My contacts with Asian music were scarce before a few years ago. It is true that Chinese music I used to hear on TV picked my attention and I remember asking my mother why does it sound so different. I know for sure it was not Japanese or of any different Asian origin. Mum explained me about the difference in dividing the tone (I knew about tone and semitone) and that was pretty much all I knew and mattered to me at the time. I was listening almost exclusively to modern music. (I listened to classical and opera pieces just because she was listening to them and, well, there was no other option at the time, but it didn’t bothered me at all, I quite enjoyed them, and whenever she was listening to the folklore of my people I looked away with a bored face. Sometimes I wonder how I could be so narrow minded, but I suppose wisdom comes with age.)
After a while I discovered a melody named ”Because I am a girl” sang by a group named Kiss and after that I discovered an artist named BoA. They were Korean pop singers, but I did not know at the time. They were Asian. That’s all I knew and I cared about. I liked what I heard but I didn’t bother to look deeper. (I will not talk about modern music today, though.) Only a few years ago, a couple of years ago, I discovered Korean dramas. The very first drama I watched – by some sort of accident of the fate – revolved around traditional dance. Traditional dance means traditional music. There was this instrument that resonated in such a delicate and painful way at the same time, named gayageum. This is how it began my journey through Asian traditional music. Because I am a curious mind and once it starts, it keeps looking and searching until it reaches unexpected territories. Because, you know, the gayageum is related to the Japanese koto and the Chinese guzheng as the Korean kkangkkangi (haegeum) is related to erhu. Sounds complicated? It is just about traditional Asian instruments and I stop here. I shall let only the music to speak. It speaks so much better than me!
I begin with the very first traditional Korean song I fell in love with. It is – as far as understood – the most treasured song of Korea. I shall not speak about versions and meaning of the lyrics. Minimal information can be read here by anyone interested. But I am going to tell you that the very first time I listened to it, I felt warmth and pain, grace and despair. I offer you two versions – a more traditional one and a modernized one, more suitable to ears less accustomed to the inflections of Korean traditional song.
Now, please let me exemplify my personal concept of pure Asian beauty – grace, delicacy, deep emotions played on various traditional instruments, on more or less traditional arrangements. (I wish I had such an extensive culture to be able to say precisely which is really traditional and which is modernized!)
I think I make no mistake to say that all the songs above express a certain melancholy, maybe because of the sound of the instrument.
Chinese erhu: Erhu – Spring Scenery in South of Yangtze River
I invite you to stop just a few more times in our journey:
Chinese Music – Traditional Style (I know it is NOT traditional, maybe played in the traditional way, but I love this song too much to ignore this version)
This is just a short visit in Asia. One thing I must emphasize once and again. I am not a specialist and this selection was based solely on my taste and my knowledge. If I made any mistake, I am more than willing and happy to correct it! Even more, I would be happy to receive as many responses to this entry! That would be a fabulous way for me to learn more and faster!