Healing Rhythms: The World of South Korea's East Coast Hereditary Shamans: 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Healing Rhythms: The World of South Korea's East Coast Hereditary Shamans

1st Edition

By Simon Mills


134 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780754658450
pub: 2007-09-28
SAVE ~$33.00
Currently out of stock
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315253589
pub: 2017-03-02
from $28.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


Still today, in South Korea, many people pay for the services of mudang - the intermediaries of Korea's syncretic folk religion. The majority of mudang are called to the profession by gods; their clients are individuals or small groups and they focus on the use of spirit-power ('possession') for diagnosis and problem-solving. There is, however, a tiny minority of mudang who are born or adopted into the ritual life and who have no spirit-power. These ritualists perform in large family groups, conducting rituals for whole communities. They focus far more on the use of music, dance, and song to provide healing experiences. In this book, Simon Mills provides an in-depth analysis of the East Coast hereditary mudang institution and its rhythm-oriented music, focusing particularly on the Kim family of mudang - the government-appointed 'cultural assets' for the genre. It is the first English language book to study this tradition in any depth, using materials from fieldwork (1999-2000) alongside interviews with two key family members, Kim Junghee and Jo Jonghun. Throughout, Mills includes numerous quotes from the ritualists themselves to help reveal their characters, opinions and beliefs. He documents the family's history, the decline of the hereditary mudang institution and its kinship customs, and the family's changing relations towards 'outsiders'. Mills also details ritual procedures, musical structures, playing techniques, instruments, and learning methods both of the past and present; as non-ritual musicians become increasingly aware of the powerful ritual rhythms, the music is finding new life in non-ritual settings. A 5-track CD featuring Kim, Jo, and Mills accompanies the book, each track corresponding to the equivalent chapter in the text.


’… an important addition to the growing body of work in English on Korean Shamanism, contemporary traditional culture, and ritual music.’ Journal of Folklore Research ’The recordings on the CD are fantastic, and could easily have been brought out as an album on their own…’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies ’… wonderful…’ Acta Koreana ’The nature of some parts of the book may make them of interest mainly to specialists, but the rest is easily accessible to anybody interested in shamanism and folk religion and therefore eminently useful to comparative religionists.’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society ’For the field of ethnomusicology in general, and Korean musicology more centrally, this book heralds the successful synthesis of the study of culture with musical analysis. Mentors’ voices are seamlessly woven into the narrative as a kind of counterpoint to Mills’ own voice and presence, creating the overall effect of an extended conversation between intimate friends. This deep care and respect on Mills’ part is further felt in his balanced and sympathetic account of this Korean belief system and those who embrace it. I have long waited to read about the inner workings of the east coast hereditary shamans, and in this work I have been both satisfied and deeply impressed.’ Ethnomusicology Forum

Table of Contents

Contents: Turonggaengi - Who are the East Coast hereditary mudang?; P'unori - Musical practice in ritual; 'Chiokka / Hell song' - The afterlife, gods, ghosts, and belief; Samojang - Learning ritual music; Otch'ongbae - From the past into the future; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Simon Mills has worked with East Coast hereditary mudang since 1999. He is a teacher of Korean percussion music and occasional lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK.

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / History & Criticism