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5 Instruments

  1. Kwaenggari (a small gong)

    Kwaenggari is also called by different names such as Soe, Kwaengmagi, Kwaengsoe, Kwangsoe, Sokeum, Dongo, and Jang. The Kwaenggari player is called the Soechibae. The person who plays the Soe in the very front is called "Sangsoe," and s/he has a very important position in Pungmul.

    Soe is made out of brass, but today, it is also sometimes mixed with gold or silver. Brass is made out of copper and zinc, and the higher percentage (60-70%) of copper and zinc is present in brass, the higher and clearer Soe sounds when played. If, however, there is a higher percentage of just zinc or if lead is mixed in to make the brass, the sound will be low and thick and will not carry on long. The diameter of the kwaengari is around 21 centimeters (7 inches), and the width around the circumference is around 3.6 centimeters (1 1/5 inches). Soe is hit with a stick somewhere between the center and the far end of the Soe.

    The stick's length and the size vary depending on its purpose. It is interesting to note that in Kungsangbukdo Bitne Jingut, the stick was made with a fulling-block, and in the old days, people even used drumsticks for Buk or a rod to play the Kwaenggari. When playing the Kwaenggari, one would hold the stick in one hand (a right-handed person would use the right hand and a left handed person the left hand), and the other hand would be used to hold the instrument, manipulating the tone by pressing the Soe with the middle and ring finger and the pinky.

    There are two categories of Kwaenggari depending on different tones: Su (male)-Kwaenggari and Am (female)-Kwaenggari. The Su-kwaenggari has a solid and high pitch sound, and the Am-Kwaenggari has a smooth and thin sound. The interchanging play of Susoe and Amsoe goes together very well like a male and a female birds conversing with each other. The origin of Kwaenggari is not certain, but it seems to have developed during either Shinra period or the Goryeo period during the rule of the King Gongmin, the same time as the Ming Dynasty in China.

    Kwaenggari is best when played with Jangoo, and in ancient days, it was played in the military band and also used in the court music (Jeongak), dance music, and Pungmul. It was very effective in stimulating and exciting the listeners with its rhythm.

  2. Jing

    Jing is a percussion instrument made of brass, and its original pronunciation is "Jeong," but somehow, it has been given the name Jing. It was used in the military band as inspiration music, so it has been nicknamed "Gochui-jing" (inspiration Jing). It is also sometimes called "Nan," "Keumra," "Keum," "Daekeum," "Keumjeong," etc. It is used for many purposes such as for military parade, Shamanistic music, Pungmul, and also used in the Buddhist music.

    It is recorded that Jing came to Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty from China during its Ming Dynasty, and examining the Jing in Jeolanamdo University's Honam Art Museum, it can be inferred that the history of Jing might go as far back before the Goryeo period. Because of its simplicity, Jing seems to have been used before Kwaenggari. A good sound coming out of Jing does not fall but rises.

    Jing is around 36 cm in diameter and its width around the circumference is 10 cm. It is about 3mm thick. It is important to keep the right rhythm with Jing, since it has the important role of embracing all the beats, helping them to resonate. Jing may be characterized as having the most embracing sound of all of the instruments in Pungmul.

    When playing the Jing, one would hold the stick and softly push against the middle of the instrument to make a grand sound. Jing can not be played in different ways, but because of this very reason, Balim (improvisational dance movements) is various, and there is enough interval between each beat for the dancer to freely express the excitement.

    Despite the small number of times the Jing player plays the instrument, it has a very significant role. If the Jing player does not hit beats correctly, all the players of the other instruments may become confused and the music would sound precarious. Furthermore, Jango, Soe, and Buk would not sound their best nor be effective. In the old days, people would sometimes hang the Jing on a piece of branch and tie the branch to their body to carry it around.

  3. Janggu

    Janggu is one of the leather percussion instruments consisting of an hour-glass shaped body with two heads (hides or skins) lapped onto metal hoops placed over the open ends of the body and secured by counter-hoops. It goes by the name either Janggu or Janggo, also sometimes called Seyogo (slim waist drum) because of the large heads and its slim waist. Both names, Janggu and Janggo, were originated from different viewpoints. Since the heads are made of deer (Jang) skin and dog (Gu) skin, there is solid ground to the name Janggu. Since Janggo is played with sticks (Jang) and buk (Go), there is also a basis for the name Janggo. According to a field survey conducted in two provinces, the majority opted for Janggu. A typical answer was provided by two Janggu masters, Mr, Kim, Bong-yeol of Jinan city in Jeonlabukdo, and Mr. Pak, Giha, of Gangneung City in Kangwondo. The reason they cited was simply that the heads are usually made of deer or dog skins and that Janggu has been the preferred name among the teachers from the old times, including themselves.

