Article Bio Works Merits Projects www
Buddhism, memory, tradition, trance
Music (percussion)
Buk (barrel drum), Ching (large gong), JangGo (hourglass drum), K'kwaenggwari (small gong)
Asia, Eastern
Korea, South (Republic of Korea)
related artists:
created on:
July 7, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since September 22, 2003. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
© Wahidur Rahman Khandkar Czhoton


Dancing drums from Korea

SamulNori - The dancing drums from Korea present colourful rhythmic entertainment.

The definite trend and characteristics of Korean culture is feminine, relaxed and full of the spirit of nature. SamulNori incarnates the soul of Korea in past and future. SamulNori has performed all over the world and has collaborated with many highly acclaimed musicians from around the world from a variety of styles of music ranging from jazz to pop. They have also taken part in many festivals including "Live Under the Sky" in Japan and Hong Kong, the Kool Jazz Festival, Moers Jazz Festival, and Han River International Jazz Festival. Henceforth, SamulNori has sparked a renaissance in Korea´s music scene as well as becoming world-acclaimed.
SamulNori play the harmony of cosmos linking up nature and human being in accordance with the rule of Yin and Yang´s change.

SamulNori stand at a musical crossroad where rural and urban traditions and east and west meet in a synthesis of music and dance. They master the rhythms to a high level of intricacy and also increase the tempo immensely. SamulNori have become known for these new styles, which differentiated from the traditional nong-ak style.

The name SamulNori literally means "the play of four things." The four things refer to the four percussive instruments. Each instrument is associated with an element in nature.

K´kwaenggwari (small gong) is made mainly of brass with trace of gold or silver. It is hand held and played with a bamboo mallet. One hand holds the mallet while the other hand is responsible for dampening the sound produced. The player of this instrument often plays the role of leader, signalling transitions in the music. As each instrument is associated with an element in nature, the k´kwaenggwari is related to lightening.

The Ching is a large gong that is struck with a padded stick. This instrument can be played in a number of ways: hung on a frame, hand-held by handle, or played with two hands. Ching should make an osculating sound, imitating the shape of the valleys of Korea. Thus, Ching is associated with the wind.

The JangGo is often called the hourglass drum, referring to its shape. The drum has two sides, each with a different types of leather skin. One side produces a high pitched sound. This instrument is associated with rain.

The Buk is a barrel drum, made of a piece of hollow out wood and two leather skins tied to the wood. It is played by a single stick and provides the bass sounds of the group. The buk is related to the clouds.

The origins of their music, "SamulNori" can be traced to what is usually referred to as farmers´ band music (nongak) - a folk tradition close to the Korean Heritage - and ceremonial music. It also incorporates the influences of folk and religious music (pinari) and their intricate rhythms have become quite uniquely on their own.

Change has clearly happened. The different kind of music related to religious parties is dying. Travelling groups are disappearing as well as local bands, playing during village rituals, a kind of prayers aimed at promoting health and prosperity to families, or to ensure spiritual support for a building project.

According to ethnomusicologist, Keith Howard, "The music has moved from the world of ritual to entertainment. Today in Korea, mass entertainment channels and "airport art" provided for businessmen and tourists present large groups of pretty, young dancers who give simple, repetitive patterns from nongak in an ever-smiling environment. But SamulNori has chosen rather a reinterpretation of the past in a specialized, thoroughly professional present. SamuINori thus provide a blend of old and new".

The press wrote:

"The four musicians in the Korean ensemble known as SamulNori are all virtuoso percussionists ... their drumming - modulated into sounds of any nuance - could lead to total astonishment ... highly praised by musicians after its 1983 debut, SamulNori is a complete theatrical experience as well."
- Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times

"...folk music of primal power yet imposing technical sophistication.. clearly, SamulNori controls its feet as brilliantly as its hands.. it offers as experience that matches unsparing energy and technical mastery with a strong sense of spirituality, it is going to be stupendously popular."
- Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times
Author: Karin Bergquist


In 1978 Samul Nori was formed by four extremely dynamic and talented Korean percussionists each with a different Korean traditional percussion instrument.


Spirit of Nature

Published Audio,
(Nanjang Music : TE001-01)


Published Audio,
(Samsung Music : SCO-137NAN)

From the Earth, to the Sky

Published Audio,
(Samsung Music ; SCO-137stm 0047)


Published Audio,
(King Records ; syncd 114-115 ; 2cd)


In 1985, the Asia Society was awarded an "Obie" for Off-Broadway Theatre for introducing SamulNori to New York´s stages.

In addition to their busy touring schedule, SamulNori is dedicated to furthering the tradition of their unique performance and teach at the SamulNori Academy of Music in Seoul.

They have been the subject of several books (including their own intensive instructional book) and videos for many labels including SONY. their 15 recordings are available on the CBS/SONY, Nonesuch, CMP, Polygram, Real World, and ECM record labels.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)

Asian Comments

(19 September 02 - 21 September 02)


SamulNori´s official web site