Sangjaru is one of Korea’s most exciting folk fusions bands, combining the dynamism of Korean folk and traditional music with the catchy rhythms of gypsy swing and improvisation to create “all new Korean modern music”. The ensemble includes Jo Seongyun on guitar; Gwon Hyochang on janggu (hourglass drum); and Nam Seonghun on ajaeng (bowed zither), all three of whom appear on stage in elaborate white fluffy headgear.

The name Sangjaru means “the sack in the box” in Korean, and signifies the band’s desire to inject new creativity within the framework of Korean traditional music: while a box has a fixed shape, the sack is fluid and its form changes according to its contents.

After developing an interest in various Korean traditions, the musicians discovered that what is universally regarded as “traditional” is, in many cases, not genuine tradition at all. They also found that there are categories that fall outside what is considered to be tradition, which are actually the traditions of specific communities. The three kept pondering this existential issue, but came to no resolution. Then, they read Paulo Coehlo’s book The Pilgrimage, which proved to be a revelation. In 2018, the three members of Sangjaru followed in Coelho’s footsteps and walked the Camino de Santiago, Spain’s pilgrimage trail, to seek answers.  A year later, the band produced a documentary that records their actual journey and its soundscapes.