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(Yonhap Interview) Korean traditional music can appeal to global audience: Geomungo master

All News 12:15 September 02, 2016

By Chae Sae-rom, Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Sep. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's renowned geomungo player Hur Yoon-jung was appointed to teach at Seoul National University starting this fall, partly for her role in promoting Korean traditional music and instruments in the global music scene.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday, she expressed hope in finding up and coming Korean musical talent who can take Korean traditional music to the next level.

Hur mastered the geomungo sanjo, or free-style solo, which is designated as the 16th intangible cultural asset in the country. She did a brief stint at the Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra, but most of her career, she played as a freelancer.

For six months in 2007-2008, she was invited to play in New York through a residency artist program under the U.S. Rockefeller Foundation. She also played in "Black String," a four-member cross-over band founded in 2011 as part of a state-sponsored Korea-U.K. cultural exchange program. It was aimed at expanding musical horizons by exploring the possibilities of traditional music.

Next month, she is scheduled to perform at the WOMEX, the World Music Expo, slated to be held in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. German record label ACT Music, known for its great array of jazz collections, will soon release her album.

This undated file photo shows geomungo master Hur Yoon-jung. (Yonhap)

"When I just started playing as a freelance solo player, I didn't know what to do since there weren't many chances to perform," she said. "Venturing out into overseas markets seemed to be the only way for me to survive as a musician. But fortunately, I was able to try out the European market, which eventually led me to join in the Black String."

She did try many new things, rarely seen in the Korea traditional music sector, such as cross-genre collaborations, playing with foreign players, and impromptu performances.

"I did it to respond to the growing demand of the rapidly changing music industry. I tried my best to harmonize Korean traditional music with new musical inspiration."

Her efforts seem to be paying off as Korea's unique musical instrument geomungo is slowly getting more recognition outside Korea.

"The uniqueness found in Korean musical instruments makes it competitive enough on the global stage. I will keep trying to offer music not only to Koreans but also foreigners by combining the unique and universal appeals of traditional music."

But she admitted there is still a long way to go for it to be enjoyed more widely.

To achieve that, she said, "We have to have more talented players and good content. I firmly set my eyes on discovering and nurturing talent and increasing cultural and musical exchanges down the road."


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