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Branching out: The strange twists that music can take.

May 3, 2010

I am musically promiscuous. If you mention some genre and I have either listened to it, or have a dozen related albums by someone in that genre.

Today I was off on a YouTube tangent. And was searching around on stuff with people playing old folk instruments. As the search got stranger and stranger, I stopped on a few gems.

First off, let me expose you to some Shamisen

Pretty neat instrument. Reminds me of an Asian version of the banjo. Funny so such different cultures will end up creating instruments that are so related, but so diverse.

Now let’s see what can happen when something like the Shamisen is melded with modern music. Here is some Yoshida Brothers for you.

There are supposed to be rules to classic instruments, right? Wrong. There should never be rules to real music. And that’s why I enjoy them so much.

Here is an instrument called the Balalaika. It is a classic “Russian” folk instrument. An oddly tortilla-chip shaped instrument with three strings. If you have ever watched tacky Cold War based movies, you probably heard it .

Classical balalaika.

Really a lovely piece. But here is a player by the name of, Alexei Arkhipovskiy.

What a difference a bit of IDGAF does. And let’s see what happens when tradition is poked fun at and you take the Old and New world and bash them together, the Red Elvises!

This bouncing around led me over to looking at Korean instruments. Even though Korea has a long history, it was overrun by so many other cultures over the centuries, there is a bit less of its own identity. So many of their instruments are very close variations of their Chinese and Japanese neighbors. But there is still a culture that is wholly their own. And I do have a bit of fascination with the classic folk culture. But you can really only listen to so much before it all sounds like some kind of bad ambient music that you would hear in a hippie shop. Here is an instrument that is called a Gayageum, it appears it is directly related to the Koto.

First let’s look at a classical piece. This falls under a generic musical heading of Gugak which is the Korean term for the general genre of Follk Music.

And every now and then people take something classical and has a little fun with it. So Gugak turns into a cover of Little Wing.

But every once in a while you get a mash-up of different styles that by all rights should never go together, but strangely enough do. Here is a band called Sorea, or sound of Korea, that is a Gugak group that does a fusion style. So they are known to take classical music and play with other groups that are playing modern music.

Music should be a journey, like life. Old instruments should not be relegated to stuffy halls where everyone sits in tuxedos and look down their noses at the “uncultured.” Instead you should take something, look at it, and ask yourself, “how can I break some rules with this thing?”

And just for the shock value. Disco Bouzouki!


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