P'ansori | Artist Biographies

ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES (back to event page)


Bae Il-Dong

P’ansori (Korean Opera) Singer


Emerging during the mid Chosŏn era (1392-1910), P’ansori is a style of epic story singing performed by a vocalist and drummer (kosu). The vocalist narrates long dramatic tales through speech, song, and action, while the drummer accompanies the singer and gives calls of encouragement (ch’ŭimsae) such as ŏlssigu (right-on!) at the end of vocal phrases.

Bae Il Dong is highly regarded as one of Korea’s finest P'ansori singers. He has performed numerous concerts both internationally and within Korea and his extraordinary life story is featured in Emma Franz’s documentary feature Intangible Asset Number 82. Bae Il Dong's renowned interpretation of the epic song Shimch’ŏngga (The Song of the Filial Daughter) has recently been documented in a unique outdoor performance setting and  (featuring Kim Dong Won)released as a Super Audio CD in late 2010. His work as a contemporary improviser can be heard in his performances with the collaborative ensemble Daorum, and more recently in the work of Chiri. 

Traditionally, in order to master the various elements of P’ansori, singers would spend long periods (100 days) in isolation, singing into waterfalls in order to “break” the voice and reveal the “true” tone. Bae Il Dong, a performer steeped in the eastern school (tongp'yŏnje) of P’ansori, is one of the few contemporary singers to follow this harsh tradition. While still a student, he traveled to Mount Chiri on the southern end of the Sobaek Mountain Range and spent seven years living by a waterfall, practicing up to 18 hours a day in order to reveal his voices. One of the most powerful musical memories I have is listening to Bae Il Dong perform P'ansori on a waterfall at Chiri Mountain. Hearing Il Dong sing on the waterfall where he’d spent many years in isolation was an exhilarating experience that inspired the formation this collaborative ensemble.

In Emma Franz’s feature film Intangible Asset Number 82, Bae Il Dong recalls his time spent practicing on the waterfall at Mount Chiri: In Korea, we say that energy is very important. Yin is the valley, yang is the mountain, and the waterfall is where they meet. Being here one can draw on that energy. The first couple of years I would sleep only one or two hours a day and I still can’t understand how I did it. The best season for study was the winter because it is so cold your body becomes more tense and the environment demonstrates clearly that you are alone. I burst my eardrum because the waterfall is so loud, and because I was singing so hard. Traditionally, singers would practice in nature, in a wild and open place. They sang with a speaking voice. It is a very simple, soulful and inartistic way of singing, but it is also very difficult to sing like that. The notes and sounds are not refined, but have rough edges, and are even torn into pieces. P’ansori reveals the natural voice, naked and unpolished.



Kim Dong-Won

Korean Traditional Percussion & Vocal Improvisation


“Every pore of his being is devoted to expressing the deep emotion he feels for traditional Korean culture. Its philosophy, physicality and spirituality are organic to Dong-Won's art. It is an inspiration to make music with him.” – Yo-Yo Ma / Cellist, Artistic Director of Silk Road Project 

"His Drumming brought gasps from listeners" - Seattle Times  

Since 1984 Kim Dong-Won has learned various traditional percussion music, such as farmer's drumming and dance, shaman music, P'ansori accompany, and music theory.

In 1987, he was a political prisoner, sentenced for playing music at the funeral ceremony of Lee Seok-Gyu, who was killed by policemen in a pro-democracy protest against the Korean military dictatorship. From this experience, he thought more deeply about society and art. That was the turning point of his life; he began to study traditional music more profoundly as a search for the truest methods of communication.     

During his work for the Samulnori Hanullim Organization as director of Research & Education (1994-2004), he wrote teaching material about Korean traditional music, as well as children's books, e.g., "The Story of Samulnori" (a creative story about the origins of Samulnori). He has performed in Europe, the U.S.A., Japan, and many other countries, especially as a member of "The Silk Road Ensemble," led by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

He has been helped forge new possibilities for Korean music and performed with western classical, jazz, and international musicians. He wants to create new artistic languages with music from all over the world as it encounters traditional Korean music. He is a practitioner in 'Taepyongmu'(the 97th Korean "intangible cultural asset"). At present he is a visiting lecturer at the Basel Musik Akademie, Switzerland, and a professor at Wonkwang Digital University.



