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Jin Hi Kim: Komungo

Jin Hi Kim has successfully ushered the traditional Korean instrument known as the komungo into a variety of Western settings, including into improvisational encounters with players from the experimental end of the spectrum and western classical contexts. Throughout her musical wanderings, she maintains a link to her roots, and on her new album, Komungo (OO Discs 70; 59:01)-a suitably direct title-she veers both towards the heart of her heritage and to her experimental spirit. She plays both the traditional instrument and electric komungo, and has a couple of duets, with Tuvanese throat singer Kongar-ol Ondar, and Kang Kwon Soon, a Korean kagok singer.

There’s a unique sense of space, and grace, in her music, something not easily explained. It alludes to things ancient and ephemeral, and is linked to Korean tradition and a certain universality of improvisatory gesture. That rare quality, strangely, seems amplified by the beautiful starkness encountered in a solo context. It’s a sound both intensely personal, and all-inclusive, like most music that matters.

Originally Published