Janggu master wins great admiration

March 3, 2023

Kang Chol, 67-year-old artiste of the National Folk Art Troupe, is a janggu (hourglass drum) master enhancing flavour of Korean national music.

With a 40-odd-year-long career as an entertainer, Kang was originally a tanso (Korean short bamboo flute) player. 

At 13 he was enrolled at the then Pyongyang University of Music to learn to play the flute, one of national musical instruments. So lecturers worried that he would fail to play the instrument which demands agile virtuosity and is rich in expression.

“To play tanso well, the player should have regular teeth. But my teeth were not so. However, I made strenuous efforts,” Kang Chol recalled.

His efforts bore fruit. In his thirties he distinguished himself in not only major performances at home but also those abroad to contribute to fully demonstrating the developing national music of the country.

With the passage of time he was nearing sixty past his prime.

“As I grew older I felt that I was no longer physically good enough to play tanso as adroitly as before,” he said.

Though reluctant to leave the stage and give up playing the instrument, he had no other choice but to train reserve tanso players. Then, suddenly, he thought of janggu, one of national percussion instruments. 

Janggu was a basic means of accompaniment in national music.

Kang Chol said that a new hope captured his heart.

He started a fresh life with janggu.

Playing the instrument did not require adroit performance unlike tanso but as there is nothing easy to do, he found it difficult to master over 10 techniques of playing janggu.

After a few years of efforts, he stepped on the stage again in 2016, when he was sixty, to perform in percussion instrumental play Song of Mt Maebong, winning great admiration from the audience.

After his debut as janggu player, he created various forms of works based on national percussion instrumental play in succession and guided the performance of the works and would personally perform on the stage.

“As the days go by his affection for national music seems to grow stronger. Whenever I see him engrossed in creating works and guiding the performance of the works, I wonder if he is really an old man nearing seventy. His passion is worth emulating indeed,” said Nam Un Ha, small-sized haegum (Korean fiddle) player.

Now Kang Chol works hard to create a work depicting the happy life of people who have moved into modern dwelling houses built across the country.

Everyone respects him as he is modest, passionate and talented.

Artistes and officials of the National Folk Art Troupe hope that he will continue to create works winning great acclaim from audiences in good health.



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