Also:       kwenggari      kkwaengma      soe      sogum      

Title: demo: kkwaenggwari. Format: DAT.

Contextual Associations

The kkwaenggwari is a Korean gong idiophone. Used in nongak, or farmers' music (see ‘Nongak and Samullori Ensembles from Korea’), it is performed by the group leader to produce elaborate rhythms. While doing so, the kkwaenggwari player often wears a plumed hat that is used both to signal and to emphasis his movements as he dances in front of the ensemble. The kkwaenggwari also assumes a prominent leading role in the modern style known as samullori, which uses musical elements from nongak and combines them into pieces performed in concert settings that have become immensely popular both in Korea and internationally. The kkwaenggwari was also used in ancient times in the ensemble used to accompany dance at the Rite to Royal Ancestors; in this context it was called sogum and symbolically associated in the Confucian thought of the period with autumn, the color white, and the direction of west (Howard 1995, p. 60).


A small, boss-less or flat gong, the kkwaenggwari is made of forged brass. The gong has a shallow lip/rim (tulle) into which is drilled two holes for a rope handle (see detail photo).  A wooden stick beater with an unpadded disc head is used to strike the gong.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The performer holds the gong by its turned back rim with the thumb and fingers of the left hand (the rope is draped over the left wrist as a safety precaution), the beater is held in the right hand. The kkwaenggwari (an onomatopoeia) is struck energetically in the center of its face, and because the disc headed beater used to strike it is unpadded, a bright, penetrating sound rich in overtones is produced. Often two kkwaenggwari will be found in a nongak group, in which case the one taking on the lead role (sangsoe) is slightly higher-pitched and brighter than the second one (pusoe). Two basic timbres are produced: kkaeng, which is un-damped, loud, and ringing; and maek, which is a damped sound achieved by placing some of the fingertips of the left hand against the back side of the gong face while striking it, which eliminates most of the overtones and produces a softer, more staccato articulation. Distinct rhythmic patterns called sibi ch’a are repeated and sequenced on this instrument in nongak performances.


The earliest mention of the kkwaenggwari (under the name sogum) is in a late 15th century treatise, where it is reported as being used as a signal instrument in a royal ensemble. Although mention of folk bands appear in Chinese and Korean literatures from even before that date, the kkwaenggwari and other instruments are not mentioned or described in detail. As is so often the case, the socially elite individuals possessing the power to write and chronicle did not always concern themselves with, or possibly even know about, peasant culture and its musical facet.

Bibliographic Citations

Hesselink, Nathan. 2006. P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Howard, Keith. 1995. Korean Musical Instruments. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

________. 2002. "Contemporary Genres." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 951-977.

________. 2002. "Nongak (P’ungmul Nori." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 929-940.

Provine, Robert C. 1984. “Kkwaenggwari.” NGDMI v.2: 443.

Song, Kyong-rin. 1973. “Korean Musical Instruments.” In Survey of Korean Arts: Traditional Music. Seoul: National Academy of Arts, pp. 28-76.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: South Korea

Formation: Korean

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.241.11 idiophone--bossed percussion vessel gong, flat gong (with flange), and intermediate types

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: plate - contoured with folded-over rim

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - stick with hard ball end

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


7.5 in. diameter

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin