Daorum, Featuring Bae Il Dong, Simon Barker, Carl Dewhurst, Kim Dong Won, Matt McMahon, and Phil Slater is available now through Kimnara records
In 2005, I was presented with the opportunity to travel throughout Korea to meet performers of traditional music in order to discuss physical and spiritual aspects of Korean music practice. Fortunately, I was able to meet some of Korea’s greatest musicians including the late Kim Seok Chul, a Grand Master of ritual music who has been a great inspiration to me for many years.]
Film-maker Emma Franz documented the journey and the resulting documentary feature film, Intangible Asset Number 82 will be released internationally in 2009.
Our contact in Korea was Kim Dong Won, a remarkable musician and educator. During the trip, Dong Won shared his thoughts on Korea’s unique cultural heritage, and was a wonderful teacher, guide, translator and musical collaborator. Along the way, he introduced us to Bae Il Dong, an extraordinary pansori artist who’s inspiring life story is featured in Emma’s film.
Traditionally, in order to master the various elements of pansori, singers would spend long periods in isolation practicing on waterfalls. Il Dong is one of the few contemporary singers to follow this harsh tradition. While still a student, he travelled to Mount Chiri and spent many years living by a waterfall, practicing up to 18 hours a day in order to reveal “the voices”. One of the most powerful musical memories I have is listening to Bae Il Dong and Kim Dong Won perform pansori on a waterfall at Chiri Mountain. Hearing Il Dong sing on the waterfall where he’d spent many years in isolation was an exhilarating experience that inspired the formation of this ensemble, which features a group of old and new friends.
With improvisation, collaboration and mutual understanding as our guides, Daorum is an exploration of musical possibility by a group of musicians with varied backgrounds. Each time we perform, our musical and personal friendships deepen, as does our appreciation of the diverse musical traditions of our two countries.
Simon Barker 2009
“Open Hearts Yield Gorgeous Hybrid”
Author: John Shand – Sydney Morning Herald
It may appear that every writer starts with a blank page, every painter with a blank canvas and every musician with silence. Before key is struck, stroke brushed or silence broken, however, the options are often already attenuated by conformity to expectations, lack of imagination or both. Sydney drummer Simon Barker and his colleagues certainly cannot be accused of those sins. He, guitarist Carl Dewhurst, pianist Matt McMahon and trumpeter Phil Slater have entered the world of Korean traditional music with open minds and hearts and the results are breathtaking. First, there is none of the mindless poaching that characterises so many cross-cultural musical hybrids and amounts to a form of cultural colonisation. Post-modernism has provided a ready excuse for such laziness as a composer incorporates an unfamiliar scale or a rhythm to add cheap exoticism. But surface knowledge produces surface art: veneers devoid of heart or substance. Barker has steeped himself in Korean music for more than a decade, winning the respect of two eminent practitioners in singer Bae Il-dong and percussionist-singer Kim Dong-won. Having learnt to play with them on their own terms, he then added three of his regular improvising companions to the mix and they responded with bristling, empathetic imaginations