Korean Shaman AK Dan Gwang Chil to play in Vancouver on June 19


Unlike any other K-pop, Ak Dan Gwang Chil casts a shamanic spell over his folk fusion.

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Like any massive musical style, K-pop has plenty of subgenres, and Korean shamanic band AK Dan Gwang Chil, playing at the Rio Theater on June 19, could very well be the next big thing. Tickets are available at vtixonline.com.

After watching performance videos of Ak Dan Gwang Chil, or ADG7, it’s easy to see the appeal.

The nine-piece group may not be the next BTS, but their blend of sacred ritual music from North Korea’s Hwanghae Province with serious sounds from Seoul is downright addictive. Described by The New York Times as “. . . a dizzying show band with all the trappings of K-pop — choreographed singers, candy-colored costumes, and bouncy, upbeat, and often swinging songs that connect the conciseness of folk tunes with the catchy repetition of pop, with booming cymbals for drive and flute and zither lines for instrumental hooks,” ADG7 is at the forefront of the South Korean folk-roots revival.

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There is also a lot of talent behind the glitz.

On his latest album, Such is Life of the 2020s, flute player/piri woodwind and saenghwang Lee Man Wol solos as the most shredding guitarist in head metal, while percussionist Sunwoo Barabarabarabam mixes all kinds of rhythms unique in catchy and melodic tunes. Kim Yak Dae on the long daeguem bamboo flute, Won Meongongmaru on the 12-string plucked zither called gayaguem, and bowed ajaeng zither player Donghoon Kim complete the orchestra. The singers – Chorong, Yoojin and Minyoung – are masters of harmony.

The band spoke to Postmedia before their show in Vancouver.

Q: The music you create has its roots in the Hwaghae-do region of what is now North Korea. Have you been able to visit the region and learn about the traditions?

ADG7: As you know, it is difficult to go back and forth between South Korea and North Korea. So the reality is that you cannot visit and check in in person. However, checking with people who lived in the area in the past and are now in South Korea and learning regularly through various materials and teachings from teachers works.

Q: Korean shamanic music – called gut – or secular minyo folk song in North America is much less well known than K-pop. How do you change that?

A: It’s always a concern for us how we present the music. It is positive in terms of traditional preservation that sounds from thousands of years ago come into contact with modern people, but it may sound unfamiliar in terms of popular music. Shamanic music and northern folk song is a genre that most are unfamiliar with. However, we believe that our identity is contained in the sounds and voices of the instruments that have been playing this music for decades. The band collaborated with sound engineers, removing unnecessary elements and adding new ones to create a modern and popular band sound.

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Q: What are some of the things you sing about? Are folk tales and myths part of the song content?

A: Most of ADG7’s music is rooted in shamanic (gut) and minyo (folk song) music. Sometimes we create the music incorporating Pansori, which is more of a storytelling genre. This creates completely new melodies inspired by traditional voices and instruments. Bingle Bingle, Noza Noza, Hee Hee are songs we made like that. The lyrics are about what people can sympathize with today, rather than myths or folk tales.

Q: The music is very danceable, even most shamanic songs. Or did you put the ADG7 spin on the sound?

A: It’s a bit different between the first and second albums. The first album was a process of analyzing traditional gut music and digesting it like our own. In the process, the inspiration of the traditional sound was directly expressed with rougher melodies and timbres characteristic of shamanic music or traditional music. The lyrics used in the original traditional music were often used as is. The second album focused on the nature of tradition and how its structure and sounds could blend with modern popular music. We tried and completed a lot of things that we didn’t do on the first album. Rather than raw and direct expressions, we tried to use metaphorical and soft tones, and strived to capture the popular sounds of bands while highlighting the characteristics of Korean traditional musical instruments with Korean traditional instruments .

Q: Does being from the South and playing music with roots in the North become a political statement in itself in contemporary Korean?

A: No, nothing political.



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