Geomungo Factory (Korea)
Ready for some Seoul music? Korean tradition defines Geomungo Factory’s music – but their sonic adventures create bridges between the 4th and 21st centuries.
The geomungo zither (geomungo is pronounced Ko-mungo) is over a thousand years old, and unlike any other instrument in the world. It has 16 frets, three moveable bridges and six silk strings, and to play it you use a bow, hit them with a short bamboo stick or pluck them. This instrument is rarely seen or heard, even in the country where it originates. The sound it makes has been described as both “deep, muscular, rhythmic and melodic”, as well as “something from another world, like plucking a big elastic band”. Its sound never quite resolves into a single note.
Geomungo Factory’s musicians have also created some modern versions of their ancient instrument: the xylophone geomungo, cello geomungo and electric geomungo, which features a wah-wah pedal. On stage, the group’s four members sit on the floor with their instruments across their laps. Three, Yoo Mi-young, Jung Ein-ryoung and Lee Jung-seok play geomungos – and one, Kim Sun-a, plays the more common gayageum, a plucked zither with 18 or more strings.
And the music and the sounds they evoke are as unique as they are mesmerizing – a meld of ancient and contemporary, a coming together of the structured traditional and the near futuristic and experimental. You can hear, sometimes simultaneously, an other-worldy and ethereal sound, melody, and a deep percussive drone. The group plays everything from traditional music to western classical to flamenco and pop on their instruments – making each genre a Korean tune.
Geomungo Factory has played festivals around the world, and we’re thrilled we’ll have a chance to experience this extraordinary group live here this summer.