A scene from kayagum ensemble in the grand mass gymnastics and artistic performance “The Land of the People” in 2019.
The name kayagum is derived from Kaya, a Korean feudal state which existed between the mid-1st century BC and mid-6th century AD.
It was invented by Uruk, a talented musician in the state of Kaya in the early 6th century.
Its early form consisted with sound box, hook for 12 strings and bridge and it changed very little until the end of the 15th century.
The sound of kayagum is soft and elegant and the posture of playing is rhythmic and beautiful.
It is simple in structure, easy to tune by moving the bridge and learn to play and diverse in interpretation.
It was widely introduced to Silla by Uruk in the mid-6th century AD, to become one of its typical stringed instruments.
Kayagum and its music were spread more widely in the period of Koryo and the feudal Joson dynasty and the stringed instrument was much used for playing court music. Many gifted kayagum players were produced in succession and a new type of instrumental solo was developed as the instrumental for experts like the “collection of kayagum solos” at the end of the 19th century.
Kayagum was also upgraded to meet the modern aesthetic taste along with the development of musical art: the number of strings has increased to 21 and the musical range widened from pentachord to heptachord.
With kayagum’s distinctive timbre having been accentuated more remarkably, its interpretation has also developed.
It plays a leading part in the national instrumental music ensemble and an important role as a musical instrument for melody and rhythm in orchestra, instrumental ensemble and accompaniment.
“Tremolo, a kayagum’s unique playing technique, cannot be copied by any musical instrument in the world,” said Choe Myong Hui, lecturer at Pyongyang Kim Won Gyun University of Music.
The beautiful melody of kayagum played at the national flag raising ceremony for the military parade in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea captivated all the audience.