Featuring… traditional instruments

Exile – “Stay” (Sit back mix)
Track 10 / Album “Asia” / Released 29 Mar 2006

I can’t imagine any traditional instrument sounding anything cooler than this @@  I like this remix version of the song much more than the original, as it gives a lot more character to the song. (Can’t find any MV of the original version online possibly due to copyright reasons, but here’s the Live version)

Japanese Koto

So this instrument which plays the little intro melody, and later on, weaves into the main body of the song with its little decorative figures, is the koto.  

The koto 琴 / 箏 was introduced to Japan in 600 to 700 A.D. from China, and largely derived from the Chinese Guzheng. The koto, initially played in the royal court only, has likely not changed much over the centuries, but the Guzheng  has (Wikipedia, 2008).  We’re really lucky that Japanese people have preserved the ancient instrument and music as it was, so we can still have some ideas how ancient palace music sounds like ^-^

A modern Koto composition

P.S. You can try playing the traditional Japanese tune “Sakura” on this virtual koto online here =)




임정희 – “하늘아 바람아”
Lim Jeong Hee – “Heaven Breeze”
Track 1 / Digital single “하늘아 바람아” / Released 20 Dec 2007

Korean gayageum

Korean gayageum

Featured in Lim Jeong Hee’s “Heaven Breeze” are the Haegeum 奚琴, a bowed string instrument; the Yanggeum 洋琴, mounted on the soundbox are metal strings, struck with a bamboo stick; and the gayageum 伽倻琴, sounds inconspicuous compared to the other two instruments in this song; in order of appearance. (I’m not 100% sure about the instruments used here, as I don’t have very good ears especially for instruments I’m not too familiar with. Please feel free to correct me ^^”)

The gayageum appeared around 500 A.D. in the Gaya confederacy. It was created after King Gasil, a.k.a. Haji of Daegaya, observed the Chinese Guzheng (Wikipedia, 2008). Koreans play the gayageum with bare fingers without using picks, unlike their Chinese and Japanese counterparts. This results in a softer, less percussive sound.  

Modern 25-string Gayageum – playing “Snowflake” by Mika Nakashima 中島美嘉 / Pak Hyo Shin 박효신


周杰倫 – “青花瓷”
Jay Chou Chieh-lun – “Blue and white porcelain”
Track 3 / Vol. 8 “我很忙” / Released 2 Nov 2007

Taiwanese singer-songwriter Jay Chou is famous for bringing “Chinese-style 中國風” songs into fashion in recent years, at least in Chinese-speaking regions like mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong =)  In addition to employing the traditional pentatonic scale in the melody, incorporating a myriad of traditional instruments, and writing lyrics in reminiscence of ancient Chinese literature, Chou gives the song the harmonic structure of Western music and the modern touch with pop music beats, which the present generation has grown so used to.

Modern Chinese Guzheng solo – playing “青花瓷” by 周杰倫

Jay’s “Chinese-style” songs are definitely not the coolest stuff out there for Chinese communities, but they are certainly something beautiful and pleasant drawing upon Chinese culture. Well, it’s nice to know traditions are not necessarily boring =)









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