SamulNori is the name of a group of four dynamic musicians dedicated to performing and preserving traditional Korean music and dance. The name also refers to the style of music they created. Since these superb percussionists formed the group in 1978, SamulNori has sparked a renaissance in Korea’s music scene and garnered worldwide acclaim more than 40 years.

The Korean words ‘samul’ means ‘four things’ and ‘nori’ means ‘to play.’ In the case of SamulNori, it refers to the four musicians playing and dancing with four percussion instruments. Founded by Kim, Duk-Soo, the group’s leader and master of the Jang-go(hourglass shape drum), SamulNori has become the leading traditional Korean Performance group. The ensemble performs in many configurations but usually tours as a quartet with Master Kim at the helm. The origins of their music can be traced to what is usually referred to as farmers’ band music(Poongmul) and ceremonial music(Gut). It also incorporates the influences of folk and religious music and their intricate rhythms have become quite uniquely their own.




In 1993, SamulNori became SamulNori Hanullim (Hanullim means “big bang”). This expansion from a four-man ensemble into a company of thirty artists and students marked a defining moment in SamulNori’s history. SamulNori’s dedication to traditional Korean performing arts developed in intensity with the formation of SamulNori Hanullim and thereafter has become known as a full-fledged educational and research enterprise.


Over the years, SamulNori’s U.S. tours have brought them to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Hawaii and they have appeared as part of the Asia Society’s sponsored tour across the country. In 1985, the Asia Society was awarded an “Obie” for Outstanding Achievement in the Off-Broadway Theatre for introducing SamulNori to New York’s stages. SamulNori has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at the Smithsonian Institution as part of an effort to establish scholarly exchanges between the Smithsonian and Korea. They also served a residency for the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of California at Berkeley. In December 1998, SamulNori headlined a benefit for North Koreans at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, presented by Korean Americans for Global Action.


Internationally, SamulNori has toured Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland. In 1988, they accompanied the Korean Olympic representatives for the lighting of the Olympic Torch in Greece. They also visited Italy where they were filmed for a Puma Sneakers commercial.


SamulNori has collaborated with many highly acclaimed musicians from a diverse range of international genres. They have performed with jazz and pop musicians, in addition to performing orchestral works composed specifically for them. They have participated in many international festivals including “Live Under the Sky” in Japan and Hong Kong, the Kool Jazz Festival, Peter Gabriel’s “WOMAD” Festival, the Moers Jazz Festival and the Han River International Jazz Festival.


In addition to their busy touring schedule, SamulNori is dedicated to furthering the tradition of their unique performance techniques with their classes at the SamulNori Academy of Music in Buyeo and Seoul. They have been the subject of several books and videos for many labels, including SONY. Their 15 recordings are available on the CBS/SONY, Nonesuch, CMP, Polygram, Real World and ECM record labels.

1978 SamulNori foundation performance (Space Theater, Seoul)
1981 The 1st Korean Traditional Music Festival (German Cultural Center, Seoul)
1982 World Showcase Festival (Disney World, Orlando, Florida)
PASIC(Percussive Arts Society International Convention) `82 (Dallas, Texas)
1983 "Ethno Rhythm Land" (Tokyo City Center Hall)
1984 "SUPERCUSSION" Festival (Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto)
1985 SamulNori Performance & Workshops ( Darlington Art Museum, UK)
1986 World Drum Festival ('86 World Expo, Vancouver)
1988 Moers International New Jazz Festival (Germany)
1989 SamulNori World Tour (Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Israel, USA, etc..)
1991 SamulNori with WOMAD (World of Music Arts & Dance) (Morecambe, UK)
1992 Czech SamulNori Performance (Prague National Theater)
1993 The Asia Society (Lincoln Center, New York City)
1994 The Adelaide Festival (Australia)
          'The World Percussion Panorama (Castro Alves Theater, Brazil)
1995 SamulNori Europe Tour (Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, UK)
1996 SamulNori US Tour(Washington, California, Kansas, Michigan, and etc.)
          Basel Festival (Basel, Switzerland)
          '96 Nanjang Festival (Berlin)
1997 EU-Japan Festival (Thessaloniki, Greece)
          Istanbul Percussion Festival (Istanbul Open-Air Theater)
          SamulNori's 20th Anniversary "Korea Fantasy”
          (The Korean Culture & Arts Foundation)
1998 SamulNori US Tour(South Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, New Hampshire)
          "In the Year of the Tiger" Festival (Berlin, Haus der Kultren)
          '98 Portugal Lisbon Expo "Korean Week" (Portugal, Lisbon)
          Avignon Festival (Avignon, France)
           Gala Benefit Concert for the Children of North Korea (Lincoln Center)
1999 India IETF'99 (India)
         Seoul Drum Festival '99 (Seoul)
         Walt Disney World EPCOT Center Millennium Celebration (Orlando, Florida)

