IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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A blend of traditional and popular musical forms: The issue of nationalism and commercialism in Korea
inhwa so

Last modified: 2013-01-22


The development of hybrid styles by artists of traditional music began to bloom around the mid-1980s in Korea. The so-called fusion gugak [kugak] (“national music”) has pursued contemporaneity and popularity, escaping from the old and conservative images of Korean traditional music. The Korean government has supported the fusion gugak groups with an intention to spread Korean music to young generations and keep traditional music alive. While some are concerned that in fusion gugak the musical grammar and aesthetic order of traditional music are chosen superficially to suit Westernized public taste under the name of fusion, distorting and losing the essence of traditional musicality, there is also an opinion that fusion gugak has contributed to the popularization of gugak as we imagine a Korean popular culture of the future. However, there exists a continuous dilemma of the limited commerciality of fusion gugak, which is caused by the conflict between nationalism and commercialism. The case of MIJI, a Korean fusion group, reflects how the two “isms” interact with each other in Korea, where the government promotes a sense of competitiveness within cultural industries in a global society.

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