saeya saeya parang saeya (ssaa)

Catalog ID: S-471
Translation: birdie, birdie, dear blue birdie
First Line: saeya saeya, parang saeya
Composer: traditional, arranged by Hyun Kook
Voicing: ssaa
Accompaniment: a cappella
Language: korean
Country: Republic of Korea
Other: new 2023
Sound: No audio clip available


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This is one of Korea’s most prominent folksongs. Although heavily debated, the tune is thought to have its roots in the Donghak Peasant Revolution of 1894, just before the beginning of Japanese colonization. in the Jeollado province—then completely repressed by Chinese and Japanese troops.

The text is a referendum on bureaucratic despotism and exploitation, though the text varies by region. Parang—meaning “blue”— represents the military uniform of the Japanese army, while nokdu—meaning “mung beans”—implies the leader of the revolution, Bong Jun Jeon, who was referred to as “General Nokdu.” This revolution during the late Chosun dynasty of old Koreain in part became a catalyst that led to Japanese forced occupation.

Program Notes

Completed on April 25, 2018, Saeya saeya parang saeya was recorded by the Kammerchor Manila—directed by Anthony G. Villanueva— in June 2018 in Santo Tomas University Museum in Manila, Philippines. The conductor himself sang the solo for the recording which was included in the composer’s book of choral works named Festive Magnificat. It was premiered by the Wonju City Choir.

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