Sihawi & Sanjo

Korea: Folkloric Instrumental Traditions, Vol. 1: Sinawi And Sanjo

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One of the numerous CDs that came from JVC Music's JVC World Sounds series, this June 1988 recording offers two forms of traditional Korean music: sinawi and sanjo. Sinawi is a form of instrumental music that is performed by an ensemble and, like jazz, emphasizes improvisation; in fact, one can see some similarities between free jazz and sinawi during a 20-minute performance by a Korean ensemble. The sinawi performance doesn't follow the melody/solos/melody format that a lot of swing, hard bop, and fusion have adhered to -- rather, it favors the type of collective improvisation one might expect from a free jazz unit. Instead of having to take turns soloing, a player can jump in and solo whenever he/she feels the need to add something to the conversation. After the sinawi performance come two examples of sanjo: the 11-minute "Haegum Sanjo" and the 27-minute "Ajaeng Sanjo." An outgrowth of sinawi, sanjo is a style that stresses improvisation but is dominated by a particular soloist and doesn't require a full ensemble. This is a CD that both world music enthusiasts and jazz fans should be aware of -- not because it contains any jazz, but because it says so much about the pleasures of improvisation.

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