The inaugural World Pansori Festival, organized by the World Pansori Association, took place Tuesday and Wednesday, celebrating the 20th anniversary of UNESCO's recognition of "pansori," at the Seoul Namsan Gukakdang in Jung-gu, central Seoul.
Pansori is a traditional genre of musical storytelling performed by a vocalist accompanied by a drummer. It is characterized by the deliverance of an epic tale by a single singer, who weaves together folktales using an expressive form of singing, stylized speech and theatrical gestures.
Pansori was included in UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on Nov. 7, 2003.
Chae Soo-jung, the chairman of the WPA, said pansori holds a special place in the hearts of Koreans.
"We dedicate this stage to our ancestors, who paved the way for the celebration of pansori today, and to the teachers who preserved pansori despite challenging circumstances,” said Chae during her opening remark on Tuesday.
“It's a great pleasure to commemorate the 20th anniversary of UNESCO's recognition of Korean pansori -- as a cultural treasure deserving of preservation and protection.”
A series of congratulatory remarks addressed the need to refine and develop pansori, ensuring it remains a living, breathing art form that resonates with a wider, global and more contemporary audience.
The festival began with the "20-hour Pansori Relay Project," which was the highlight of the event. Over the course of two days, the relay featured 60 pansori singers, including seven gayageum byeongchang performers -- singers who sing pansori and play the gayageum simultaneously. The event was streamed live on YouTube.
Participants of all ages, genders and nationalities took the stage, each showcasing their talents for 20 to 30 minutes in a relay format. Both master singers and enthusiastic novices took part in the cultural celebration -- the youngest participant was just 10 years old, and the oldest, 90. Five foreign nationals also took part in the event.
The first performer in the relay was led by master singer Yoo Yeong-ae, accompanied by drummer Park Geun-yeong.
Yoo sang a part of "Simcheong-ga," in which Simcheong, after returning to the human world from the underwater and becoming a queen, writes a letter as she thinks of her blind father. Yoo delivered an emotional and rhythmic performance, captivating the audience and eliciting enthusiastic responses.