Imsil Pilbong Nongak(任实笔峰农乐)
임실필봉농악 ( 任实笔峰农乐 )
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Korean Folk Arts
Nongak (farmers’ music) handed down in Pilbong-ri, Gangjin-myeon, Imsil in Jeollabuk-do Province.
Imsil Pilbong Nongak falls under the geographic category of Honam Jwado Nongak, that is, nongak from the eastern part of the Honam region (jwado, or the left side from the perspective of Seoul). While nongak originating from the same region tends to change over time and place, Imsil Pilbong Nongak carries on the traditions of the main framework of Honam Jwado Nongak. Though based on the regional and cultural traditions of the Imsil, Sunchang and Namwon regions, Imsil Pilbong Nongak is closely connected with Sannae-myeon in Jeongeup as far as the sphere of daily life is concerned. Hence, it also shows the meeting of Jwado Nongak and Udo Nongak (from the western part of the Honam region).
The composition of the troupe is largely divided into the percussion musicians (chibae) and actors and other performers (japsaek). In addition, there are flag bearers carrying the dragon flag (yonggi), farming flag (nonggi), and command flag (yeonggi), as well as players of wind instruments including the nabal (long, straight trumpet) and taepyeongso (double-reed oboe). Traditionally, the percussion musicians include four kkwaenggwari (small gong) players, three jing (large gong) players, eight janggu (hourglass-shaped drum) players, two buk (barrel drum) players, four chaesangsogo (hand-held drum players wearing hats with long paper streamers), and four gokkalsogo (hand-held drum players wearing peaked hats). These days, with the increase in the size of nongak troupes, the number of musicians and instruments has also increased but there is no set formula. Among the musicians, the group that leads the whole nongak troupe is the kkwaenggwari players, with the lead small gong player, or sangsoe, playing rhythm variations and the other gong players the original rhythms. The kkwaenggwari rhythms have special meaning in themselves and constitute an important part of Imsil Pilbong Nongak.
The instruments made of iron, or soe (gongs), of Imsil Pilbong Nongak were thick and hand-forged but had the finish characteristic of blacksmiths of the Jeollabuk-do region. However, instruments that can produce the traditional feel and sound of the rhythms have all but disappeared. The legendary jing of Imsil Pilbong Nongak in particular no longer remains, and the sogo, which used to be bigger and stronger like a flat hand drum (bango), has now changed, unable to adapt to the changing environment.
The actors and other performers featured in Imsil Pilbong Nongak include the daeposu (lead actor/hunter), male clown or shaman’s husband (changbu), monk (jorijung), nobleman (yangban), nonggu (child apprentice to the lead gong player), new bride (gaksi), flower boys and girls (hwadong). Their roles are not passive; indeed, in some of the quieter acts they play the leading role. In the second part of a nongak performance (dwitgut), the daeposu is the character who comes into confrontation with the sangsoe and is his opposite or counterpart. The nonggu is dressed almost exactly the same as the sangsoe but, noticeably, he does not carry a gong in his hands. The appearance of hwadong is also a feature unique to Imsil Pilbong Nongak.
The characteristics of the costumes of Imsil Pilbong Nongak are as follows. The taepyeongso player is dressed in white pants and jacket (jeogori), navy blue vest, and tri-colored sash of yellow, red and blue bands. He may wear a peaked hat (gokkal) and an overcoat called durumagi. The nabal player is dressed in white pants and jacket, navy blue vest, and tri-colored sash of yellow, red and blue bands, and a peaked hat. The four flag bearers also wear white pants and jacket, navy blue vest, and tri-colored sash of yellow, red and blue bands, and a peaked hat. The gong players wear white pants and jacket with a black, shortsleeved military coat called deogeure with colored striped sleeves. A sash of three colors hangs down his back and a blue sash is worn around the waist. His hat is a budeulsangmo (hat with soft feather tuft attached) consisting of military hat called jeollip with a cord (jinja) attached at the crown, beads (jeokja) attached at the cord and then the feather tuft in the shape of a blossom. The jing players wear white pants and jacket, navy blue vest, and tri-colored sash of yellow, red and blue bands, and a peaked hat. The janggu players and buk players also have the same costume.
The order of appearance when the troupe enters the performance space or in acts such as the mungut is notable. That is, they appear in the order of command flag, dragon flag, farming flag, command flag, daeposu, nobleman, monk, new bride, flower boys and girls, male clown, nonggu, child performers, kkwaenggwari players, jing players, janggu players, buk players, and sogo players, which is the reverse of what is normally seen. This reversal is seen to reflect the military nature of nongak. Military music is the music of attack and in such cases it is natural for the kkwaenggwari players to take the lead, but in times of peace nongak is not a military strategy but rites and music (gut) and this is what is reflected in Imsil Pilbong Nongak. The order of appearance clearly shows that nongak is not military in nature but rites and music performed to pray for a plentiful harvest and the welfare of the village.
