One of the signs of growing old is gray hair. At first, one tries to pluck out graying hair one by one with tweezers, but it soon becomes difficult to deal with all the graying hair. That is when people start coloring their hair to hide the gray hair and look younger. There is a Korean song entitled “Song of Gray Hair,” describing the sadness of seeing one’s hair turn gray and the futility of trying to avoid death. But the song tries to console people as well by mentioning the great figures from ancient China to show that no matter how great you are, everyone grows old and dies eventually. The best way to overcome the fear of aging and death, according to the song, is to travel the world and live your life to the fullest. Here’s pansori master Jang Woljungseon장월중선 singing “Song of Gray Hair” while playing the gayageum.
Song of Gray Hair/ Sung with gayageum by Jang Woljungseon
It is natural for people to have regrets as they age. One might regret not having studied harder or not having more fun or not having enjoyed life more. It’s funny how nobody ever thinks that they should have worked harder. Understandably, old people do not want young people to make the same mistakes they did, so they tend to give them advice, but sadly young people these days don’t want to listen to unsolicited advice and call such advice givers ‘kkondae꼰대’ which means a condescending old person.
Coming up next is Gyeonggi folksong “Cheongchunga청춘가,” or “Song of Youth,” which tells young people not to be too proud of their youth for they will grow old in no time. But the original words to this song went like the following.
I became a widow at a young age. Nobody can fathom my sorrow.
Take me, please take me with you. Oh, husband, please take me to Hanyang.
Isn’t it absurd that a sad song about a young widow who wants to meet a new love was turned into a song that admonishes the young to appreciate youth? Serious-minded people of the old must have changed the lyrics to teach the young what they considered life’s wisdom. Let’s listen to today’s youth singing their take on this glorious time. Here’s fusion gugak band SingSing performing “Song of Youth.”
Song of Youth/ Sung by SingSing
One of the perks of being young is that you have all the possibilities before you. But it is also one of the sad downsides of youth to see these possibilities go to waste one by one. There is a famous saying that goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Aged people know how precious and wonderful youth is while the young don’t seem to appreciate it and only see the difficulties that follow youth. Today’s last song is the modern version of “Song of Youth,” which tells the pains of the young generation.
I have no money and I can’t find a job and everything I do ends up in failure.
Old sages said, “You can do it,” but it is so lame that it makes even dogs laugh.
Is this youth, the youth that makes your heart thump just by hearing its name?
But those of us who have lived long years would undoubtedly say even the most painful time is bearable just because you are young. Let’s wrap up this week’s episode of Sounds of Korea with Kim Young-woo and Jang Myeong-seo singing “Song of Youth.”
Song of Youth/ Sung by Kim Young-woo and Jang Myeong-seo