DUBAI: K-pop has astronomically risen around the world since Psy’s “Gangnam Style” hit the international charts several years ago.
On Thursday evening and from the one-night performance of SE:UM at the Madinat Theatre in Jumeirah, traditional Korean music also proved to capture the hearts of the multi-ethnic residents in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Republic of Korea Consul General Chun Young Wook in his welcome address before the diverse inter-generational audience, said: “Dubai is truly a fantastic city and emirate. It is multi-cultural in terms of arts, cuisine and music.
“I am happy to join (the diversity) through SE:UM to feature Korean folk songs (and musical instruments)…there is more to K-pop.” Interviewed ahead of the one-and-a-half hour show, Chun who arrived in the UAE four months back, to lead the Consulate General of Korea in Dubai and the Northern Emirates in fostering much improved relations with the host government, said he believes the best way to achieve that mission and goal is through cultural understanding.
“It is my first time to be assigned in the Middle East. I have never met any Middle Easterner before,” said the diplomat of 32 years.
He had postings in Los Angeles (US), Spain, Greece, Sweden, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia and Costa Rica.
“I believe we have big potentials in enhancing more our ties with the UAE and the best way for me is for us to understand each other’s culture, so this is one of our cultural nights,” Chun added.
Thirteen thousand Koreans live across the seven emirates and work in various sectors namely infrastructure development, information communications technology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, environment and petro-chemicals.
Known as the “Korean Music Festival,” the SE:UM performance was heartwarmingly received.
Young children and their parents, alongside teen-agers excitedly queued for photographs, selfies and autographs from the 12 artists led by the only female and soloist Yunhee Choi, after the curtain call.
This reporter overheard secondary and university students rating the performance as “excellent” several times.
Even the Diplomatic Corps in Dubai and the Northern Emirates got enthralled specifically with the energetic Nongak, the farmers’ dance, which culminated the evening through the “Samul Pangut.”
This particular number typifies the communal joys and unity of the ancient agrarian society of Korea which has soared to become the world’s seventh largest exporter and 11th largest economy across the globe with GDP growth of $1.4 trillion.
Imagine the farming community doing the acrobatic choreography with the sangmo (long ribbon attached on their hats) and the bubpo (feathered hat) in cadence with the brisk and lively toms-toms of the jang-gu (hourglass drum) and buk (barrel drum) interspersed with the tunes coming form the senapa (bamboo flute).
In that farming community, two intrigued the audience with their skill in twirling round traditional Korean agricultural toys with different lengths and arches of slim bamboo poles, even an umbrella.
With the accompaniment of the traditional drums and at times with the gayageum, the zither-like stringed instrument also known as the Korean harp, soloist Choi mesmerized the audience with her expressive rendition of the “Arirang,” Korea’s “un-official national anthem” and the “Taepyeong-ga (“Song of Peace”) in the “Gyeonggi Min-yo” (folk song).
She delighted the audience in the two boating songs?“Batnorae” and “Jajin Batnarae”?and had them gamely respond “Uh ghi yah diyeoh” and “Uh yadiya”?the beat and tempo of which resonate the paddling of the oars down waterways.
In observation, dexterity is called for in playing the gayageum as one hand needs to solidly press down a string or two while the other hand nimbly plays the melody on the other strings.
The night opened with saxophonist Hunsik Han, trumpet player Jongsang Park, contrabassist Jaeha Lee play a repertoire of Western jazz and traditional Korean music with jangu-gu player Minhyung Lee and gayageum musician Joon Lee.