Map of Sound throughout Asia

CHANGO WALK  Interview 

A trip to walk with drum over 2500Km
Artcle about the background of Choi's trip

Interviewer:Ayumi Takahashi

22th/Feb/2021

韓国歩.jpg

"Wait, This is a good spot."
At first glance, there were nothing, nobody, and even the traffic of people had faded completely at the old Tokaido in the mountains of Suzuka. The next moment I was walking on the mountain road while chatting, I was suddenly stopped by him. I imitate the pretense of closing my eyes and searching for something, and while being puzzled, I also listen.
Then he started to sound the Janngu drum silently. A delicate drumstick handling and a flowing sound like "Tara Rara ...". It sounds like water.The sound of water suddenly comes into focus through the sound of drums. When I glanced at it, there was a stream that I hadn't been aware of before. The stream meanders and creates a quiet, intricately intertwined stream of water.
"Here. There is a straight fast flow and a curved and slow flow. And the flow hits the wall and swirls. The combination of the three sounds here is super. It's a great instrument, isn't it? ", And he begins to accompany it comfortably.
When I noticed, the sound of the trees swaying in the wind, the sunbeams dancing, and the ensemble with everything on the spot began.The place was full of multi-layered sounds as if a small outdoor concert was being held. Like as people enjoy the transition of the visible scenery during their journey, he is sensitive to the world of the sounds of the land.He is a person who travels the world as if drawing a map with sound.
I've met a great person ..., I shooked with the moment. It was when I touched Choi Jeachol's mysterious talent.

Janggu player Choi Jae Chol

Born in Osaka in 1979 as a third-generation Korean resident in Japan, he is currently active as a Korean drum player in Japan and abroad. Choi Jaechol, who travels by walking with Janggu which is a traditional Korean drum, entitled CHANGO WALK.
He walked fifty-three Stations(Tokyo to Kyoto) of the Tokaido which is the old main road at Edo era in 2009. Crossing West Japan (Kyoto to Fukuoka) in 2010, Then, in 2015, after a total of about 700 kilometers from Tokyo to Osaka, Fukuoka in japan, and Busan to Seongju in Korea, he reached his grand father's hometown.
After that, 2016 Tokyo to Mt.Fuji. 2017 Mt.Fuji climbing, and 2018 Ofunato to Hachinohe.
In this article, you will see why he met Janggu  and why he started CHANGO WALK through this interview.

The Janggu (or Janggo; also spelled Chango) is the most representative drum in traditional Korean music. It consists of an hourglass-shaped body with two heads made from animal skin. The two heads produce sounds of different pitch and timbre, which when played together are believed to represent the harmonious joining of Um and Yang.
 

Encounter with Janggu, and Street performance next to Shinjuku Alta

Interviewer: During the 2015 old Tokaido CHANGO WALK, I accompanied you for five days on the way, but I have never been so sensitive to the "sound" that surrounds me in my life. When Choi stopped silently in the mountains of Suzuka and started to listen to something, I wondered if there was a beast at first.

Choi: Haha. I've been there twice so far, but it's still a good instrument.

Interviewer: I really thought that I met a strange person at that time !
In this interview, I would like to get a closer look at the background of Choi's activities, but in the first place, Choi's encounter with Chango Where was it?

Choi: Immediately after graduating from university, I came across the Korean percussion music "Samulnori" CD and I was deeply moved by it. The muddy thing inside my body seems to overflow to the outside of my body at once when I touch the music of a strong percussion instrument. I was in the midst of a big setback in the project I was working on at the time, so I thought that the anxiety and loss of the future would be drowned out by the rhythm. The next day, I felt like I was obsessed with the fact that I went to buy Janggu even though I had no experience at all.

Samulnori  is the group name of Korean traditional performing arts established by four masters  Kim Duk Soo, Kim Young Bae, Lee Gwang Soo, and Choi Jong Sil in 1978. Also Samul nori means musical genre reconstracted from Korean folk performing arts "Pungmul" to a contemporary stage performing arts.

