Korean bamboo flute

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

It is only on a particularly quiet night that my father will pick up his daegeum and play. I would never be able to mistake its distinctive sound: the soothing low notes, the piercing high notes, the almost eerily beautiful musical quality. The daegeum is a large bamboo flute used in traditional Korean music and dates back to the era of the Unified Silla, an ancient Korean country in 668-935. It requires a set of difficult techniques to even produce a sound, let alone perfect it. My father relishes in being able to play this unique instrument, although if asked, he would insist that he has lost his knack for it.
My parents immigrated from South Korea to the United States in 1992. Like many with a similar story, he has had to make a countless number of sacrifices. He works six days a week, leaving Sunday for church. He gets to see most of his relatives annually, at best. He still sleeps late some nights studying English. However, the daegeum has been with him both in Korea and America. Its aging bamboo wood has been caressed by my father's hands longer than I have been alive. He no longer performs, but I continue to catch him in the living room with the daegeum firmly in his hands and pressed against his lips, his silhouette somehow solemn in the dim moonlight. As his American-born daughter, I can only watch in awe and fumble with the instrument out of curiosity. He will always harness the sound of ancient Korea, one I will never fully understand but continue to appreciate. 

Place(s): Korea

– Christine Kim

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant