Kkwaenggwari, Janggu, Taepyeongso, what do all of these traditional instruments have in common? Not sure? Here’s a hint: people played them and still play them during the farming season. Now do you know? Pungmul* of today is very similar to that in the past, but it is rare to see Pungmul as it once was. But there is one way and it’s right here for you to view at Sookmyung’s club, Sookpoong. The Sookmyung Times met Go Minjeong, Head of Sookpoong, to learn more about the club and its activities.
Would you please brief us on Sookpoong’s activities and tell us a short history of the club?
Well, the club gathers twice a week to practise and to teach newer members how to play the instruments. On school vacation, we go to Imsil Pilbong Viliage to learn from professional musicians for one week. Also, we perform at school festivals and off campus venues. In the past, Sookpoong was not a recognized school club. There were several performing groups at each college, hence the name was ‘Sookpoongyeon’ or Sookmyung Women’s University’s Pungmul Union. However, over time, these smaller groups started to disperse and eventually they all disappeared. Then in 2005, two alumni travelled to Imsil to learn about Pungmul and from 2006, they established a new club by recruiting first year students, which led to today’s Sookpoong club.
Sookpoong participates at various events like the Haeorum Festival, but it also does off campus performances. Among all the events you’ve attended, which one is the most memorable?
In my case, this past September’s performance was the most memorable. I participated in last year’s September performance, but at that time, I was a frosh. This year I was put in charge of the event’s preparation and performance. Following my lead, my fellow club members planned and advertised the whole performance. As the member of the planning, I felt like I was the main character of the performance, which is likely why I truly enjoyed the performance. There was a part in the performance, called the ‘Solo Noreum’ where players are given the chance to show their skills to onlookers by playing their instruments alone. This year I had the chance to do so, which is another reason this year’s performance was probably my most memorable one.
Other universities have Pungmul clubs as well. So, what makes Sookpoong different from those ones?
At other universities, the Pungmul clubs are not recognized clubs on campus. They are clubs specific to a particular department and the clubs have formed unions. The problem with this setup is that only students in their respective departments can join the department’s Pungmul club, so club members share close bonds, but the members in the union of clubs are not. On the other hand, at Sookmyung, our club is an official club on campus, so we recruit members from every department, and thereby establish bonds across departments. Indeed, that means our club membership is smaller than a union, but we share closer and deep fellowships. During our performances, former members drop by and sometimes join the performance. In addition, thanks to our small membership size, when we perform off campus, we are able to communicate with off campus people more comfortably. By this communication, we ask them to perform with us at our stage.
Lastly, would you like to leave any final words for your fellow Sookmyungians and the frosh entering in 2016?
First of all, I would like to offer my deepest apologizes to Sookmyungians for all the ‘noise’ we generate during practise. However, we know you empathize with the sound and wish to thank you for your support and encouragement, which has made Sookpoong what it is today. I also appreciate your attendance at our performances and we could love to see you at and participating in the club activity. To Sookmyung frosh and all my fellow Sookmyungians, please know that Pungmul exist really near to us. You are not just watching a performance; you are part of it, so join us anytime. Also, while performing, we can often be seen cooking near the stage. The food is not solely for our club members, audiences are always welcome to taste our treats. So do not think the performance is unfamiliar, just come and enjoy with us.
* 1. Instruments for Korean traditional percussion music
2. The name pf the first of six performances done by the Namsadang (groups of men who roamed the countryside during Joseon dynasty, entertaining with music)