Call it world music, call it jazz, call it fusion but whatever the description this is an innovative and fascinating musical journey. Using traditional Korean instruments as well as the usual keyboards, vocals, and drums this group of young musicians crafts a very interesting and beautiful tapestry of sound.
I have long had an interest in and some appreciation of traditional Korean musics and instruments but my knowledge is rather limited. I am inclined to compare this group to Oregon, the iconic jazz/new age experimental band of the 1970s but unlike Oregon’s more widely cast net we see young musicians embracing their ancient Korean musical heritage as they seek to express themselves and invoke the wisdom of their ancestors. This album was sent to me as a gift from a friend but I quickly fell in love with it and I had to write a review.
It seems to me that Korea has, more than many countries, been damaged and stunted by the antics that became known as World War II and the Korean War. As a result this rich and ancient culture was nearly erased in favor of geographic division and political expediency. It is heartening to find young artists such as these seeking to communicate with if not actually recover some of this rich past.
This band is named after a revered 15th century Korean king and they make liberal use of traditional Korean instruments alongside their drums, keyboards, and vocals. The album succeeds to some degree in achieving a synthesis (as opposed to a sappy watering down) of traditional music and something like jazz with some rock and pop sensibility. These are sincere and perceptive artists and if they have not fully succeeded then they have made a significant step toward reviving some of their justly valued history and culture.
In addition to its musical values this is a gorgeously produced album (visually and sonically) and I am sorry to see that only the digital download is available on Amazon.
There are six tracks on the disc and all feature traditional Korean instruments alongside the band’s keyboards, drums and vocals. There are few vocals but no words as far as I can tell and any program is implied at best. This is strictly about the music.
The first track, Bird of Oblivion, unfolds like an Indian raga with a meditative slow beginning giving way to a faster section. It is the most extended work on the disc at 13:51 and it certainly serves to bdraw the listener in. The remaining tracks range from pop-inflected jazz (track 3) to a little bit of rock . Throughout the traditional Korean instruments make their presence known but not overwhelmingly. This album is a pretty successful synthesis of old and new.
E Do consists of:
Kyung-hwa Ryu: chulhyungeum, yanggeum, janggu, kkwaenggwari
Chung Lim: drums, jungju, gong
Min-soo Cho: junggu, Korean drum, Korean fan, percussion
Jung-chul Seo: electronic bass, contrabass
Young-Sup Lee: daegeum, taepyeongso, danso, ocarina
Seung-hwan Yang: keyboards
Tae-young Kim: vocals
Young-goo Lee: daegum
Seek this one out. And don’t forget to pick up some traditional Korean music as well. It is well worth your time and, after all, a nod to the fine efforts of this wonderful group.