The Korea Herald


The evolution of samulnori

Kim Duk-soo teams up with indie-rock band for Electric Samulnori

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 12, 2014 - 19:41

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Band Electric Samulnori will perform at KT&G Sangsang Madang in Seoul on Feb. 14 and 21.(KT&G Sangsangmadang) Band Electric Samulnori will perform at KT&G Sangsang Madang in Seoul on Feb. 14 and 21.(KT&G Sangsangmadang)

Samulnori master Kim Duk-soo has a knack for fusing different styles of music.

For the past three decades, he has collaborated with numerous musicians from around the world in a variety of genres ranging from pop to jazz to classical music. All his collaborations were meant to reinvent the beats and sounds of samulnori, a genre of Korean traditional percussion music. Kim launched a groundbreaking band named SamulNori in 1978.

This year, he is going to shake up the music scene again with a band of electric rock musicians.

The band Electric Samulnori will debut this week, with concerts on Feb. 14 and 21 at KT&G Sangsang Madang Live Hall in the arty Hongdae neighborhood in Seoul.

Consisting of seven members ― four from Kim’s samulnori team and three from the indie-rock band nuTrip, the newfangled band is getting ready to show how well this unlikely marriage of electric and traditional percussion sounds can create music that is unique as well as universally enjoyable.

The four traditional percussion instruments are jing (gong), buk (drum), kkoengwari (hand-held gong) and janggu (hourglass-shaped drum), played by Kim himself. The three electric instruments are guitar, keyboard and bass.

This is not the first time Kim has jammed with musicians that play electric instruments. But the master says it’s different this time, because this is not a one-time deal. 

Samulnori master Kim Duk-soo.(KT&G Sangsangmadang) Samulnori master Kim Duk-soo.(KT&G Sangsangmadang)

“This is not Kim Duk-soo’s SamulNori (playing with other bands). It’s the Electric Samulnori,” he said.

Guitarist Jung Jun-seok came up with the idea of forming a band after their collaboration project in November last year. Kim, gladly and without any hesitation, accepted the offer.

“Electric sounds are the most beloved type of music around the world. We need to go into that mainstream to make our traditional sounds loved by a global audience,” Kim said.

With Electric Samulnori, the master hopes to be invited to big music festivals around the world to introduce their music to a broader audience.

A recording is also in the works. Hopefully, it will be out in the fall.

In an interview with The Korea Herald two years ago on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Kim said he is at the very start of a quest to take gugak to another level.

“Music shouldn’t be stuck in the same routine for hundreds of years for the sake of tradition. It is more of a living thing that we breathe and feel,” he has said.

Electric Samulnori’s debut concerts start at 8 p.m. They are both standing concerts. Tickets are priced at 35,000 won, with a 5,000 won discount for those who book in advance. For more information call (02) 330-6212 or visit

By Lee Sun-young (