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Chilgok grannies make a debut as a hip hop collective

Posted September. 01, 2023 08:35,   

Updated September. 01, 2023 08:35


“Back in the day when I was young, my friends hit school, I wept crouching low by the wall, washing the dishes and nursing the child were my job, I sobbed myself into exhaustion.”

In a rhyme akin to Hip Hop’s vibrant beat, a chorus of elder women, with an average age of 85, take the stage.

Living in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province, these ladies made a name for themselves by mastering Hangeul in their late 70s and even crafting computer fonts. Now, they have embraced the art of rap, forming a hip-hop collective called “Soonie and Seven Princesses.” “Soonie” derives from the group leader’s name, Park Jeom-soon, while “Seven Princess” signifies the participation of all seven members. The eldest is 92-year-old Jeong Doo-Eui, and the youngest is 75-year-old Jang Ok-geum.

These grandmothers narrate stories of pain, solitude, and yearning through their rap. “Tak-kong Tak-kong” captures the confusion of mistaking gunshots for festive firecrackers during the Korean War, while “The Reds” recounts encounters with North Korean soldiers. Ms. Lee Pil-seon shared, “Before I crossed paths with a North Korean soldier on Gaya Mountain in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, I thought the color of all Communist soldiers was red. I wrote this encounter in my verses. I want to let our youth know the weight of war’s suffering and the imperative of unification.”

Guiding these grannies into the world of rap is An Tae-gi, an assistant manager at the Waegwan-eup Office of Chilgok County. With dreams of being a hip-hop artist himself, Mr. An frequented a senior citizens’ communist center twice a month, sculpting their debut performance.

Soonie and Seven Princess will unveil their stage at this year’s autumn festival within the local community. Chilgok County Governor Kim Jae-uk has pledged unwavering support to these grandmothers, enabling them to showcase that age is merely a number and continue this remarkable journey.

The ladies learned Hangeul at nearly 80 years old in an adult literacy class. The Chilgok Granny Font was created based on their handwriting. This font was used in President Yoon Suk Yeol’s New Year’s card.