2000 Premiered "Puri & Nori," at Theatre du Soleil (Paris)

2005 “Korea-Japan Music Festival” (4 cities in Korea, 4 cities in Japan)
600 years anniversary of Mongolia (Ulan Bator, Mongolia)
2007 Debut 50 years of Master Kim Duk Soo, Japan Tour (8 cities in Japan)
Berlin Nanjang 2007 (Berlin, Germany)
2008 30th Anniversary of SamulNori, Korea & Japan tour (Korea, Japan)
100days of Korean Traditional Performing Arts Festival (Seoul, Korea)
2009 The Korea Traditional Performing Arts <Pan>
“Music Alp Camp in France”
2010 “Digilog Samulnori”
The Korea Traditional Performing Arts <Pan>
* More than 4,000 performances world-wide
          SamulNori Europe Tour (Russia, Germany, Belgium, Sweden)
2001 SamulNori US Tour (Alaska, California)
‘         Popli Festival’ (Firenze, Italy)

2002 ‘Dynamic Korea’ for the World Cup D company nations (US, Portugal, Poland)
          Korea-Russia Friendship Express (Vladivostok, Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc.)
          ASEM 4 – Asian Comments (Copenhagen, Denmark)
          Paris Autumn Festival (Paris, France)
2003 “Images of Asia” Festival (7 cities in Denmark)
          “Edinburgh International Festival” (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

2005 “Korea-Japan Music Festival” (4 cities in Korea, 4 cities in Japan)
           600 years anniversary of Mongolia (Ulan Bator, Mongolia)
2007 Debut 50 years of Master Kim Duk Soo, Japan Tour (8 cities in Japan)
         Berlin Nanjang 2007 (Berlin, Germany)
2008 30th Anniversary of SamulNori, Korea & Japan tour (Korea, Japan)
         100days of Korean Traditional Performing Arts Festival (Seoul, Korea)
2009 The Korea Traditional Performing Arts <Pan>
         “Music Alp Camp in France”
2010 “Digilog Samulnori”
         The Korea Traditional Performing Arts <Pan>
         * More than 4,000 performances world-wide



The Instruments
: Lighting, Wind, Rain, and Clouds

SamulNori's music is based on the rhythms of traditional Korean folk percussion music. The four things refer to the four percussive instruments:


K'kwaenggwari(small gong)

is made mainly of brass with trace of gold or silver. It is hand held and played with a bamboo mallet. One hand holds the mallet while the other hand is responsible for dampening the sound produced. The player of this instrument often plays the role of leader, signaling transitions in the music. As each instrument is associated with an element in nature, the k'kwaenggwari is related to lightening.


is a large gong that is struck with a padded stick. This instrument can be played in a number of ways: hung on a frame, hand-held by handle, or played with two hands. A Jing should make an osculating sound, imitating the shape of the valleys of Korea. This instrument is associated with the wind.


is often called the hourglass drum, referring to its shape, which is similar to an hourglass. The drum has two sides, each with different types of leather skin. One side produces high pitched sound when the other produces low one so this instrument can make various sounds. This instrument is associated with rain.


is a barrel drum, made of a piece of hollow out wood and two leather skins tied to the wood. It is played by a single stick and provides the bass sounds of the group. The buk is related to the clouds.


BINARI (Prayer Song)

A sweeping prayer song that used to signal the beginning of a stay at a village, Binari can now be heard at events such as the opening of a new business or building, or at a performance. The shaman sings the extensive prayer, which touches on many aspects important to Korean beliefs. It recounts the tale of creation and it calls upon the various spirits that reside in the village and homes, eventually asking for a blessing upon the people, the players and the ground they inhabit.
Placed on the altar is an abundance of food offerings to the gods and to ancestors, and a pig's head. Audience members are invited to approach the altar, bringing with them their prayers. They may also light an incense stick, pour rice wine and bow. It is customary to place an offering of money on the altar. The head of the pig signifies wealth, health and abundance; and, if an offering of money is placed in the mouth of the pig, it is believed that the prayers brought to the altar will be answered generously.


SAMDO SUL JANG-GO GARAK(Jang-go Rhythms from Three Provinces)

All performers are seated with Jang-go (hourglass drum) and play an arrangement consisting of the most representative Jang-go garak (rhythm patterns) of three Korean provinces. Originally, one player would fasten the Jang-go to his body and perform a showy solo piece, flaunting his unique style of dance and technique. SamulNori created this new arrangement to be played while seated, shifting the focus from showmanship to musicality.

SAMDO NONGAK GARAK(Poongmul Rhythms from Three Provinces)

Samdo Nongak Garak also is an arrangement of different rhythms from the three provinces. Some of the garak that appeared in Samdo Sul Jang-go Garak also appear here, now interpreted by the four different instruments. During festivals, performers would traditionally have played these instruments while dancing, but SamulNori has broadened the scope of the many garaks that appear by playing seated and developing the musical possibilities of this arrangement.


PAN KUT (Play)

The dance features the “sangmo” (a ribboned hat) and the “bupo” (a feathered hat) which the performers will make move and spin with the energy of their dancing bodies. This particular Pan Kut is a modern rendition of the large group dances of the farming festivals made suitable for a few men on a stage. Because farmers were traditionally recruited as soldiers when a war broke out, there was a great exchange of ideas between the military musical tradition and village dances. Most of the choreography is based on military exercises, and the hats the performers wear resemble ancient helmets.
With feet treading the earth, ribbons flying upward, and rhythms sounding through the air, the players attempt to consummate the union of heaven, earth and humankind. The banner, the spiritual member of the troupe, with its stake driven into the ground, and its feathers reaching for the sky, embodies the desire for cosmic harmony.