Rituals from Chindo Island
The traditional music and dance ensemble "Chindo Ssikkim Kut Preservation Group", which is comprised of 12 people, was founded by Park Pyong-Chon, an expert of shamanistic ritual. It is the only group in the world which has mastered the "Chindo Sikkim Kut” ritual.
The traditional music and dance ensemble "Chindo Ssikkim Kut Preservation Group", which is comprised of 12 people, was founded by Park Pyong-Chon, an expert of shamanistic ritual. He comes from a family which has been involved with shamanism for over 250 years, and was born on Chindo Island. From childhood onwards he has familiarised himself with Ssikkim Kut, song, dance and instrumental music, and later founded his own school. Here he is concerned with the upkeep and transmission of, and scientific research into, his homeland’s cultural heritage. For his work as a Shaman musician, the South Korean government declared Park Pyong-Chon, together with a group of musicians, to be a "sacrosanct cultural treasure”. This honour can mainly be put down to the fact that shamanism has played an essential role in the cultural and artistic self-determination of South Korea over the last two decades.
Park Pyong-Chon participated in the Berlin Music Festival as long ago as 1985, and since then has performed in 32 towns and six countries. At the end of December 1999, together with Nam June Paik, he performed a ritual to greet the new millennium which was transmitted all over the world.
Although the shamanistic ritual Ssikkim Kut can be found throughout south-west Korea, and is generally considered to be the most highly developed form of shamanistic ceremonies in Korea, the ritual’s most authentic tradition has been preserved on Chindo Island itself. The name of the ceremony is derived from the verb "ssikkida”, which means something like "to wash someone”. The additional element "kut" is the common Korean term for a shamanistic ceremony. Nowadays these are mostly carried out to ensure that the soul of a person who has just died leaves this world and finds its way into the next. When fulfilling this function, the ceremony is held the night before the funeral in the courtyard of the dead person’s house.
Music and dance traditionally serve to entertain the spirits, and food and drink to refresh them. The shaman begins by inviting the spirits to dance. The soul of the dead person is then prepared for its entry into the hereafter through a series of ritual acts, by neutralising the continuing effect of negative acts. A symbolic depiction of the person consisting of pictures and clothes is then washed several times, after which the soul is shown the way into the next world. This forms the high point of the ceremony. Finally the altar is burned down, to prevent the dead person and any other spirits from returning to the courtyard of the house.
As a rule, the music of shamanistic rituals clearly differs from all other kinds of music. In the shamanistic music of Korea, vocal styles are employed as a distinguishing feature, and notes are held for several seconds, which gives the singing a slow, meditative tempo. However, it is worth noting that secular and shamanistic music overlaps in many provinces of Korea. Shamanism is said there to have been of primary significance in the development of world music, and a large proportion of the traditional world music canon is attributed to shamanistic roots. Many of the Korean musicians who accompany shamanists in their rituals are also professional musicians. The relationship between shamanists and musicians, which has historical roots, can also be put down to the fact that prior to the reforms of the nineteenth century, both belonged to the chónmin, the caste of the "untouchables”.
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(11 June 89 - 15 October 97)