‘All Eyes on Korea’ GongMyong

After a wonderful first night watching Be-Being, we were very excited to be given the chance to see GongMyong, the second Southbank event of the KCC UK’s ‘All Eyes on Korea’ programme. GongMyoung means ‘resonance’ and consisted of four multi-talented musicians who play traditional Korean music with a contemporary twist. These four guys work together to make intricate pieces of music which sees each individual play an array of instruments within the piece, often two at a time! It is said that it’s not uncommon to hear up to 30 instruments during a single performance! These four Korean Music graduates felt that the Korean music of the past needed a bit of an update, and began making music with their own free spirited sounds.

'All Eyes on Korea' GongMyong

These four musicians began the evening behind the audience, creeping up behind us with a harmony of flutes and drums, making their grand entrance onto the stage. It was a happy and cheerful start with the flute/recorder instruments playing; sort of like a Pied Piper come follow us on a magical journey kind of thing, and it was definitely a night to remember. Once on stage, the lighting changed and it become a very dramatic and powerful red. There were cymbals clashing and drums, it was like a loud angry piece that led many of those sat on the front row to change seats. This is definitely not for the faint hearted! The piece was so strong and heavy, it ended with a epically long note by (we’re guessing) the MASSIVELY lunged trumpet player. The note was long, seriously long, seriously.

As they performed more pieces, we started to see the variety of instruments on the stages. There were countless drums of all different sizes and even a didgeridoo Rolf Harris would be proud of. It was atmospheric, if we had to put it into one word, it would be… Jumanji! It was so amazingly intense, we could feel every beat hit our heart. But thankfully, things chilled out a bit as we were greeted with some melodic tunes on a guitar combined with a traditional wooden xylophone instrument. These guys were very seriously concentrating on their performance. They worked so well together harmonising, and at no point did they communicate or even look at each other.

'All Eyes on Korea' GongMyongAfter a very dramatic opening, we are greeted by Song Kyong-Keun who speaks Korean but then proceed to get his notes out and attempt to speak to us in English. He was very very adorable and loved by the audience from the get go. He tells us that they have been playing together for 15 years and was called the Best Cultural music performers in text books… High school text books. And with that humourous introduction, things started to get a lot more lighthearted as we’re greeted with a stage lit with a warm yellow glow. The pieces are so intricate that it’s hard to believe there are only four people playing. The pieces are like epic movie soundtracks live, if you close your eyes you feel like you’re standing on the top of a picturesque cliff with the wind billowing around you; very atmospheric. But just when you’re getting comfortable, the GongMyoung gang switches it up and the music rapidly changes beats and tones and you go from smooth and relax to hyper! You see the musicians play and change instruments at speed! The sheer intensity of everything is madness!

'All Eyes on Korea' GongMyongThe guitar plays quite a prominent part in a few of these pieces which give the overall sound a modern twist. There were some very interesting instruments being played. At one point Song looks like he’s just opening and closing a briefcase whilst playing the didgeridoo. Fun Fact – GongMyoung is also the name of a instrument that GongMyoung themselves invented. It’s hard to explain, but here is a video of a BRILLIANT performance where GongMyoung demonstrates what a GongMyoung is:

'All Eyes on Korea' GongMyongFantastic isn’t it? It just makes you fall in love with these four enthusiastic and passionate musicians. There were definitely some fangirls in the audience, especially for Mr. Guitar Player. We nicknamed him Mr. Boyband as he was just so suave on his Westlife-style stool and playing the guitar. Mr. Boyband’s real name is Park Seung-Won, and he was dressed in a white shirt which got all the fangirls in the audiences screaming, and he headbanged like there was no tomorrow, whilst still keeping his hair perfect. As mentioned earlier there is the super adorable and well prepared Song Kyong-Keun who spoke to us with English notes all three times! The other two performers were the epic percussionists. They played a number of instruments but we think it was mainly drum based. First there was Mr. Cool Drummer Lim Yong-Ju. He spent most of the evening stood up like a hardcore drummer and was just too cool for words. As Kylie Minogue says, I love drummers baby!!! Then on the other side of the stage we have Kang Sun-Il. Kang Sun-Il… How do I begin to explain Kang Sun-Il? Kang Sun-Il is flawless… He was so epically cool with probably the fastest drumming hands EVER. He played the janggu which has two ends and he was switching between them so fast, the drum stick just looked like a flimsy piece of string… There was no drum stick. In fact they were all AMAZING on the Janggu, just check out this performance:

'All Eyes on Korea' GongMyongGongMyoung was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTICALLY EPIC!!! This is their second time in the UK, their first visit being in 2009. If you get a chance to see them, don’t hesitate. The night was very entertaining, very cultural and very funny! These four charismatic men were fabulous and we’ve definitely become fan girls and boys. The whole audience loved every moment of the performance especially the last stage where a drill and a empty water cooler bottle was used. Song made a perfect flute on stage in between performing some AMAZING magic (note: sarcasm) and a number of people were dragged to the front for a dance-along. The whole audience loved it, got involved with lots of clapping (our hands are still so sore) and the night ended with standing ovations all around and a much praised encore. It was just such an brilliant night! When they return, we will be forcing you all to go.

This is just the second event of the many Southbank events of the KCC’s ‘All Eyes on Korea’ program. Tonight will see Baramgot’s return to Southbank Centre led by Won Il. Baramgot brings “a fresh approach to the mystical and dynamic sounds of Korea. Taking Korea’s musical improvisation, Sinawi, and arranging it with the diverse spectrum of tone and rhythm that is found in this type of traditional music, Baramgot present a swirling body of work”, sounds magical. This performance starts at 7:45pm. Katy Kpop has said that tonight’s event is FREE! Just head to ‘All Eyes on Korea’ desk next to the box office at the Queen Elizabeth hall. For more information check out the Southbank link.


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