Discover The Origin Of K-pop: Janggu

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A traditional Korean drum, Janggu is more than meets the eye. And it is linked to K-pop.

This article is part of and presented for 2017 K-pop International Fan Network Fam Trip organized by Korean Tourism Organization (KTO).

Jeongdong Theater & Janggu Experience

Upon arrival at the Seoul Station from Busan, we alighted and had a hearty buffet lunch nearby. We moved to our next destination of the day – Jeongdong Theater.

Photo taken at the entrance of Jeongdong Theater in Seoul

The opening of Jeongdong Theater in 1995 was significantly important in Korea as it strives to be the restored Wongaksa, the first modern theater in the country history. Over the years, it has successively become one of Korea’s representative traditional arts performance theaters.

For the fam tour, KTO arranged us to take part in the Janggu Experience program. You may ask, what is Janggu?


Janggu is the most widely used drum in traditional Korean music. It is recognizable by its unique hourglass-shaped body with the two heads made from animal skin. While the two heads produce different timbres, they are said to represent the harmonious relationship between man and woman when played together.

After we were briefly introduced to our Janggu trainer (unfortunate that I couldn’t catch his full name), we then had our hands-on experience with our assigned instrument set right in front of us. We were taught with five most basic rhythmic sets of Janggu playing. It wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy either. Because the pitch of each head sounds different and you have to play certain beats with accent, there is no way to smoke through without knowing you (the odd one) are playing the beat wrongly.

During Janggu Experience program inside Jeongdong Theater in Seoul

As we got comfortable playing the Janggu gradually, the trainer also increased the tempo. Of course, most of us started to find it challenging to keep up with the intense coordination between our hands and the drum. The biggest and final challenge was then to play the five rhythmic sets in one accord, and that really caught us all.

Towards the end of the experience session, our trainer shared his rich knowledge about Janggu. He also revealed that this traditional drum forms an important part of the origin of K-pop. As K-pop fans ourselves, we self-consciously know it better than anyone else that the genre, no doubt, evolves from traditional Korean music.

The trainer then showed us first-hand of how a professional Janggu player performs. As we watched on, it was just as if he and the Janggu became harmoniously one together in spirit with incredible speed and perfect coordination. I swore my drumstick would have flown out of my hand at least 100 times.

And if you listen it carefully again and again (like I did), you might be able to relate how melodious the sound can go together with K-pop. For example, think about the current hits like BTS’s “Mic Drop”.

Watch how a professional Janggu player performs in freestyle:

Address: 43, Jeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul / 서울특별시 중구 정동길 43 (정동)

Want to have a taste of the origin of K-pop? Book the Janggu Experience program today!

This story is presented for 2017 K-pop International Fan Network FAM Trip from 20 October to 24 October 2017, organized by Korean Tourism Organization, with special thanks to KTO staff Miss Kim So Yeon ~

Reporting by Adrian Cheng

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