    The left head ('Buk' or 'gung' side) is covered with a thick cowhide, horsehide, or deer skin and produces deep and low tones. The right side ('chae' side) is usually covered with a lighter horsehide or dog skin and produces higher tones. Dog skin is the preferred hide since it emits louder and fuller tones. Either porcelain, tile, metal, wood, guard, or tinned sheet can be used to make the body. Popular choices are poplar and paulownia woods. However, paulownia is most popular because it is the lightest and the best resonating material that produces beautiful sounds.

    The round tube in the middle connecting the left and right side of the hour-glass shaped body is called Jorongmok. The size of the Jorongmok determines the quality of tone: the wider the tube, the deeper and huskier it sounds; the narrower the tube, the harder and snappier it sounds.

    There are basically two ways to make the body: either an uni-body one-piece construction or multi-piece constructed with two or three wooden pieces. The tone of the sound is adjusted by tightening the twisted cotton ropes ('soobba', 'hongjin-sa', 'Chookseung'), which are tied to the eight hooks around the hoop and run from hook to hook across the body. By turning the tightening braces ('Chuksu', 'Bujeon') on the twisted cotton ropes either right or left, the tension is provided.

    The oldest document in which Janggo was mentioned was found on "Janggo-eup-sa", meaning "Professional Janggo Performers", published in the 30th year (1076 AD) of King Munjong during the Koryo dynasty.

    Smaller in size than Janggu, now in use, is called 'Yogo', meaning knee-drum. We presume it was via India where Yogo was originated and China during the North-South period that Yogo was introduced into Korea, as was evident from the mural paintings in the tomb #4 of Chipanhyun (a King of Koguryo), and from the Paintings of Musical Performers at the bottom of the portrait of King Dongjong of Silla at the Sangwon Temple, and lastly from the pictures at the Gameun Temple, the Relics of Buddha (sa-ri-gi?), (gi-dan?), made of bronze metal, in the second year of King Mun (682 AD) during the Unified Silla Dynasty. We presume that it was during the Koryo dynasty that the size of the Jangguo had grown to present day standard.

    There are two theories regarding how Janggu was introduced into Korea: (1) Changgoo was originated in China during the Han dynasty. It was when a shipment of newer musical instrument was received from China that 20 pieces of Janggu were included along with other instruments, during the 9th year of King Yejong; (2) Changgoo was used in China as early as Tang dynasty and introduced into Koryo during the Three Kingdom period.

    According to "Akhakkwebum" ('Book of Music') published during the reign of King Sejong, Janggu was one of the instruments used in both Tangak (Tang Music) and Hyangak (native music), which suggest that Janggu is an indispensible instrument in both countries. That is still true in today's Korea in the 21st century. It is used in almost all musical performances ?'Chongak' (court music), Sanjo (improved solo), 'Chapka' (folksong of professional musicians), 'Minyo' (regional folk songs), Pungmulgut, and 'Muak' (Shmanistic music).

    There are two kinds of sticks (chae): 'Gungchae' and 'Yeolchae'. Gungchae is made from a bamboo root, boiled and straightened out. A hardwood, such as birch, or antler bone is fitted onto the end of the stick. Yeolchae is made from a bamboo stick.

    Since the performer can use his/her hands as well as sticks, various sounds and tempo ?deep and full, soft and tender, menacing sounds, and fast and slow beats - can be created to suit the mood of the audience. Using this capability, a dexterous performer can dance along moving his/her shoulders up and down and make the audience carried away and dance along with him/her. The way performers carry the Janggu differ from person to person, from region to region and varies depending on his/her taste.

  4. Puk

    Because of its simple form, Puk has enjoyed a long history of worldwide existence. Puks were developed with distinct local cultures, and different kinds have evolved through generations depending on its usage and occasion. Puk is the oldest instrument among the Pungmul instruments, because Puk was the simplest instrument that could be made before the Bronze Age.

    Puk that is easy to wear in the shoulder with solid and firm sound is often used in Pungmul. Puks are made by carving away the center of paulownia or poplar tress, and weaving and tightening cow or horse hides at each end. However, in the modern years, Puks are mostly made by wooden boards.

    Puk's main role is not to play small and a variety of rhythms, but to play main beats with power and passion by expanding its spirit through powerful dances. There are two types of Puks depending how it is played: "Woipuk" that is played by bearing the instrument from the left shoulder, and "Yangpuk" that is played with two Pukchaes using two hands by positioning the instrument at the waist using a Puk rope. In most provinces, the Woipuk for dancing is often played, whereas the Yangpuk focuses on rhythmic play. In Jeonla province, the development of Janggu had led the sound of Puk to be often played using Janggu's Gungpyun instead. However, in Kyungsang province, the development of Puk decreased the role for Janggu. Therefore, Puk playings and rhythms became more sophisticated in Kyungsang province, and in the Chindo city of South Jeonla province, the dancing form of Puk with Pukchaes in two hands is well-developed. The size of Puk is also different depending on regions. In general, Puks from Kyungsang province are big and wide, and the ones from Jeonla province are typically small. Also, the Puk player is positioned after Kwaenggari and Jing in Kyungsang province.

