by Jarrett Hoffman
Just as species can become endangered, so can forms of art. During the mid-20th century, that was the case with pansori — a Korean style of musical storytelling where a solo vocalist takes on many roles, accompanied by a barrel drum. Pansori received official protections and recognition from the South Korean government in 1964 and from UNESCO in 2003.
One of the foremost advocates of that art form in North America is Chan E. Park, who will bring pansori to Standing Rock Cultural Arts’ Around the World Music Series at the North Water Street Gallery in Kent on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00 pm. (Pay what you wish, or give a suggested donation of $10. A 7:30 pm reception will include free sujeonggwa, a traditional Korean ginger-cinnamon-persimmon punch.)
Today, five madang (or song cycles) make up the pansori repertoire. In Kent, Park will give a bilingual performance of one of those five, the Sugungga (“Song of the Underwater Palace”). That English title sounds a bit imposing, but it’s actually a fairly light tale about a dragon king, his loyal turtle, and the rabbit they plan to trick — but who turns the tables on both of them in the end.