Arirang, lyrical folk song in the Republic of Korea
Arirang is a popular form of Korean folk song and the outcome of collective contributions made by ordinary Koreans throughout generations. Essentially a simple song, it consists of the refrain ‘Arirang, arirang, arariyo’ and two simple lines, which differ from region to region. While dealing with diverse universal themes, the simple musical and literary composition invites improvisation, imitation and singing in unison, encouraging its acceptance by different musical genres. Experts estimate the total number of folk songs carrying the title ‘Arirang’ at some 3,600 variations belonging to about sixty versions. A great virtue of Arirang is its respect for human creativity, freedom of expression and empathy. Everyone can create new lyrics, adding to the song’s regional, historical and genre variations, and cultural diversity. Arirang is universally sung and enjoyed by the Korean nation. At the same time, an array of practitioners of regional versions, including local communities, private groups and individuals, actively lead efforts for its popularization and transmission, highlighting the general and local characteristics of individual versions. Arirang is also a popular subject and motif in diverse arts and media, including cinema, musicals, drama, dance and literature.
"Arirang" (Korean: "아리랑") is a Korean folk song, often considered the unofficial national anthem of Korea.
Many versions of the song open by describing the travails the subject of the song encounters while crossing a mountain pass. "Arirang" is one name for the pass and hence the title of the song. Some versions of "Arirang" mention Mungyeong Saejae, which is the main mountain pass on the ancient Joseon Dynasty road between Seoul and southeastern Gyeongsang Province.
There are apparently a number of passes in Korea called "Arirang Pass". One such is a pass among some hills in central-northeastern Seoul. That Arirang Pass, however, was originally called Jeongneung Pass and was only renamed in 1926, to commemorate the release of the filmArirang. Older versions of the song long predate the movie.
Arirang Pass (아리랑 고개) is an imaginary rendezvous of lovers in the land of dreams, although there is a real mountain pass, called, "Arirang Gogae," outside the Small East Gate of Seoul. The heroine of the story from which the Arirang Song originated was a fair maid of Miryang. In fact, she was a modest woman killed by an unrequited lover. But as time went on, the tragic story changed to that of an unrequited lady-love who complained of her unfeeling lover. The tune is sweet and appealing. The story is recounted in "Miss Arirang" in Folk Tales of Old Korea (Korean Cultural Series, Vol. VI).
Many variations of the song exist. They can be grouped into classes based on the lyrics, when the refrain is sung, the nature of the refrain, the overall melody, and so on. Titles of different versions of the song are usually prefixed by their place of origin or some other kind of signifier.
The original form of Arirang is Jeongseon Arirang, which has been sung for more than 600 years. However the most famous version of Arirang is that of Seoul. It is the so-called Bonjo Arirang, although it is not actually "standard" (bonjo: 본조; 本調). This version is usually simply calledArirang, and is of relatively recent origin. It was first made popular by its use as the theme song of the influential early feature film Arirang (1926). This version of the song is also called Sin Arirang (Shin; "new") or Gyeonggi Arirang, after its provenance, Seoul, which was formerly part ofGyeonggi Province. (The titles Bonjo Arirang and Sin Arirang are also sometimes applied to other versions of the song.)
Particularly famous folk versions of Arirang—all of which long predate the standard version—include:
The table below gives the refrain (first two lines; the refrain precedes the first verse) and first verse (third and fourth lines) of the standard version of the song in Hangul, romanizedKorean, and a literal English translation:
In all versions of the song, the refrain and each verse are of equal length. In some versions, such as the standard version and Jindo Arirang, the first refrain precedes the first verse, while in other versions, including Miryang Arirang, the first refrain follows the first verse. Perhaps the easiest way to classify versions—apart from melody, which can vary widely between different versions—is the lyrics of the refrain. In the standard and some other versions, the first line of the refrain is "Arirang, Arirang, arariyo...," while in both the Jindo Arirang and Miryang Arirang (which are otherwise quite different from each other), the first line of the refrain begins with "Ari arirang, seuri seurirang...." ("Arariyo" and "seurirang"
Bird Pass or "Saejae" is the summit of a high mountain, rising north of Moonkyung in the ancient highway, linking Seoul with Miryang and Tongnae (Pusan). Its sky-kissing heights are so rugged that in their eyes. This is a love song of a dancing girl from Miryang who was left behind by her lover from Seoul (Hanyang). She is calling him to take her with him to Hanyang. She believed that her own beauty was above all flowers in Hanyang. The words in the first line of the chorus are sounds of bitter sorrow at parting. This song was composed by Kim Dong Jin.
Honey sweet to you and me would be our love so true.
Come to me! Come to me! Come and join me!
In a castor and camellia garden we'll meet, my love!
The highland maids would like to make up their hair with castor and camellia oils and go flirting instead working in the soybean fields. The mountain grape moroo and banana-shaped darae were precious foods to mountain folk. The song is sarcastic, but emotional to comfort the fair solitary reapers who go about gathering the wild fruits in the deep mountains of Kangwon-do.
The South Korean government designated Arirang as the official march of the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division since 26 May 1956, after its service in Korea during the Korean War, though the official Division song was the "New Arirang March," an American-style march arrangement of Arirang (the 7th Infantry Division is currently inactive; however, it will be reactivated as an administrative headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington on October 1, 2012 to provide more oversight and guidance for the base’s five combat brigades.
On February 26, 2008, the New York Philharmonic performed Arirang for an encore during its unprecedented trip to North Korea.[14