SamulNori: Contemporary Korean Drumming and the Rebirth of Itinerant Performance Culture

Author: Hesselink, Nathan

Publication details: Chicago Series in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.


Abstract: In 1978, four musicians crowded into a cramped basement theater in downtown Seoul, where they, for the first time, brought the rural percussive art of p’ungmul to a burgeoning urban audience. In doing so, they began a decades-long reinvention of tradition, one that would eventually create an entirely new genre of music and a national symbol for Korean culture.Nathan Hesselink’s SamulNori traces this reinvention through the rise of the Korean supergroup of the same name, analyzing the strategies the group employed to transform a museum-worthy musical form into something that was both contemporary and historically authentic, unveiling an intersection of traditional and modern cultures and the inevitable challenges such a mix entails. Providing everything from musical notation to a history of urban culture in South Korea to an analysis of SamulNori’s teaching materials and collaborations with Euro-American jazz quartet Red Sun, Hesselink offers a deeply researched study that highlights the need for traditions—if they are to survive—to embrace both preservation and innovation.