the broken jangu

Posted: December 19, 2011 in stories, The Way People Behave

Jason started taking classes to learn to play the jangu drum.

He was not very rhythmic, and he didn’t speak Korean, but he was fascinated with the jangu drum.

He picked up the sticks and he bopped the drum heads and the teacher told him to stop.

by ~FlutterbyKeir http://www.deviantart.com

He was holding the sticks incorrectly, his posture was erect when it should have aloof, and he played too heavily.

He didn’t understand. He had memorized the beats. What was wrong?

The teacher tried to say, “Be like the lying tiger. Breathe into your center and stare at your instrument impassively.” But Jason didn’t understand.

The teacher tried to say, “Be like the eagle. Spread your wings and fly by flapping back and forth.” But Jason didn’t understand.

The teacher tried to say, “Be like the mosquito. Perch on skin without being noticed and stick in your beat suddenly, and then buzz away.” But Jason didn’t understand, and by the teacher’s hand movements, he thought she was trying to tell him a mosquito had landed on him. He tried to swat around his face and she stopped him, laughed, and shook her head.

She found the pictures on her smartphone. “Like this,” she said in English. “Watch me,” she continued. She played. Jason watched. He tried to imitate his teacher, and still he failed. He asked her, “Can I borrow a practice drum?” He motioned the taking of a drum.

His teacher shook her head, not because she wouldn’t have, just because the jangu drum is too loud to practice in an apartment. Jason’s apartment was very small.

Jason felt embarrassed for asking and his face drooped. He went to the corner where there was a jangu drum broken on both sides. He brought it to the teacher and showed her some money. “Uhl moayo?”: “How much is it?”

She pushed the drum towards him with his money. “Suh-vissuh”: “You can have it.”

She told him that he was the drum. He was broken for now, but if he worked on it, he could become better. Jason didn’t understand.

“Ken-cheniyo”, said the teacher: “It’s okay.”

Jason took the jangu drum and went on his way home. He went to the paint store and found some chestnut-tinted stain. He treated the body of the drum in the park, and when it was dried, he looked at his accomplishment. He breathed into his center and out again, looking impassively at the drum. He was the lying tiger!

He then went to the hardware store, bought some strong rope and returned to the park. He looked at the old knot on the drum. He taught himself how to tie the jangu knot. Once he had replaced the old rope, he took his sticks in his hands and sat before the drum. He was now pretending to drum. He stopped when he noticed that he was drumming in the way a bird slowly flaps its wings in its majestic flight. He was the eagle!

He then went to the music shop and bought two new skins. He took them to the park and put them on each end of the drum. It was now time to play. He played subtly and gracefully. He brought the sticks to the skins delicately and then quickly made his beat. He was the mosquito!

Jason was so proud of himself that he did not return home. He ran to the music school. He showed his teacher the drum and she said, “Is it new?”

Jason understood. “Aniyo”: “No.” It was the one she had given him. It was beautiful. He sat down and played for her.

The teacher could not believe it. From then on, Jason was a valued member of the music school.

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