Pansori

Pansori not your thing? The sounds are too dissonant and clashing. Gwangju holds many opportunities to check out live pansori. However, it might not be too traditional. Pansori is being incorporated into several modern styles – jazz, drumming, I’ve even heard a 70s/80s mix with pansori (something personally I can put on my NOT to do again list) But what about the classics? Keep your eyes open for these names. There are sometimes festivals, ballets, and special concerts based around these pansori classics.

Pansori’s Big Five

Heungbugsa
 Heungbu was a poor but good man with many children. (Sounds like a cautionary tale to me!)

Simcheongga
Sim Cheong sells herself to sailors looking for a virgin sacrifice for 3 bags of rice in order to raise money to pay the Buddhist monks who said they could restore sight to her blind father. (Sounds like magic beans to me!) When tossed into the sea, the Dragon King is so impressed with her display of filial piety that he sends her on a lotus blossom carpet ride to snag the love and devotion of the emperor. As the empress she holds a party for all blind men in the kingdom in order to find her father. Obviously the monks had lied to Cheong, because her dad comes to the banquet and regains his sight when he meets her. Ah, a tragic plot with Hollywood ending.

Chunhyangga
Namwon has turned this story into their tourist trade. Go there to celebrate this sad little love story and you might even hear some pansori. Daughter of a kisang (like a geisha), Chunhyang falls for a son of a magistrate and he for her. But then he has to go to Seoul, and another local magistrate decides that Chunhyang should be his concubine. She says no, and lo and behold, she is sentenced to death.  Long story short, her love returns as a secret royal inspector, and kicks the local magistrates butt and saves the damsel in distress. (Ka, I almost choked on the sweetness of that.)

Jeokbyeokga
Based on the Chinese story of the Red Cliffs.  This battle sadly shows the struggle between northern and southern cultures within kingdoms. Does life imitate art, or is art imitating life with this pansori classic?  

Sugungga
A bunny story! Excellent for the new year: 2011 Year of the Rabbit. This is a story between the Dragon king and a clever rabbit (I’m so sorry, but all I can picture is Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd as the Dragon King!) Actually, the king sends one of his turtle cohorts to get a rabbit liver, so the king can recover from his illness. The reliable turtle goes to the forest, promises the rabbit that he can live in the place, and voila the turtle tricked the hare. But it doesn’t end there. The Wily Rabbit tells the king that he doesn’t have his liver on him, it’s in a safe back in the forest, cuz it is too dangerous for him (the rabbit) to travel with it, cuz it’s in such demand. So the turtle and rabbit return to the forest, where the rabbit ridicules the king and turtle, even though slightly moved by the faithfulness of the turtle to the king, and then bounds off never to be seen again.

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