    Between the form of Puk and Sogo, there exists an instrument called Beoku. The size is halfway between a Puk and a Sogo, and the form is the same as a Puk without the "Sseki" which are wooden blocks located in the center of outer body of Puk underneath the tightened hide. A Beoku is played by holding it close to a hand using a short rope wrapped around a hand, or sometimes a separate handle is used. Because it is lighter than a Puk, more powerful and variety of dancing moves can be performed with Beoku. Beoku is often used in Jeonla province.


  5. Sogo

    A small instrument shaped like a Puk in Pungmul is called Sogo, and it is also called Beopko, Beoku, or Maekupuk. Present Sogos have handles attached to them, but in older days it was rare that a Sogo had a handle (Pungmul in Ansung still uses Sogo wrapped around a hand with a rope). Depending on the provinces, some Sogos were a lot bigger than today's, and the sound from Sogo players was almost as loud as other Pungmul instruments.

    Present day's Sogo is smaller and made using thin hide. Because it is light, a Sogo player may dance while just playing the first beat of the rhythm, or he may just play rhythms. However, in Utdari rhythm, a Sogo player may hit the instrument quite hard. Sogo players wear Sangmo or Kkoggal hats. In Jeonla Wudo and Kangwondo province, Sogo players wear Kkoggal, whereaa Sangmo is worn in Jeonla Jwado, Kyungsando province, Kyungi province, and Chungcheong province.

    When wearing a Kkoggal, a beautifully decorated Sogo player wears paper flowers and boasts his/her excellent dances. When wearing a Beongkeoji (Chunlip) that has Chaesangmo attached, colorful Sangmo playing harmonized with the beautiful sky-sweeping Chaesang is performed that encompasses powerful dancing rhythms.

  6. Nabal

    A Nabal's length is 3 feet 8 inches (approximately 115 cm). It is divided into 2 or 3 sections, and has a tube made of brass that is fitted. The nabal was introduced as a military instrument during the Koryo dyanasty, King Gongmin's reign.

    It is used when the Pungmul group goes into a village (the Nabal is blown 3 times as a signal), and also as a signal when the Pungmul group gathers and leaves. The people who blow the nabal are the Daeposu, Sangsoe, Seoljanggu. Any one of these people can blow it. First, if it is blown once the people who are scattered should prepare, if is blown two times it means everyone should gather and prepare to leave, and three times means they are leaving. Thus, 1, 2, and 3 Cho means first, second, third, and they are all blown the same way.

  7. Taepyongso

    Taepyongso is also called Nallari, Saenap, or Hojeok. Taepyongso was introduced during the Chosun Dynasty during Taejo's reign from the Ming Dynasty in China, and is believed to have been made by Sasung from the Tang Dynasty. The total length is approximately 30 cm and is shaped like a cone rather than a cylinder. The tube is made of a hard wood like date, citron, or Hwayang, and the end of the lower part is open like Nabal, and is made of copper. The hole where the mouthpiece is fitted is also made of copper and a small reed is fitted in this hole. Before, the reed was used as a mouthpiece, and now, it is trimmed to an appropriate size and used as a drinking straw. There are 8 holes and the first hole is in the back. The Nallari was used for marching bands and used in royal families' memorial services, it played a more active, important role within the Kollip (fund-raising) form of Pungmul.

  8. Banner/Flag

    On the olden battlefields, the Big Five Flags were used to represent and indicate the five directions (East, West, South, North, and center), while also leading the units.

    The location of the flags 

     North (Back): Hyunmu 
    West: BaekhoCenter: DeungsaEast: Cheongryong
     South (Front): Jujak 

    The meanings and colors of the Big Five Flags 

    TypeMeaningLocationFive elementsSeasonBackground colorsBoundary colors
    Cheongryongblue dragoneast (left)woodspringblue or greenblack
    JujakChinese phoenixsouth (front)firesummerorange or redblue or green
    Deungsasnakecenterearthmaster of all the seasonsyelloworange or red
    Baekhowhite tigerwest (right)metalfallwhiteyellow
    Hyunmuturtlenorth (back)waterwinterblackwhite

    It seems that our ancestors had a fluid understanding of the various colors (red, orange, blue, and green). For example, as is written in ancient Korean poetry:

      Blue mountains themselves...green waters themselves... (from the works by Song Siyeol)

      Curving the heavenly green waters, you look back at the thousands of Blue Mountains...(from the works by Lee Hyunbo).

    Despite the blueness of the sea, these poets describe the water as green; similarly, the mountains are called blue instead of their literal color, green.