In addition to newly joining an art club, I’ve also signed up for samulnori classes.

Samulnori is a style of traditional Korean drumming/percussion. Samul means “four things” (aka the four types of instruments used to play in the group percussion), and nori means “play”.

It also happens to be something I’ve been wanting to try since I first feasted eyes on a performance; every time I’m lucky enough to see a show including it (EPIK Orientation welcome, my school’s talent show, cultural festivals, and so on), I look on with envy.

Before continuing any farther, here’s a glimpse of what it sounds/looks like. It’s a long video, so I’ve linked straight to the end to cut straight to the best part.


(If that embedded video is being as fussy with you as it is for me, watch it directly here)

So, when our provincial coordinator sent out a message that said Cheongju was hosting free lessons, I didn’t hesitate to jump on that faster than a hooker eager for a tip.

Although I counted down the days until the first meeting, I also admit to feeling quite a lot of trepidation: I’ve never played drums before. In fact, I’m terrible at anything to do with music – mostly, laughably in such a situation as this, because I can’t keep a beat. It’s part of the reason I had a fear of dancing for so many years, because I never could find the rhythm to swing to. (As a side note, I overcame that by taking Swing Dance classes; best decision ever).

Anyhow, today was the first meeting and when it came time to choose instruments, I knew exactly which one I wanted: the janggu.

Obviously it’s the hardest one to play, but it looks so graceful when the drummers play it as they cross from left to right to beat on the same skin and then back to opposite sides.

Of course, it’s also the one that happens to be the most popular, meaning one or two of us will have to switch to the buk (flat drum) next week. Part of me feels it should be me since I’m new and the other girl trying out the janggu for the first time has already played buk, but part of me’s a selfish human who wants to play that drum, the rest be damned!!

Here’s what it sounds/looks like on its own.

…buuuuut I guess we’ll see. To be honest, I wasn’t that great – but then again, I wasn’t that bad either. I mean, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, considering it was my first time playing drums period, and I had an hour’s group practice with no trial on my own…hmm. Hm hm hmmm. It’s a tough decision. And one for future Marta to decide.

Excitingly (terrifyingly?) there’s also a national music festival hosted in Cheongju this August and it’s been requested that our class of mottled waygooks perform.

“It’s a really big festival,” said our regional director. “Like…really big. It’s huge. Like on a national scale. That big.”

Hah…hah hah…so much excitement!

Part of me’s excited because I’m just illogically excited by such things without taking into account the severe embarrassment that might follow.

But anyway, that’s far into the future! In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to next week’s lesson. Certainly a good way for anyone to stop dreading Mondays.

I’ll be sure to update you all on my progress!

4 thoughts on “Samulnori

  1. WOW ! That vid with the solo performer on a stage playing the Janggu reminded me of the tabla player for Ravi Shankar, Allah Rakha. Notice that he leads with the left hand and his body is directed towards his left. Listening to it on headphones one can differentiate the rhythm and sound of his left vs the right.
    You go girl! Sounds like you will have fun with it.


    1. I hope so! And yeah I think he’s left handed cuz we were taught to bring it to the right. I only hope I can be a quarter as good as that eventually…


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