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Watch: TikToker plays BTS, Ive and anime songs with traditional Korean instrument

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Meet Yageum Yageum, a Korean content creator bridging the gap between traditional and modern music.

About the artist: Yageum Yageum, whose real name is Oh Hyun-ji, is a musician who has a following of over 313,000 on YouTube and 697,000 on TikTok. She plays the gayageum, a traditional Korean string instrument similar to zithers.

Oh creates covers of contemporary Asian pop songs, including those from K-pop groups BTS and Ive, as well as anime opening tracks (among them “Idol” by Japanese duo Yoasobi from the anime “Oshi no Ko”).

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How she does it: Speaking to the Korea Times, Oh shared that she usually uses the 25-string version of the gayageum, though she sometimes opts for the 12-string type, which is used by many hobbyists. Occasionally, she incorporates both versions for a single cover when there are shifts in tones, like what she did with "Idol."

“’Idol' is a track with numerous modulations, which isn’t common,” she said. “I wondered how to adapt this complexity to the gayageum and decided to use two instruments together, effectively creating a 37-string ensemble. However, a real 37-string gayageum doesn't actually exist.”

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Taking the stage: Oh performed with several K-pop stars — including Ateez and Boynextdoor — at the Korea On Stage concert at the OVO Arena in Wembley, U.K., on Nov. 8, 2023. She performed a medley of popular K-pop songs at the concert, including BTS’ “Boy with Luv,” Fifty Fifty’s “Cupid,” New Jeans’ “Super Shy” and Ive's “I Am.”

Despite the younger generation showing less interest in traditional Korean music, Oh believes that by continuing what she is doing, she can help bridge the gap between traditional and modern pop music.

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