Interviewer: I can see how shocking the encounter was. Even though you had no experience, it's quite a driving force to go buy an instrument.

Choi: But since I only listened to Janggu on a CD, I didn't know how to handle or hit the drumsticks, and I didn't know what I was playing or how. I consulted with the shop staff and asked them to introduce a Samulnori team of the Korean Dance Institute.
While I went there, I continued to practice independently, but the studio fee I rented for that was expensive for me as a part-time job worker. I went around looking for a place where I could play outside and finally found it next to Alta at the east exit of Shinjuku Sta. At that time there was a movie sign and I started practicing under it.

Interviewer: Whaat? at Shinjuku Alta!? Didn't the police warn you?

Choi: I was fine because the surroundings were already noisy (laughs) I practiced there until the last train. Even though I was practicing, I didn't understand the rhythm at all. I just relied on what I heard on the CD and the basic rhythm that the team taught me.

Interviewer: Even though you didn't have the enough skills to play it…?It's amazing.

Choi: Rather, there was a sense of security that the sound of cars coming and going, the crowds of the city, and the sound of the drums I hit overlapped.I think I felt something that is inner power was well connected to Janggu. And I was able to talk with various people, such as those who are playing in Shinjuku, going to work in the business, triggered by drum sound.
At one point, a long black Mercedes-Benz stopped in front of me, and when I thought that the window had opened, a man yelled at me, "Shut the fuck up!" I thought I made him angry, but Immediately after that, I was encouraged by his saying, "Do your best, man!".
And another day, an unfamiliar woman who heard my drumming in a taxi said to me, "I understand you!" I wasn't sure what she "understood".But it encouraged me so much.

Interviewer: I think there was something that people on the road could sympathize with through sound.

Choi: There were people of various races, circumstances, and feelings in Shinjuku, so I could connect not only with my own feelings but also with the feelings of the other person with the sound of drums, and I could communicate with them. I think there was such an aspect.

Explore the background of Janggu

After that, Mr. Choi was introduced to Dr. Lee Chang Seop, a third-generation resident of Japan who had just returned from Samulnori training, and decided to take lessons in earnest. In addition to performing with the teacher, he incorporated western instruments such as guitars, pianos, and drums into songs based on the rhythm of Janggu, and formed a asian-soul-band "MOKUREN" with friends he met while drumming outside. The band performance activities were also started at centering on live houses in Tokyo. He was more and more fascinated by the possibilities of Janggu.

Interviewer: It has gradually led to Choi's current activities, but has the current style of drumming dance already been established at that moment?

Choi: No, not at all. Until then, I was basically taught to sit style, and playing Janggu live-performance was simply standing style. Samulnori is a work with a strong regional character set in folk performing arts such as Korean agricultural music (Pungmul), and I learned it one by one, but the place I learned was the moldy smell basement room in the Kitasenju. So, even if a teacher said that this song needed to play with the bouncing rhythm since it comes from the mountainous area around Busan, it had not given me any images. While I was struggling with it, the class by Dr. Lee was disbanded. It was a time when I met Master Kiyohiko Semba and other top players in the music industry while continuing to play in the band, so in order to sublimate my Janggu performance, I thought I had to find a new teacher and become a disciple.

Pungmul is a Korean folk music tradition that includes drumming, dancing, and singing. Most performances are outside, with dozens of players all in constant motion. Pungmul is rooted in the dure (collective labor) farming culture. It was originally played as part of farm work, on rural holidays, at other village community-building events, and to accompany shamanistic rituals, mask dance dramas, and other types of performance.

Interviewer: You have reached a major turning point in terms of your performance, technique, and the surrounding environment.

