Songlines | Black String

Asia & Pacific

Black String
Mask Dance (ACT)

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There’s a fascinating alternative music scene developing in South Korea far removed from the banalities of K-pop. Jambinai and Park Jiha have made significant inroads into the consciousness of Western music fans but leading the pack are Black String. The quartet from Seoul take their name from the geomungo, a funky, oriental zither whose name can be translated as ‘Black String,’ although the band claim it means far more as a representation of “the unfathomable and endless possibilities of both the East and West.”

The group’s debut international release takes its name from a traditional Korean mask dance, called cheoyongmu, originally a method of driving out evil spirits, and which was recognised by UNESCO in 2009 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Yoon Jeong Heo, the group’s leader, is a virtuoso on the geomungo and is joined by Aram Lee on daegeum (flute) and Minwang Hwang on janggu (Korean drum). Jean Oh’s electric guitar adds an accessible Western jazz flavour, although the spirit of the music remains distinctively Korean on a dynamic set of rhythmically-laden soundscapes. “Our music can’t be bound by genre, and we don’t ever want it to be,” says Yoon Jeong Heo. “We call our music borderless contemporary Korean music.”

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