Modernized Korean traditional music called gukak is met with musical, bringing the millennials and Gen Z to concert halls. Gukak is no longer an old genre to young people in the audience. It is emerging as “hip” music.
Last year’s sensational popularity of “Tiger is Coming” by band Leenalchi and creative musical fused with gukak “2021 Swag Age: Shout Out, Joseon!” are leading such a change. Producers and composers are experimenting musically by utilizing gukak instruments.
Musical “Pann” showcased in Jeongdong Theater in Seoul is highly popular among those under 40. The musical, which opened on July 27 for the third season, depicts how a Jeonkisoo, referring to a storyteller in old Korean who reads out novels to the audience to earn money and becomes the best storyteller in 19th-century Joseon.
“Gukak percussion was beyond impressive. The puppet show fused with pansori was very interesting,” said a teenage audience. “It was quite surprising to see that gukak, pansori, madanggeuk, and other traditional elements worked so well with the musical format,” a person in her 20s left a review.
“Jeongdong Theater attracts many middle-aged audiences and it was surprising that the millennials and Gen Z showed more positive feedback than expected to a musical fused combined with gukak,” said Park Jin-wan, the head of promotion and marketing of the theater. “An increase in teenage audiences is also noticeable. They are estimated to account for over 15 percent of total figures.”
Musical “Forbidden Music” by Gyeonggi Sinawe Orchestra to open on Thursday will showcase musical experiments using gukak. It is rare that a gukak-based group performs in the musical format. It is a fantasy historical drama musical with a story surrounding forbidden music that has been passed down since the Silla era.
Musical “Joseon Trio” to be performed for the first time on September 17 is also garnering attention. It was made in collaboration with Seoul performing arts groups affiliated with the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, the head of Seoul Metropolitan Musical Theatre and director Han Jin-seop, playwriter Lee Mi-kyung, and music director Jang So-young. It deals with a story of three friends – Kim Seon-dal, Hong Gyeong-nae, and Jo Jin-soo – who dreamed of peace against the backdrop of Hong Gyeong-nae’s rebellion in 1811. Seventy-three percent of all people who booked tickets in advance are under 40, showing great interest among young generations in the musical.