Seoul’s Senior Public Diplomacy Group in partnership with the Korea Observer and Asiana Airlines organized an evening of cultural dance and song which was broken up by a short intermission and an awards ceremony to present the prizes to the winners of the K-blogger Photo Contest. There quite a few submissions for the theme, “Korea’s Cultural Heritage Through the Eyes of a Foreigner.” it was interesting for me to look back at the book from the Seoul Photo and Imaging Expo and see the names of people who participated again and see more of their work and how it was similar or different from their other work. Take a look at the links and see which you like best.
The apart from the international dances there were traditional Korean Arirang and Samulnori Performances. I am not a big fan of of either style of music but can appreciate the history and narrative of the Arirang songs and the physicality of the Samulnori performers.
One of the interesting things that I recently discovered was sparked by hearing one of the instruments played during the Samulnori segments. The instrument is called Taepyeongso. It’s a reed instrument like a clarinet but very short. I had heard the sound before; it reminded me of the Dulzaina from Central Spain but that wasn’t. When I first came to Korea I saw a Samulnori performance and something immediately made me think of Turkey.
Having no knowledge about Korean history, it was just a guess but after this performance I just had to look into it. Turns out that during the Goryeo era ( In fact the name Korea comes from the name of this era) There was a group of Turkish people who came for trade around 600AD but I read that it was between 950AD and 1300AD that The Turkish made their mark in Korea. If you are really curious I recommend this short article to get a base. Point is that People from present day Turkey / Middle East were interacting as far back as then and I believe that the Taepyeongso, or Zurna as it is sometimes called in Eurasia, is a remnant of their influence.
After this there was an awards ceremony an intermission and when everyone got seated they introduced several special guests the members of the Senior diplomacy group, the head of a good sized business and a handful of ambassadors and people from those embassies.
Now to the fun bit. There was this Chinese Lion dance group. 6 guys in lion costumes dancing to traditional music, nothing too out of the ordinary until the music hit a drop and *something similar to* this came on. I recommend headphones if in public and not to listen with children. Everyone in the place was thoroughly stunned. I don’t care about the language but talk about bad judgement call.
After that an all womans Arirang group came out and sang the same chorus for about 12 minutes. Ji and I speculate that it was an effort to try and wash peoples minds of that previous act.
One of the last acts of the night was an American Cheer-leading Dance team. I though that would be interesting to watch; it was but not in the good interesting kind of way. The Male performers came out in a shiny crushed velvet and lace, Baroque era meets swashbuckler with with puffy sleeves and ruffled cuffs. the girls had similar outfits but with shirts and overalls and all of them in white vinyl shin high boots.
Next was the performance. when you think cheer leading you think some gymnastics, flips, cartwheels, human pyramids, basket tosses, and vocalizes cheers. Lets break down the name here American could denote that the style of cheer is from America (the USA) or that the performers are from the USA. in this case i cant be sure of the ir nation of origin but I might guess that they are Korean. Second the Spectacle we witnessed was NOT cheer-leading.
What I saw was an asynchronous attempt at organized moshing melded with late 90’s boy band choreography performed to mid 2000’s pop rock. lots of windmill arm action.
I wonder if there are American style Cheer-leaders in Korea because I think that would honestly be interesting to see for an international group of people like there was gathered that night.
For a free event it was interesting enough I really enjoyed the Afro-Cuban dance to some Yoruba music but that part was very short and seemed a bit improvised. also the Mongolian performance with a Koto and Moorin Khuur was beautiful.