Jim Santi Owen

Percussionist , Music Director - San Francisco World Music Festival 


Jim Santi Owen is an American percussionist, educator, producer, composer and performer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Drumming since the age of eight, Owen began an intensive training in the North Indian percussion instrument, tabla, in 1991, studying under Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music, at the California Institute of the Arts, and in India.  In 1995, Owen began studying South Indian percussion instruments including mridangam, ghatamkanjira and morsing with master percussionist T.H. Subash Chandran, along with tavil taught by K. Sekar.  At Cal Arts, Owen studied Jazz with Charlie Haden, James Newton, and Tootie Heath in addition to African drumming and dance from the Ladzekpo Brothers. He also studies the art of accompaniment for the traditional Indian dance known as Kathak under master Pandit Chitresh Das.  Owen holds a Bachelor’s of Humanities from New College of California and a Master’s Degree in World Music from California Institute of the Arts.

Since 2009, Jim Santi Owen has served as the Music Director for the San Francisco World Music Festival and the Director of the Festival’s Youth World Music Orchestra.  In this capacity he has collaborated with artists ranging from epic storytelling shamans from Kyrgyzstan, to Native American tribal elders, to Tibetan Buddhist yoginis, to Korean opera artists, to Chinese Nanguan masters.  Owen works year-round with San Francisco World Music Festival researching and studying traditional music from around the world and facilitating inter-cultural musical collaborations between master musicians and their students from around the world.

Jim Santi Owen performs extensively with accomplished musicians from a myriad of cultural and musical backgrounds.  Owen has performed with his gurus, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Subash Chandran, and K.Sekar both in India and America.  Other internationally renowned artists with whom Owen has performed include:  Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, Nubian musician Hamza el Din, guitar innovator Stanley Jordan, Kathak dance master Pandit Chitresh Das, sarode master Alam Khan, Uzbeki percussionist Abbos Kosimov, Azeri kammancha master Imamyar Hasanov, sitar maestro Kartik Seshadri, renowned Persian vocalist Sharam Nazeri, drumset virtuoso Steve Smith, minimalist composer Terry Riley, Jazz saxophonist Joseph Jarman (Art Ensemble of Chicago), Israeli oud player Yair Dalal, tabla virtuoso Bikram Ghosh, kanjira exponent Ganesh Kumar, didgeridoo master Stephen Kent, devotional singer Jai Uttal, avant-garde pianist Myra Melford, Italian percussionist Alessandra Belloni, Tibetan artist Techung, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Burmese pot-waing player Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and bansuri flute exponent Steve Gorn.  Owen has appeared on numerous recordings in America and has recorded in India with ghatam maestro T.H. Vikku Vinayakram and kanjira wizard Selva Ganesh.

As an educator, Owen has extensive experience working with students ranging in age from pre-school to the post-graduate level and beyond. Trained and certified in an approach to children’s music and dance education known as Orff-Schulwerk, Owen has taught music to children in numerous schools throughout California.  Owen was a featured clinician at the 2002 AOSA (American Orff-Schulwerk Association) National Conference and the 2000 NCOSA (Northern California Orff-Schulwerk Association) mini-conference. He has been a guest clinician as an art specialist for youth, a director of a K-8 music program and a lead teacher with Cal Art’s Community Arts Partnership.  At the university level, Owen has been a guest instructor with the Experimental Performance Institute of New College of California and has taught at Cornish University, California State University, Sacramento, and Cal Arts.  Owen has twice been a featured performer and clinician at the Seattle World Rhythm Festival, California State University Sacramento’s Day of Percussion, and the Percussion Arts Society’s Day of Percussion.  He is currently on faculty at The Ali Akbar College of Music, The Jazz School, and Dominican University while maintaining a full schedule of teaching privately.