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02/27/2018 Interview > Alumni


Introducing Ajaeng to the World

Spreading the sounds of ajaeng to wider audience


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A jazz and ajaeng cross over recital named ‘the Moon’ was held on the 19th of January, in the chamber hall of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts to commemorate her release of a new album. ‘Ajaeng,’ being an instrument a lot of people aren’t familiar with, earned great attention between the audiences. The ajaeng player, Jung Mi-jung (M.S. in Music, ‘16), successfully finished her recital with positive remarks and is now preparing for the next step. News H met with her in a quiet café to hear more about her life as a unique instrument player.


Ajaeng is a seven-stringed Korean traditional instrument commonly used in court music. It has a unique, low-toned pitch, that charms all who listen to it. However, not a lot of people are aware of this instrument. Jung is therefore working hard to introduce this instrument to the world. Moon, the name of her new album and her latest concert, included crossover and her own music to fascinate people, which resulted in great success. The album titled ‘Moon’ contains 8 different songs: four songs that were written on her own and four already-existing songs combined with ajaeng’s unique tone.

News H met Jung in an artistic cafe which is associated with her.


Jung had a meaningful intention to her first crossover music album. “I once took a taxi with my ajaeng. However, the driver didn’t even know the existence of the instrument. After then, I decided I should work harder to introduce ajaeng to the world,” reminisced Jung. She combined different genres and instruments to her music and released an album. Mixing various genres allowed the audience to have more interest in her songs. In her commemoration concert, she added improvisation on stage and gave another atmosphere to the hall. Various players who are talented in their own areas participated in the concert, giving liveliness to the hall. The concert finished with great success, recording over three hundred, non-professional audiences, and a step toward the publicity of ajaeng.


Living with a unique instrument


“My father loved Korean traditional music. He used to play the drums every night for his hobby. Even though it might seem small, that greatly motivated me to pursue Korean traditional music as my career,” reminisced Jung. She first started with Haegeum, which is also a similar instrument to ajaeng, only with a much higher tone. However, ajaeng seemed to fit her much better. “I think each and every person has an instrument that fits him or her. I tend to have a lower voice than others, and I think it was the same for my instrument,” said Jung. She was more ‘fit’ to ajaeng than any other instrument and was therefore able to become a professional even though she first started ajaeng when she was in the second grade of high school.

After her degree in university and after a few years of her life as a professional ajaeng player, she decided to continue on with her studies. Restarting her academic life in Hanyang University for a master’s degree, she was able to improve herself in both theory and practice. “This experience raised me to become a better person in the society of Korean traditional music. I definitely have more chances and situations to prove myself after graduation. With the field of ajaeng being so small, I want to help boost the field as much as I can, and I wish to use the chances I have,” commented Jung.


For years to come

Throughout her life of ajaeng, she has already been to various countries and has spread not only the knowledge of the instrument but Korean culture itself. She said she is still learning the value of her instrument through these incidents. “After the accompanied performance in Russia, an elderly woman burst out in tears, and the firm director hugged me saying I did well. I can still remember that scene even that time has passed,” reminisced Jung.

Jung wishes to introduce ajaeng to the whole world.

Jung is still continuing her life as an ajaeng player. “I am currently working on another Korean traditional music collection, writing solo pieces. I wish to make more literary music through my abilities,” said Jung. She showed her passion to perform more in foreign countries and become an educator in the future. “I want to be able to take part in a change of this cultural field, and it’s going to be difficult if I don’t become a leader. I wish I could become a leader to better improve the field of Korean traditional music.” Jung--without a doubt--is walking her way to becoming another leader of her generation.

On Jung-yun
Photos by Choi Min-ju

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