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Pansori is an epic Korea chant performed by a vocalist (sorikkun) male or female who plays the central role and a drummer (gosu). Both wear traditional Korean dress. The name pansori comes from the Korean: pan means “a place where many people gather” and sori is “noise”, “sound”.


A little of history of pansori…

Appearing in the 17th century, during the Joseon Dynasty, pansori may have origins in shamanistic songs. It was first enjoyed by the farmers, then slowly starts to grow in popularity (particularly among the nobles) and to improve techniques. We consider the 19th century as its golden age: the king himself enjoyed pansori at his palace. During the 20th century with the Japanese occupation and the modernization of Korea, its popularity decreases and almost disappears after the World War II. Then, in 1993 Seopyeonje, a movie about a father who teaches to his daughter how to sing and to his son how to become a drummer highlighted pansori to the young generation. In 2003, UNESCO proclaimed the pansori tradition a Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The complex and expressive singing, the rhythm and the melody characterize this traditional music. A full-length performance last three to eight hours, where the vocalist sings, speaks, uses gestures and its fan to describe scenery, to play every character and so on… In other words, makes the text alive, combining rural and erudite literary expressions. The drummer plays in rhythm and shouts encouragement. Learning how to sing pansori is difficult: the voice comes from the stomach and must to be strong. For example in the past, the vocalists tried to cover the noise of a waterfall for training, to get this particular voice.



During the Joseon Dynasty, 12 texts (madang) formed the pansori repertoire, passed orally. Today, only five remain.


It is the most famous and the longest pansori among the remaining ones. It tells the love story between Chunhyang, daughter of a retired courtesan and Mongryong, son of the local governor. They fall in love but Mongryong has to leave for the capital for his study and asks Chunhyang to wait for him. During his absence, a new and tyrannical governor comes to the village and wants to make Chunhyang his mistress, thing she always refused. Then, Mongryong comes back, saves her. They got married and have a happy life.


This story is about Simcheong, a loving daughter who takes care of her blind father. A Buddhist monk tells her that if she donates 300 packs of rice to Buddha, her father would regain his eyesight. Soon after, she hears about sailors who want to buy a girl to sacrifice to the Sea-God. She decides to do it: the money she could buy the packs of rice.  After several days of sailing, she does the sacrifice, jumping into the sea. Her story moves the Sea-God and he decides to send her back to the land. The king discovers her, falls in love, and marries her. Missing her father, she tells her story to the king. To help the queen, he organizes a party for the blind people. Her father appears but he is still blind, despite the packs of rice but when Simcheong finds him, he regains his eyesight.


It tells the story of two brothers. The younger one Heungbo is poor and good but he becomes rich after healed the broken leg of ta swallow. His older brother, Nolbo is rich and mean but he loses everything after he breaks the leg of a swallow. However, Heungbo will help his brother to redeem himself. The story is about love between two brothers and encouraging good.


The Sea-God is ill and only the liver of a rabbit can save him. A terrapin comes out of the sea to look for a rabbit in the forest. He successes to bring a rabbit under the sea but the rabbit is clever and feel the danger. He explains to the king that he hide his liver in a secret place because it many people wanted it. The king accepts, and the rabbit comes back in the forest with the terrapin where he mocks them and their credibility.


This pansori is about the Jeokbyeok river battle, from a Chinese historical novel. It narrates the everyday life of the soldiers who were forced to fight.


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