The types of gut (rites or acts) in Imsil Pilbong Nongak are as follows: madangbapgi held at New Year; maegut, held on the last day of the year; dangsanje, held on the ninth day of the New Year; chalbapgeodgipungmul, performed on the on full moon days; nodogosagut, performed on full moon days at the stepping stones over the water; geolgunggut, performed in a neighboring village for fund-raising purposes; duregut, performed in summer when weeding the rice paddies; gigut, performed before the actual nongak proper begins; and pangut, an entertainmentbased performance of various arts and skills at a large outdoor space that continues through the night.
Madangbapgi (treading on the earth gods): At New Year the local nongak troupe goes from house to house in the village and performs music and rites in all corners of the house and yard to expel evil and pray for the peace and welfare of the family. In this case, the nongak troupe was composed of village residents who were also members of the communal farm labor group called dure. Madangbapgi proceeds in the order of gigut, dangsangut (rite at the village shrine), maeulsaemgut (rite at the village well), mungut (gate rite), madangut (yard rite), jowanggut (rite to the kitchen god), cheollyonggut (crock terrace rite), gajeongsaemgut (rite at the household well), nojeokgut, and seongjugut (rite to the household tutelary god).
Maegut: On the last night of the year by the lunar calendar, maegut is held in order to achieve byeoksajingyeong (expelling evil and gathering good fortune). The composition of maegut has little difference with madangbapgi.
Dangsanje: In Pilbong there are two village shrines, the upper shrine (sangdangsan) and the lower shrine (hadangsan). The upper shrine is dedicated to the tutelary deity of the village in the form of an old lady called dangsan grandmother and is located on a hill in the upper part of the village. The lower shrine is devoted to an old man, dangsan grandfather, and sits on a hill near the village entrance. The ground under the village dangsan tree is made level to enable rites to be held there. Dangsanje rites are held at the village shrine not only at New Year or the end of the year but on all important occasions.
Chalbapgeodgipungmul (lit. nongak to gather glutinous rice): Also performed on the first full moon day of the New Year, it is a simplified rite with a smaller troupe consisting of young people including one kkwaenggwari player, one jing player, one janggu player, two sogo players and three or four actors including the daeposu, flower child and male clown. They go to every house in the village and the lady of each house gives them a ball of cooked glutinous rice (chalbap). With the rice so gathered, alcohol is brewed and this is saved for a feast of food and drink with the villagers after a geolgunggut.
Nodigosagut: On the first full moon day of the year a taboo rope (geumjul) is hung at the village stepping stones. Playing music and dancing on the street (gilgut) the nongak troupe make their way to the stepping stones and perform the pujigegut, then the sangsoe makes an improvised prayer that no one falls in the water during the year and that the water does not rise too high and carry someone away. Then the troupe returns to the village playing music and dancing on the way.
Geolgunggut (geollipgut): In the past, when the first full moon day had passed Pilbong village would invite the nongak troupe of another village to come and perform or its own nongak troupe would go to a different village to play nongak and raise funds for a village project. Such fund-raising performances of nongak are called geolgung and were generally held between the sixteenth and the last day of the month.
Duregut: Along with dangsanje and madangbagi, this is a performance that shows the standard of village rites, which are marked by communal sentiment. In summer, the young men of the village would gather and perform duregut when the dure worked in the rice paddies. On this occasion it was a simple troupe consisting of one kkwaenggwari player, one jing player, and one janggu player. Homissisi, held at the end of the farming season, was one of the biggest village events of the year.
The uniqueness of Imsil Pilbong Nongak is embedded in its structure and can be seen in the development of the apgut and dwigut, the first and second halves of the nongak performance. The first half is based on a logical progression of rhythms, while the second part, while likewise based on rhythm patterns, is more focused on showing a variety of performances, or nori (lit. play), encompassing song, dance and other entertainments that have a shamanic or magical nature. Acts such as subakchigi (clapping), deunjigigut and dodukjaebigut (catching the thief) are not as simple as they may appear but have the nature of military games, different to the gunsagut or jingut of nongak performed in other regions.
A feature of Imsil Pilbong Nongak is the performance of choreographed line formations (jinpuri) at regular intervals through the development of rhythms from ilchae (one strike) to chilchae (seven strike). This is based on the same principle that applies to village rites where the dangsangut at the village shrine is extended to the madangbapgi and jipdori rites held in individual homes, which are the manifestation of shamanic and magical principles. Second, the musicians’ performance of dance and related movements while playing their instruments as an enhancement to the music is the manifestation of artistry. Third, the second half of a nongak performance brings together disparate elements to present a series of performances that are both shamanic and artistic.
Imsil Pilbong Nongak
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Korean Folk Arts