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National Gugak Center to perform in Paris, Berlin

The National Gugak Center will perform Korea’s celebrated traditional music “Yeongsanhoesang” in Berlin and Paris on Wednesday.
Members of the National Gugak Center perform “Yeongsanhoesang.” (National Gugak Center)
Members of the National Gugak Center perform “Yeongsanhoesang.” (National Gugak Center)

The center previously held a concert featuring the same music at La Maison des Cultures du Monde in Paris and at Tempodrom, a major venue in Berlin, on Sunday. The upcoming concerts on Wednesday will take place at the same venues in Paris and Berlin.

The featured piece is believed to have been written as a Buddhist piece during Korea’s Goryeo period (918-1392), or even before. The term “Yeongsan” in the title refers to the mountain in India where Buddha used to hold meetings with his followers.

“The music deals with missing Buddha and the gatherings he held at Yeongsan,” the institution explained in its release.

The 50-minute piece was initially written as a vocal piece with spiritual lyrics, but the people of Joseon, who embraced Confucianism while rejecting Buddhism, removed the lyrics and created instrumental variations instead.

The National Gugak Center performed one of the variations, the chamber ensemble version arranged for Joseon royals, during early morning concerts at Seoul’s Changgyeonggung back in August.

The concerts in Paris and Berlin are an extension of National Gugak Center’s previous German tour in May, titled “Explosion de Gefuhle” meaning “Explosion of emotions.” The tour, which included Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Cologne, featured “minsogak,” traditional folk music. In July, the institution held another concert in Berlin, starring renowned gugak artist Lee Chun-hee and folk songs from Gyeonggi Province.

Meanwhile, Korean cultural centers in France and Germany have been working together to introduce the traditional side of Korean culture in Europe, and are planning a gugak session by the National Gugak Center at TFF Rudolstadt ― Germany’s biggest folk, roots and world music festival ― in July.
By Claire Lee (