What happens when the traditional Korean song Arirang is combined with Javanese gamelan? This unique collaboration inspired Ji Tae Chung, a doctoral graduate from Seoul, South Korea, whose research topic was “Gamelan Arirang.”
He graduated on October 25–26 as the best student with a GPA of 3.84.
Chung has loved music since childhood, initially focusing on traditional Korean music. When he first set foot in Indonesia in 2011, he was captivated by the sound of gamelan that he had heard on YouTube.
“I felt the sound was very exotic,” he said.
A professional player of Korean musical instruments, “daegeum” and “sogeum,” Chung admitted that initially, he only focused on art aesthetics.
However, he later became bored and was challenged to study art’s structure, discourse, and ideology. This challenge led him to choose a university with a suitable department, namely the Cultural and Media Studies program at UGM.
The motivation for his performance of Gamelan Arirang in his research titled “Poetics and Politics of Gamelan Arirang Performance: Self-Technology Research” arose from criticism of cultural exchange practices by Korean artists, which had been predominantly unilateral.
This criticism inspired him to showcase the harmony between Korea and Indonesia through a bilateral collaboration of traditional music.
His first performance, “Gamelan Arirang: Intercultural Mediation of Indonesian-Korean Cultural Arts,” was held in 2017, organized by the collaboration music project group “Gamelan Arirang” from Korea and Indonesia at Tembi Rumah Budaya on November 26, 2017.
This performance later became the precursor to his research, leading Chung to obtain a doctoral degree in Cultural and Media Studies at UGM.
This performance aimed to showcase the harmony between Korea and Indonesia and introduce traditional Korean music to the Yogyakarta community. Every element of the performance was designed to represent the meaning and purpose of the show in the form of texts and signs, including posters and other promotional media.
“I packaged the show’s title as a representative form of traditional music from Korea and Indonesia, namely gamelan and Arirang,” explained Chung, who spent five years working on his dissertation.
The term “gamelan” as a sign (in semiotics) represents a set of bronze musical ensembles from Java and Bali. In other words, the term gamelan as a symbol indicates that this performance is related to traditional music in Indonesia because gamelan is the most popular instrument in Indonesia and beyond. Arirang is a symbolic and one of Korea’s most famous traditional songs.
“The term gamelan contrasts with Arirang from Korea. The difference between these two terms automatically classifies Indonesia and Korea in the concept of nationality, so gamelan represents traditional Indonesian music, and Arirang represents traditional Korean music,” he explained.
“Ultimately, the combination of these two signs represents a collaboration of traditional music from Indonesia and Korea.”
In his dissertation, Chung added the “Intercultural Mediation of Indonesian-Korean Cultural Arts” as a research study explaining that the concept of this performance also means a form of mediation.
Mediation means that the performance is a communication process aimed at helping two individuals or groups in conflict reach an agreement or resolve a problem.
However, this meaning changes into cultural mediation in the field of art, which means connecting art and society. From his narrative, the title of the Gamelan Arirang performance symbolically shows that this performance tends to be bilateral rather than unilateral.
While working in Indonesia, the graduate of the National High School of Traditional Korean Arts and The Korean Traditional Music Program at Suwon University has won numerous awards.
He has held many solo music performances since his youth. He has collaborated on various Indonesian-Korean music collaborations, such as Jing Gong in Bali and Gamelan Arirang in Yogyakarta.
He has also directed various music shows in Indonesia, such as the Gugak Festival Indonesia, Bali Chingudel (2013), Salmunori Jinggong (2015), KORNIA Art Company (2015), Salmunori Ciraken (2016), Gamelan Arirang Surakarta (2016), Gamelan Arirang Yogyakarta (2017), and Gugak Festival Indonesia (2021).
For him, studying at UGM was an extremely positive experience. The language challenge did not hinder him from graduating with a satisfactory GPA. The support of lecturers and supervisors immensely helped him complete his studies at UGM on time.