Choi: That's right. After that, I was blessed with a great opportunity to co-star with the butoh dancer Min Tanaka at "Somushi" in Kyoto. and I totally impressed. I tried to show my everything I had done so far, but it didn't work at all in front of Mr. Min.I realized that I had no power and no art. I was 28 age at that time.
When I consulted with owner of "Somushi" about how Mr. Min established the current expression, He told me that Mr. Min was originally a ballet dancer. And also said Mr. Min started by going back to the mountain of Yamanashi and making a well to understand what the dance is. I was shocked to hear the story of Mr. Min started from digging a hole and entering the soil to understand what dance is.
I'm facing Janggu from the perspective of playing music, but I needed to ask myself what is Janggu, what is Korean rhythm, what am I touching? The question became very big in me.

Interviewer: Your interest in the Janggu and its rhythm had been increased gradually.

Choi: The origin of Samulnori, Pungmul, is the art of beating drums while walking house to house. In addition, the masters of Samulnori took part in the performing arts group, people called Namsadang, basically walked around Korea.
My teacher Dr. Lee was a disciple of Samulnori Master Lee Gwang Soo used to be Namsadang, and was a driver. Master Lee Gwang Soo was sleeping in the back seat of the car, but he said "Next, left" and "If you go a little further, right" without looking at the road sign.

ナムサダン.jpg

The namsadang is a Korean traditional traveling performing atrs troupe which consists of dozens of male performers. The performances called "namsadang nori" includes pungmul (folk dancing), beona (spinning hoops and dishes), salpan (tumbling), eoreum (tightrope dancing), deotboegi (mask dance drama), and deolmi (puppet play).

Interviewer: What an amazing. You mean, he had knows the way clearly even though he wasn't local?

Choi: That's right. Master Lee Gwang Soo used to be Namsadang, so he was walking around there as well. That's why he recognized the land by the shape of mountains or bridges. Korean rhythms created by those people. I was taught by Dr. Lee that 'That is Samulnori', so I thought that this wouldn't start unless I walked Korea for playing Chango.

Interviewer: You wanted to travel to re-encounter Chango while learning about the roots of Korean culture through your body and musical instruments.

Choi: That's right. It's not like enrolling at University and studying at Korea. Since I was born and raised as a Korean in Japan, I have never lived in Korea. That's why I came up with a trip to Korea to learn about Korean culture while walking.
And there was a prelude to that. On my way home after going to Osaka for work, I tried walking around the Kumano Kodo with a backpack and a Janggu.Then it was very interesting. I was told that this rhythm was born in the mountains, and I couldn't understand it at all, but when I climbed the mountain road, it became that rhythm. What's this? I was really surprised.

Interviewer: Oh,wow.

Choi: Unlike the streets, stages and studios I used to play, when I was walking, a slope suddenly appeared. I thought that I couldn't play due to sudden changes in the environment, but on the contrary, I could play more than before. I was able to play exactly as the teacher said. It didn't work that well when I was practicing in the basement.
When I entered the mountain uphill and play Janggu, the sound I envisioned came out in one shot. And when I went up the slope and went out to the flat ground, the rhythm changed naturally. Oh yeah, it's completely different on the uphill and on the flat ground. I felt that the shape of the ground changes all the rhythms I play, I realized I was influenced by the ground.I thought that if I was playing Korean drums, I would have to walk even more in Korea. And I started preparing for the CHANGO WALK little by little.

Interviewer: The shape of the ground and the accompanying body movements. The root of the rhythm that emerges from it. It feels like we are finally approaching the essence of CHANGO WALK.

Choi: At that time, I hadn't even named it "CHANGO WALK" yet. Anyway, I thought I have to practice Janggu drumming in an environment surrounded by objects such as the ground, trees, rivers, and stones, where the natural uplift is solid.While doing so, when I talked to my friend Chomo-san, he said, "It's okay to drum and walk around Korea, but let's do it from your house. Since you were born and raised in Japan, you should know about Japan as well." When I heard that, I decided to start from my home. Then I chose to start walking along the old Tokaido.

Interviewer: Your friend Chomo-san, he has great knowledge. He probably told you that, knowing all your background.

 

CHANGO WALK interview

Part 1 / Part 2  /  JAPANESE