Korean mu­sic ven­tures out at Ye­owoorak Fes­ti­val

The Korea Times - - WEEKENDER - By Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

eowoorak Fes­ti­val, a pop­u­lar fes­ti­val ex­per­i­ment­ing with the pos­si­bil­i­ties of Korean mu­sic, re­turns to the Na­tional Theater of Korea on Nam­san Moun­tain from July 6-22.

The fes­ti­val’s ti­tle comes from an ab­bre­vi­a­tion of a Korean sen­tence “yeogi woori eu­magi itda,” mean­ing “here is our mu­sic.” Though “our mu­sic” refers to “gu­gak” (Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic), Ye­owoorak is open to all gen­res of mu­sic and en­cour­ages mu­si­cians from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to col­lab­o­rate.

Won Il, the Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic com­poser and con­duc­tor who serves as the fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor this year, said Ye­owoorak is now more than just a one-time event that in­spires Korean mu­si­cians to work with tal­ents from other gen­res.

“Ye­owoorak re­veals the cur­rent sta­tus of Korean mu­sic. It is not bor­ing or ob­vi­ous. This fes­ti­val is go­ing to be full of imag­i­na­tion,” Won said at a press con­fer­ence.

The artis­tic di­rec­tor, who is in his sec­ond year, said Ye­owoorak is be­com­ing a ma­jor event on the Korean mu­sic scene as it pro­vides unique op­por­tu­ni­ties and the con­cert spawns to other medi­ums such as the re­lease of live record­ings or the for­ma­tion of project groups.

“When I talked with mu­si­cian Ha­reem about his pro­gram on the phone, he said the only thing that sticks in his mind is that he has to cre­ate some­thing unique for Ye­owoorak Fes­ti­val,” Won said. “It is im­por­tant for an artis­tic di­rec­tor to set course for the fes­ti­val, but mak­ing pro­grams ex­clu­sive to Ye­owoorak is also im­por­tant. Artists also know the im­por­tance of this fes­ti­val and try to bring up ideas that can only be re­al­ized at Ye­owoorak.”

Cel­e­brat­ing its ninth year, the fes­ti­val’s novel at­tempts paid off through over 54,000 au­di­ence mem­bers who filled some 94 per­cent of the seats. It is dif­fi­cult to get tick­ets for pop­u­lar con­certs and some of this year’s con­certs are al­ready sold out as well.


The fes­ti­val con­sists of 11 performances and Won came up with three key words to cat­e­go­rize each per­for­mance — trust­wor­thy, new and ex­cit­ing.

Trust­wor­thy is for mas­ter per­form­ers who carry on tra­di­tion as skilled mu­si­cians.

“Hol­lim; Im­mer­sion” by Jang­dan DNA and Ahn Sang-soo will kick off the fes­ti­val on July 6-7. Jang­dan DNA is a “gut” (ex­or­cism) en­sem­ble founded for last year’s Ye­owoorak Fes­ti­val and they formed the group to con­tinue per­form­ing.

The open­ing con­cert is in­spired by King Se­jong, Joseon’s fourth king who in­vented the Korean al­pha­bet Hangeul. Based on the philoso­phies of heaven, earth and man; yin and yang; and the five el­e­ments of the uni­verse, the en­sem­ble will present the king’s view of the world through dy­namic vis­ual and sound.

Renowned ty­pog­ra­phy de­signer Ahn takes part as vis­ual di­rec­tor and pro­vides pro­jec­tions for the con­cert.

Mas­ter pan­sori singer Ahn Sook-sun will present “Ahn Sook-sun &Jieum (in­ti­mate friends who know her sound)” on July 13-14. This is go­ing to be an en­core of “Jieum,” one of her leg­endary stages orig­i­nally per­formed in 1994.

She joins hands with the mas­ter per­form­ers once again to bring back the sen­sa­tion, which is go­ing to be more pro­found as Ahn and her friends ripened over 24 years.

“Korean mu­sic tugs at the heart­strings and there is hu­mor within it. I am glad to per­form with these im­por­tant Korean mu­si­cians at Ye­owoorak,” Ahn Sook-sun said.

The Korean mu­sic project group Soloist En­sem­ble Sangsang, which was ac­tive in the early 2000s, reunites for Ye­owoorak at “Karma DMZ” on July 15.

Sangsang con­sists of three mu­si­cians — haegeum (fid­dle-like in­stru­ment) player Gang Eun-il, ge­o­mungo (six-string zither) player Heo Yoon-jeong and che­ol­hyeongeum (steel-stringed zither) player Yu Kyung-hwa — and they pur­sue improvisation with tra­di­tional in­stru­ments.

For this con­cert, Sangsang col­lab­o­rated with sound artist Kim Chang-hun to in­cor­po­rate sound col­lected from the Korean De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone (DMZ) with their mu­sic.

