I can be a bit of an obsessive when it comes to my interests, from a notebook filled with video game stats, collections of books by one author, and entire back catalogs of artists I love, but have yet to listen to. This year, my aim has been on traditional Korean music, and being friends with fellow music bloggers paid off in one small way.
refresh daemon, who reviews anything his heart desires on his Init blog put on my radar the Korean Cultural Service New York “Open Stage” event featuring Juris Kuns, a traditional Korean music group. Performing her latest work, Passage, it was a trip through time, without bumps along the way.
A haegeum player, Juri Kim is a skilled musician, and that’s putting it mildly. Opening with “Reconstituted ‘Yeom-Yang-Chun’ (Beautiful Sunshine Spring),” Juri Kim’s playing is emotional, with her haegeum set against a backing track. On it, the time travel aspect opens, starting as a vinyl record playing, and an electronic beep pops in every once in a while, like a tinkerer in the present time.
This balancing of the traditional and the modern is central to Juris Kuns, exemplified by the all-inclusive “Part III – Merry Ostrich,” a song of changing rhythms, various string solos (Seok Jin Ko on guitar, Juri Kim, and Yun Jeong Huh on gayageum), and on the underlying blues structure. Whether that aspect was intentional or not, that blues is even alluded to shows how wide Juris Kuns’ music can reach.
That grasp even extends to dance on “Mori,” with a superb bass riff by Woo Young Lee and thunderous percussion by Kyung Hee Chang and Chang Yool Shin on the janggu. A brad exploration indeed, but Juris Kuns maintains its own character of enchantment and whimsy throughout “Passage.”
I nearly missed this show, as I was made aware of it three days before the show, but I’m glad for the serendipity of it all. Juris Kuns is an amazingly talented group of performers, creating music centered in Korean folk and adding modern touches without losing heart.
Juris Kuns on Facebook.