it is a free reed instrument - the reeds are fitted within 17 bamboo tubes. Such instruments are frequently cited as precursors to the accordion family of instruments. The bowed string instrument played by the leader of the group is a haegeum - from the same family of instruments as the western violin and Chinese erhu. The remaining three instruments (other than percussion) are all members of the zither family. Two are identified in the video notes as gayageum and geomungo. The third zither, the one to the far left in the video, is an ajaeng - note the bowing 5 1/2 minutes into the video. Although you can't see the percussion instruments, I would wager they are using traditional Korean percussion instruments also.

I find this music absolutely delightful. The musicians are excellent and the Libertango arrangement is cleverly done to showcase the sound of these traditional Korean instruments. The same group has provided videos of three additional pieces: Boat song, Help me through the day and Dream Road. Watching these, it is apparent that this group is trying to do for Korean traditional music much the same thing that Piazzolla did for the tango. They are retaining the essence of the roots of a traditional regional music but bringing an entirely new musical perspective to create something new and exciting. I hope the music brings them great success.

If the video does not appear below, click here.

To learn more about Piazzolla videos, visit the Piazzolla Video site.

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