Sen­sa­tional Korean mu­sic en­sem­ble Baram­got will also re­unite af­ter six years to present “Bari Si­nawi” on July 21-22 as the clos­ing event of the fes­ti­val.

Baram­got is known for their unique way of com­pos­ing mu­sic, led by play­ers, not com­posers. Si­nawi is a type of col­lec­tive improvisation de­rived from the mu­sic of Korean shamanic rites and Baram­got paved the way for mod­ern­iz­ing the genre through “Bari Si­nawi.”

In ad­di­tion to their hit reper­toire, Baram­got will re­veal two world pre­miere pieces at Ye­owoorak.


Mu­si­cian Lee A-ram, daegeum (bam­boo flute) player and mu­sic di­rec­tor of this year’s Ye­owoorak Fes­ti­val, will rein­ter­pret Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic at “Af­ter Sanjo” on July 10.

Lee col­lab­o­rates with seven soloists from ajaeng (seven-stringed bowed zither) player Cho Soung-jae and Korean tra­di­tional per­cus­sion­ist Hwang Min-wang to elec­tronic mu­si­cian Park Se­ung-won and ac­cor­dion­ist Park Hye-ri, break­ing down bound­aries be­tween con­ven­tional mu­sic gen­res.

Based on “sanjo” (Korean tra­di­tional in­stru­men­tal solo mu­sic) style, Lee ex­plores the mu­sic’s orig­i­nal­ity and adds a mod­ern twist.

Renowned world mu­sic group Jam­bi­nai will present “”Ex­ists Ev­ery­where but Be­longs Nowhere” on July 11, un­veil­ing new songs for their up­com­ing al­bum.

The post-rock in­die band com­bines Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic with rock, con­jur­ing up a unique style to the band. Re­cently, the band per­formed “Time of Ex­tinc­tion” at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the 2018 PyeongChang Win­ter Olympics.

Com­poser Texu Kim joins hands with con­duc­tor Choi Soo-yeoul for “So­rigil Be­gins” con­cert on July 17.

This is go­ing to be the first in Kim’s “So­rigil” se­ries, in which the com­poser will play vari­a­tions of Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic based on al­go­rithms dis­cov­ered by Kim.

Amer­i­can ex­per­i­men­tal mu­si­cian Jen Shyu, Aus­tralian drum­mer Si­mon Barker and Korean daegeum player Cha Se­ung-min will present “Nine Doors” on July 18.

Shyu and Barker are in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians who learned Korean mu­sic and in­ter­pret it in their own way. “Nine Doors” comes from Shyu’s reper­toire, but she added Cha for this fes­ti­val, adding more di­ver­sity.


Eth­nic fu­sion band the Sec­ond Moon will present “Pal­doyu­ram” with sorikkun (Korean tra­di­tional singer) Song So-hee on July 7-8.

The Sec­ond Moon and Song re­leased an al­bum “Mod­ern Korean Folk Songs” ear­lier this year, in­ter­pret­ing Korean folk songs from Gyeonggi re­gion in a con­tem­po­rary way.

At the con­cert, the band will per­form newly ar­ranged folk songs from other re­gions and a new piece in­spired by “Daech­wita” (Mil­i­tary Band Mu­sic).

Korean tra­di­tional per­form­ing arts group Uhee and the nine-mem­ber ska band Kingston Rud­ieska will present “UHEE SKA” on July 20.

Ska mu­sic and Korean tra­di­tional mu­sic seem poles apart, but the two groups worked on an elated col­lab­o­ra­tion. The high­light will be the Boat­ing Song, ar­ranged by Kingston Rud­ieska and per­formed on Uhee’s sig­na­ture “menar­i­tori” scale, which is of­ten used in east­ern Korea.

Last but not least, singer-song­writer Ha­reem chal­lenges the most fa­mil­iar Korean folk song — “Ari­rang.”

At the “Ari­rang, Song of Joy and Sor­row” by Ha­reem and the Blue Camel En­sem­ble on July 21, the mu­si­cians play Korean folk songs and mod­ern pop songs as well as mu­sic from the Mid­dle East, cen­tral Asia and the Balkan Penin­sula with ex­otic in­stru­ments.

Tick­ets cost 30,000 won. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call 02-2280-4114.

Korean tra­di­tional per­form­ing arts group Uhee and the nine-mem­ber ska band Kingston Rud­ieska will present “UHEE SKA” on July 20.

Korean mu­sic en­sem­ble Baram­got will re­unite af­ter six years to present “Bari Si­nawi” on July 21-22 as the clos­ing event of the fes­ti­val.

Aus­tralian drum­mer Si­mon Barker

Amer­i­can ex­per­i­men­tal mu­si­cian Jen Shyu

Korean daegeum player Cha Se­ung-min

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