Updated: Aug 23
As part of a proposal a friend and I are working on, I’ve been researching how to find a Korean drum called the Jang-gu.
It’s part of a Korean traditional percussion music called
which uses four instruments, each representing an earthly element.
There is one for wind, one for thunder, one for cloud and there is Jang-gu.
The sound of rain.
It is a beautiful looking, and from what I’d heard beautiful sounding, hourglass shaped instrument, but the only ones I could find for sale came from either North America or South Korea.
They were hand crafted and ornately designed but came at quite a price, which with postage added would have been a stretch to say the least. Aside from the price, the delivery time would be up to a month away. It seemed like (even if I could’ve found the money) to have one before the end of spring was going to be an uphill struggle, and too late to make it into our proposal.
For days I’d been searching the internet but I was beginning to feel deflated and at a bit of a loss.
Then, one night before going to bed, I decided to check again and saw the same long list of drums from faraway places.
Hold on, that one there the red one, I’ve never seen that before.
I looked closer and it wasn’t from any of the suppliers from Korea or America, this was a private sale from someone who lived in Woking, a town just 10 miles South of London.
A rule I have, is not to send an email before going to bed.
I’ll start writing it, even write the whole thing, but never send it until the morning.
It’s a way of avoiding any thoughts of doubt or self-criticism.
Getting to sleep can sometimes be hard enough, without all those worries going through my mind as well!
So as the advert was set to ‘auction’ I hoped the drum would still be there, closed the computer and went to bed.
Around 4 am I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep so I walked around in a bit of a daze, and again to stop my mind racing, switched on the computer and opened up some music files to work on.
Then I remembered the drum advert and realising I wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon, I saw that it was still available and made a bid, hoping to hear back later in the day.
After making some very strange decisions about what to eat, (cheese nachos and a Marmite sandwich at 4.30 am) I started working on the music and before I knew it the sun had risen and the birds were singing outside.
I thought I might as well check my emails and saw one saying that the bid had been accepted. The seller had left a note, asking if I was able to go and pick the drum up rather than have it posted.
I’d planned to travel to London that day for an evening event anyway, so I wrote back to say if it wasn’t too short notice, I could pick it up that afternoon.
The lady messaged back straight away to say it was fine and they would meet me at the station so I stayed up, stayed awake and at 11 am set off on the journey.
They were a Korean couple and the lady - an experienced Jang-gu player - was selling the drum to invest in buying a new, more expensive one.
When they opened the case and I saw the drum it took my breath away. It was beautiful and like nothing I’d ever seen before.
She showed me how to hold the sticks, how to prepare the tuning ropes before and after playing and gave me the number of her teacher. That way she said I could take some lessons and learn how to play the instruments in the traditional way.
After we said our goodbyes, I boarded the train back to London and did my best to take it all in.
Less than 12 hours earlier, I’d been considering taking out a bank loan for a drum from the other side of the world, and yet here I was returning home with one that cost less than the postage would have been for one from the others.
It is a beautiful looking, beautiful sounding very special drum.
It is the Jang-gu drum.
The drum of rain.