folk & world

Ahn Sook-Sun

A rare opportunity to see Korea’s traditional opera sung by the legendary pansori singer Ahn Sook-Sun.

‘If you listen to the finest work of pansori, you can feel your heart stop beating. Pansori isn’t just about singing – the word "sori" means "sound" in Korean. If you listen to pansori closely, even though the audience may not understand the language, they can feel the emotion of the pansori singer expressed through sound and human breath.’ (Ahn Sook-Sun)

There are five surviving stories within Korea’s pansori tradition and Heungbuga, the pansori performed at this concert, is the most humorous and immediately enjoyable, depicting the lives of ordinary people and their trials and tribulations.

Greedy, rich Nolbu has inherited his parents’ house and land and banished his poor but good-hearted brother Heungbu, leaving the brother with nothing but a large family to support. One day, Heungbu finds a swallow with a broken leg. He cares for the bird, who repays this kindness by bringing Heungbu a gourd seed to plant. When the seed bears fruit, it is full of treasure. Upon hearing of this, the unscrupulous Nolbu is overcome with jealousy and breaks the swallow's leg, hoping for his own reward. Nolbu receives a gourd seed too, but finds that it is full of goblins...

‘In pansori, the intimacy, the translation, the audience and the ambience are just as important as the music. When all that comes together, pansori really is one of the world’s great musical art forms.’ (Simon Broughton, Songlines)

Ahn Sook-Sun has sung the complete canon of five pansori pieces in their entirety. She has been performing and winning awards internationally for decades, and she was the pansori composer on the Korean production of Trojan Women that played two sold-out nights at Southbank Centre in June as part of LIFT. Ahn Sook-Sun is joined for this performance by Jun-Su Kim, who played the role of Helen in Trojan Women.

‘the Greek tragedy that became a queer Korean opera’
(The Guardian on Trojan Women)

Part of K-Music Festival 2018.

She commands the stage, makes people listen to her. It feels like a conversation at a dinner table

Dates & times

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Purcell Room


Booking fee: £3.50 (Members £0.00)


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Event information
This performance has English subtitles.

Related events
Joe Boyd Talks Pansori
Sat 3 Nov, 4.30pm; Queen Elizabeth Foyer; Free

Before Ahn Sook-Sun’s performance, record producer and writer Joe Boyd talks about why pansori is such an enthralling artform. ?In his words, ‘Pansori is as rich and earthy as flamenco or blues, with lyrics that are as poetic as either of those forms.’

Boyd has worked with artists including Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, REM, John Martyn and Olivia Chaney. His enthusiasm for Bulgarian singing is well known, but now K-Music 2018 is pleased to provide a platform for his love for pansori.