Saturday, November 21, 2009

Korean troupe rocks out on garbage

Eco-friendly music: The socially-conscious Korean performance troupe Noridan plays all their music on all recycled material.

New York's got 'Stomp', Seoul's got 'Noridan'!

"We play, imagine and recycle" - That's the motto of this socially-conscious Korean performance troupe that has been going on since 2004 and is a good example of what social enterprising means in this country. Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which trade in goods or services for a social purpose. The profit from the business is used to support related or unrelated social aims. In November 2007, Noridan was awarded a social enterprise certificate by the government in recognition of its contribution towards society.

"Self-employment is a very important issue in Korea", says Hong Dae-ryong, a self-proclaimed eco-friendly performing artist and director of Noridan. Hong created and rides with open arms the troupe's "merry-go-round" in these pictures below. The vehicle is made of abandoned bicycles and barbed wire he cadged from a construction site.

The bicycles are connected in a circular formation by way of the barbed wire and a "roof", made from abandoned plastic sheeting, sits on top. The performers hang from the "merry-go-round" as it rotates, showing off their acrobatic skills.

Apart from the "merry-go-round", dozens of other recycled contraptions and instruments are used in the performance. There is a xylophone made of scrap aluminum and even a drum made of plastic pipes found at a dump.

Noridan is the combination of the Korean words 'nori' 노리 (play) and 'dan' 단 (group,team). Any object can become a musical instrument in the hands of these guys, who delight audiences at home and abroad. -- They have performed in countries like Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

The troupe has currently 86 members whose ages and occupations vary as much as the sounds they produce. The youngest seem to be in their teens, the oldest in their 50s. Jobs range from architect to writer, driver, composer, guitarist, actress,... To break down invisible barriers among members, the Noridan players call each other by nicknames, such as Hwi, Ting, Dori, Lemon, Haneul, Simba and Miya. Conversation is definitely a lot easier between people of the same age group, especially in a country like Korea; but Noridan's composition of diverse groups seems to generate a different kind of interaction between them.

"It’s our job to breathe new life into things that are thrown away and considered useless", says Hong. "We find joy in discovering possibilities for old materials. For us, there is no such thing as something useless. The best part is that anybody can play these instruments. That is why as we perform, we become one with our audience", the proud director adds.
I personally love this kind of performing art, which is creative to its most, inspiring, innovative and beautifully exotic, like off-Broadway's Stomp. Unlike Noridan (formed by Korean members alone),  however, Stomp obviously has members of all kinds of nationalities, including mine, Brazilian.
Hmm, could Noridan maybe develop into such kind of multiethnic performing group? I think I would  very much like to see that. How about you?

Now, watch CNN's Kristie Lu Stout's fun report on the Korean troupe at its workshop in Seoul:

Also, watch bits of their remarkable musical 'PingPangPong':

Check out Noridan's official website: