Monday, December 18, 2017
Last updated: 2 years ago

Modni empowers Korean-Canadians through Korean traditional drumming

"Modni" stems from the Korean term for “one who has everything.” Photo courtesy Fraser Valley Korean Arts Society.

“Modni” stems from the Korean term for “one who has everything.” Photo courtesy Fraser Valley Korean Arts Society.

The beginning of a new school year can be daunting, especially when arriving from another school, city or country. Meditations on cultural identities are topics at the forefront of many minds and people turn to various outlets in order to combat the stress of joining an entirely new culture.


Modni — a Vancouver Korean drumming project who performed at Jump Start — was created in July of this year by English language student Joon Rho to illustrate a cultural harmony for Korean-Canadians. “Modni” is derived from the Korean term meaning “one who has everything,” or “everyone.” Rho chose the name to focus on the broad perspective that can be obtained from exposure to multiple cultures, creating a natural co-blending of Korean and Canadian cultures.

“The reason I made this group as a Korean-Canadian outlet is that I don’t really identify with Korean culture, nor do I fully identify with Canadian culture,” said Rho, whose mother exposed him to a wide variety of musical activities from a young age in Abbotsford. The bridging of loyalty and commitment — highly important in a Korean culture — is contrasted with the more individualistic style of Canadian upbringings through the drumming group’s music.

“It’s a very emotional outlet in terms of the art itself,” he said. “At this point it’s very raw, almost to the point of being aggressive, especially my style of playing. The music is really an outpour of what you’re feeling at the time,” he said.

Leading the 10-strong group of drummers, Rho said that the music, although influenced by Western rhythms, is actually closer to the oldest tradition of Korean drumming.

“What we’re playing is the same as the very traditional, at the very original roots to Korean drumming,” he said. “They had no set rhythms, just played together, whatever they wanted.”

The rhythms used are irregular and stem from the mood felt in the room or stemming from the performance of others in the group. Improvisation practice is key to becoming closer as a team and only improves the more groups perform together.

“After the Jump Start performance the group had a little reflection time, just to see what people thought about the team and how it’s affected them so far,” Rho said. “The interesting thing was how everyone got something different out of it — we’re almost taking it into a new direction, having multiple perspectives within one small area of society.”

Modni isn’t just about the music, although they are available and keen to take bookings for events and will be playing at the upcoming Sauder Frosh event.

Rho sees the group as a bridge between the Korean and Canadian cultures. “I wanted to really help people to interact more with their community, become more involved, so that’s where we want to bridge that gap,” he said. “To do that, if we’re going to be the bridge between the two cultures, we need to be really grounded in our own identities, beliefs and ideals.”

Beginning as a simple musical outlet, Modni has grown into something greater. As Rho puts it, “why not make a bi-culture of our own?”