General Im Gyeong-eop임경업 of the mid-Joseon period performed many heroic deeds during the Qing invasion of Joseon in the 17th century. He had stayed on Yeonpyeongdo연평도 Island for a little while on his way to China to fight for the Manchu Qing Empire although he was secretly aiding the Ming forces. His troops didn’t have enough to eat during the chaotic time, but the general calmly ordered them to cut down the thorny evergreen oak trees and plant them on the mudflat closely together. After the tide ebbed, the troops found plenty of yellow corbina caught between the thorny trees. Since then, General Im Gyeong-eop was worshipped as the god of yellow corbina fishing along the western shores. At the beginning of the year, fishermen would hold a shamanistic ritual for General Im and several other gods to pray for safe and bountiful yellow corbina fishing. One of the ritual songs sung during this ceremony is “Ssunggeo Taryeong쑹거타령.” Today, Chudahye Chagis sings “Eheori Ssunggeoya,” an arrangement of “Ssunggeo Taryeong.”
Eheori Ssunggeoya/ Sung by Chudahye Chagis
Fishing villages unfailingly held shaman ceremonies to wish for bountiful catches. Villagers prepared for the ceremony together and enjoyed it with singing and dancing. Not only the shaman priestess who was in charge of the ceremony, but also the fishermen and their families took part in it by singing fishing songs. Coming up next is “Bunggi붕기 Bountiful Catch Song.” Bunggi, also called ‘bongjuk봉죽,’ meaning a bamboo tree where a phoenix roosts, is a long bamboo pole with split ends which are decorated with multicolored flowers or flags. Its original use was signaling the size of one’s haul. If a boat was returning with a full load of fish, the fisherman would hoist up the bongjuk to deliver the good news to his family waiting on the shore. During the shamanistic ceremony, people would sing songs about rowing or catching fish with the bongjuk raised high. Such recreational activity was called bongjuknori봉죽노리.
Today we’ll listen to a song about throwing fish in the storage. Fishermen would hoist up the nets filled with fish and use baskets or other gears to put the fish in tanks while singing this song. The work itself is quite simple but demands much physical strength. But fishermen wouldn’t have minded such hard work because they would have been overjoyed to catch so many fish. Such delightful satisfaction is felt in the powerful song. Here’s Kim Yong-woo singing “Boongi Bountiful Catch Song.”
Boongi Bountiful Catch Song/ Sung by Kim Yong-woo
A person tends to think what he does is the hardest work there is. But this is very likely to have been true for the fishermen of the old. There wouldn’t have been sturdy boats like these days, no convenient equipment, and no reliable weather forecasts. When a fisherman went out to the sea on a tiny wooden boat, he would have prayed to the sea god that this trip wouldn’t be the last one for him. Realizing that human beings are vulnerable and helpless, people in the fishing villages would have relied heavily on invisible gods and the mysterious forces of shamanistic ceremonies and taboos. Families on land waiting for their fathers and husbands to return safely from the sea would have watched their words and actions lest their bad behaviors or thoughts should bring harm to their loved ones. So, just imagine how ecstatic they would have been to see the fishermen return with full boats. Just looking at the bongjuk raised high would have prompted villagers to play music and cheer the fishermen even before they landed. The song they sang at such time was “Baechigi Sori배치기 소리.” The song sings about fishing through Eoyeongdo어영도 and Chilsan칠산, both famous for yellow corbina fishing, and then sail to Yeonpyeongdo Island. It appears the writer of the song was determined to fish all the yellow corbina in the area. We’ll conclude this week’s episode with “Baechigi” sung by TAAL.
Baechigi/ Sung by TAAL