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 tation 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 invation.
Nathan Hesselink is associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of P'ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance, published by the University of Chicago Press, and editor of the volumes Music and Politics on the Korean Peninsula and Contemporary Directions: Korean Folk Music Engaging the Twentieth Century and Beyond.