Coming together: Discover a music and dance concert that unites Indo-Korean traditions

‘Same same but different’ - the phrase is not the most original, having been used variously as Thailand’s tourist catchphrase, a film title for a German love story, and even featuring in the lyrics of a song from Bollywood flick Bombay To Bangkok.

Now it pops up again, and fittingly so, as the title of a unique Indo-Korean collaboration that brings together and showcases music and dance traditions from both countries.

Same Same But Different (SSBD) is a concert series produced by Korean New Wave Music Group Noreum Machi since 2013, to introduce its international collaborations with artistes around the globe.

This concert features world-renowned Contemporary dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, a pioneer of modern dance in India and Trayam, an ensemble of three critically acclaimed Indian musicians featuring percussionist BC Manjunath, singer and flautist Varijashree Venugopal and percussionist, composer and music director, Praveen D. Rao.

Together with Noreum Machi, these artistes perform in harmony to present an experimental and eclectic soundscape that merges traditional Korean sounds with Classical Indian music, complemented with the stillness and flow of contemporary dance.

In its fifth iteration, SSBD makes its exciting Indian debut across four cities - Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. It is an exciting time for the legendary Deboo as well, who tells FPJ about his involvement with SSBD. “In 2015 I was in Korea working with a Korean theatre director on Hamlet.

Then when the concept for SSBD came about in 2017, the Indo-Korean cultural centre in Chennai, Director Rati Jaffer asked me if I would be interested in working on this project.”

Deboo met with the head of the group, Noreum Machi and even suggested the work of his drummers. While that didn’t work out, as they already had another Indian musician in mind, Deboo himself was warmly invited on board as a solo artist.

How challenging was it, creating this Indo-Korean fusion? He’s quick to point out, “Just because two cultures have come together, it doesn’t become fusion.

The word fusion has become passe. The terminality is music, with dances added on. Collaboration does come with its share of teething problems and grey areas which need to be sorted out. It is part of the process, and looking at the response, I think it has worked very well.”

Deboo is involved in three specific musical compositions. The first one is about Surrender – about surrendering to the Almighty – performed with the Carnatic musicians; something he is fairly familiar with.

The second piece, he informs, was more of a challenge: “It is a work that I chose to create and it wasn’t part of the original picture by the head of Noreum Machi. In Seoul I had just one Korean musician who plays a string instrument; when they came here I added another flute instrument, and I had to explain to them what I was looking for from their sound.”

This piece embodies the present situation of depression, the tumultuous political scene. “These are just thoughts; you don’t really see them when I perform but you can feel the feeling of what I am expressing with the help of the music which is being played.”

The last piece has all the musicians uniting to play an entire ensemble. “The theme is about coming together,” he smiles. Indeed something we need more of, the world over.

InKo Centre, The Korea Foundation, Arts Council Korea, Royal Opera House, Mumbai and Avid Learning presented Same Same But Different on February 21, 2020