|Korea's celebrated traditional Korean musicians Ahn Sook-seon, center, and Kim Duk-soo perform together with internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Dorasan Station near North Korea, Monday. Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism|
By Anna J. Park
A special music concert on the theme of inter-Korean peace was held Monday evening at Dorasan Station in the inter-Korean border city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Located very near the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Dorasan Station is South Korea's closest active railway station to the North. The station is regarded as a symbol of inter-Korean relations. It is still used as a real station for a few limited peace-themed rail trips.
Under the theme "Culture Connects," the special two-hour concert held at this symbolic place offered a good blend of traditional Korean music and Western classical music, as well as contemporary Korean pop music, featuring various top-notch musicians from in and outside of the country.
The performers included internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma; Korean pansori master Ahn Sook-seon; percussionist musician Kim Duk-soo, whose band Samul Nori successfully brought traditional Korean percussion music from a rural folk genre to the contemporary stage; as well as musicians who were born in North Korea but defected to the South.
|From left, Vice Minister of Unification Suh Ho, Culture Minister Park Yang-woo and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa. Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism|
The concert was held to celebrate the one-year anniversary of last September's Pyongyang Declaration which was signed by the leaders of the two Koreas in an effort to end hostilities in the border area. The audience of 400 consisted of various groups, such as soldiers of a unit from a nearby region, members of an elementary school orchestra and representatives of a group of people having long-lost relatives in North Korea.
Culture Minister Park Yang-woo, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa and Vice Minister of Unification Suh Ho also joined the concert.
The concert started with a traditional Korean mask dance performance, followed by Yo-Yo Ma's heart-warming performance of Bach's "Cello Suite No.1 in G Major, Prelude."
Ma is currently touring the world with his two-year Bach project; he has already reached the halfway point of the project launched last summer, aiming to perform Bach's masterpiece in 36 significant places around the world.
|Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1 n G Major" at the concert. Yonhap|
"Culture builds trust. Culture builds bridges, not walls. Culture allows us to dream together, and together we can achieve the impossible," Ma said during the performance, emphasizing that he believes people can achieve anything when they are united.
Pianist Kim Cheol-woong, a North Korean defector who used to be a top notch musician in the North, performed two pieces: "Bonsunhwa ― Garden Balsam" and "Arirang Sonata."
"The piece Bonsunhwa was composed during the 1920s, representing the very spirit of peace of the Korean people and the Korean Peninsula. Arirang is the soul music of both South and North Korea. As this place is very close to my hometown of Pyongyang, I hope to visit my hometown which I miss so much," Kim said on stage during the performance.
|Pianist Kim Cheol-woong, a North Korean defector, performs "Bongsunhwa" and "Arirang Sonata." Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism|
The indie folk ballad music duo of Okdal followed Kim by performing three calming numbers: "Run," "Thinking of My Brother," and "You Did Good Today." Another music group, Second Moon, presented a collaborative performance with traditional Korean singer Kim Jun-soo.
The highlight of the performance came at the end when Korea's representative vocalist Ahn Sook-seon, who's designated as the nation's Important Cultural Heritage No. 23 for her pansori singing, performed two versions of Arirang with percussionist Kim Duk-soo and cellist Yo-Yo Ma: "Jindo Arirang," and "Bonjo Arirang." Audience members clapped their hands along to the familiar melodies and rhythms of the songs, while Ma also played passionately to the beat and rhythm.
The concert ended with a special ribbon-tying event of all audience members, a symbolic gesture to mark the spirit of peace and unity that goes beyond the inter-Korean border as well as any national borders.