Kpop Academy Week 10 Assignment: KPop & Gugak (Traditional Music)

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Following our class last week on Traditional Korean Music,this week's assignment was all based on that. I have been busy with my finals and so I didn't get much free time for the assignments. I finally got a breather today and chose the option below for my assignment.

Create a piece of work that compares modern K-Pop with traditional Korean music, and represents your thoughts and feelings about both genres. You could find examples of K-Pop songs that use traditional instruments to help with your project. You can present your work in any form you like, for example drawings, a video or a collage.

I made the collage below to  show the similarities and differences between mainstream music known as K-Pop and the Traditional Korean music known as Gugak.


As we can see from the image above, the Gugak performers are dressed uniformly from their clothes to the fans they're using in their performances. When doing my research I noticed that in every picture of a Gugak performance all the dancers and musicians were dressed in the same attire. They all wear some sort of Hanbok, with women wearing the female Hanbok and men wearing the male Hanbok. In certain situations however, there are some costumes that are unisex. 

We can see the same thing in the K-Pop scene as well. Bands such as Girls Generation and Exo amongst others are known to wear identical outfits from head to toe. This isn't always the case though, sometimes K-pop artists in groups wear outfits that have certain similarities but with distinct differences to showcase the personalities of the members. So even though there are similarities with dressing uniformly between the two genres of music, there is also a significant difference in the type of attire being worn.


Both genres of music are involved heavily with dancing. Although not to the same music but definitely the rhythmic up tempo and a lot of energetic body movement. As we saw in my last post about Samulnori, the traditional dance is involved with a lot of body movement, other forms of traditional dances display the same characteristics as well.  

This is definitely also seen in the K-Pop performances both on stage and the screens. From the dance machine of 2ne1, Minzy breaking it down, to the perfectly choreographed dances of SNSD. The boys are also not left out of this, all in all it seems K-Pop has revived the era of MJ's legendary 'dance accompanied music'.

Musical Instruments and Lyrics

In recent years KPop artists have incorporated a bit of folk music to their songs. The recent one I am aware of is G-dragon's hit song with Missy elliot 'Niliria' which is the same title as the original folk song. It was a fusion of hip-hop meets traditional folk song. Other artists have also done similar concept either in their MV's or in the actual songs. Even though traditional songs usually are more of ballads and opera, they surprisingly find a way to make it work perfectly with the mainstream K-Pop music style.

Popular dramas such as Heartstrings and historical dramas have introduced us to a few traditional instruments. If you check the collage above, there are two pictures of musical instruments. One is western and the other is traditional. My research has shown me that both genres have a wide variation of instrument ranging from string, wind e.t.c Now even though there are similarities with the instruments, there is also a huge difference in the range of its sounds. 

In general, Gugak is characterized by a lot of cultural meanings, believes and traditions of the people with most of the music representative of a certain ritual or festival, where as K-pop music is generally just for entertainment purposes. However upon closer look one can begin to notice a lot of similarities between the two genres.

I kinda got a bit carried away with this assignment :) Hope you enjoyed reading it.

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