Emblematic instrument of Korea, the janggu or 장고 is omnipresent in traditional music. Played by professional and folk musicians alike, it could just as easily be heard at court as in the city or the countryside, played in ensembles or accompanying a soloist or singer.

The janggu supports the rhythmic structure of musical pieces and accompanies melodic instruments. It plays the central role in contemporary samul nori percussion ensembles. The janggu has also developed a solo repertoire that reveals the virtuosity it is capable of.

Depicted in paintings and sculpture as of the first millennium, the janggu is mentioned in literature since 1076. A musical score including rhythms first appeared in the 15th century. Since then the part of the janggu is routinely described. Likewise, each type of beat is represented by an onomatopoeia, which serves to memorize and communicate musical phrases.

The body of the instrument is sculpted from a single block of paulownia, a wood extensively used for making stringed musical instruments in Asia. The two skins stretched across either end are of different thickness. Two sticks are used to play the instrument: one for the right hand made of bamboo, while the other ends in a ball. However, depending on the type of music, the musician may use just one stick and beat the other skin with his/her left hand.

Like other Korean instruments the janggu is played sitting down cross-legged, but in lively folk music it is also carried by dancers.

The janggu you can now see at mim is one of 17 instruments given to the museum in 2011 by the National Gugak Center, the Institute of Traditional Music in Seoul. It was made in the city of Paju by the Yeonaksa workshop.

janggu 2011.217
janggu 2011.217
janggu 2011.217
Gugak National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts