Jon Lusk offers a taster of some of the rare musical delights in store for audiences at the upcoming annual Korean music festival in London
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K-Music, London’s remarkably broad-ranging festival of Korean music, returns for the third time this autumn and will feature some familiar artists who have previously performed at the event. These include the cutting-edge young band Jambinai, who have recently released a new album, A Hermitage (reviewed in #119), and who combine blasting guitars with the sounds of traditional instruments.
The returning National Gugak Center are sure to deliver great musical and visual variety, with ravishing costumes in pastel shades of Korea’s distinctive colour palette, if last year’s entrancing Sadler’s Wells performance is anything to go by. This year their Kings Place show will contrast Korean and Western wind instruments.
One unique band making their London debut with six free shows at the British Museum are Jeong Ga Ak Hoe, whose wild and wonderful take on the pansori tradition underlines the pervading influence of shamanism on Korean music, and showcases traditional instruments such as haegeum (fiddle), piri (oboe), geomungo (zither), daegeum (flute), yanggeum (dulcimer) and the bizarre saenghwang (free reed mouth organ). Their shows will feature the folk songs and ritualistic music of North Korea before jingoistic propaganda-powered ditties became its totalitarian state soundtrack.
Aside from catering to roots music fans, K-Music 2016 will also feature shows for rockers and electronica lovers (with visceral performances by the likes of Idiotape and Patients, Asian Chairshot, plus Danpyunsun and The Sailors), modern dance aficionados and even jazz buffs, in shows by the golden-voiced diva Youn Sun Nah and Bristol-based saxophonist Andy Sheppard, who will be collaborating with gayageum player Kyungso Park (pictured above); her melodic style is accessible and rich in rhythm. Under her gentle touch, the gayageum could almost be another instrument, like the Japanese koto or China’s guzheng. As with so much Korean music, Park’s often has plenty of space that another player could inhabit, so it’ll be fascinating to see how Sheppard does that.
Of their onstage collaboration, Sheppard says: “I’ve always felt music is an international language with no borders and I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by musics outside my supposed sphere of activity – collaborating and discovering new musical worlds has always seemed completely normal to me, as communication is at the very heart of any musical experience. When the possibility of playing with Kyungso was suggested to me, I was immediately up for it and intrigued and then inspired by listening to some of her recordings. There is a wonderful sensitivity in the music/sound/melody/form/ improvisation that I find easy to relate to. In the period leading up to our meeting I will study and prepare ideas and find a way into the sound world of the gayageum but I want to remain open so we can discover the music together in real time – you never know where your music will take you (in all senses). I have very fond memories of my last trip to Seoul (with Carla Bley) a few years ago. Through this meeting with Kyungso, maybe I will get to go again, maybe we will play more concerts, maybe we will record – the music will tell the story… That’s the beautiful thing.”
+ DATES The K-Music Festival runs from September 15-October 25. Kyungso Park & Andy Sheppard will perform at the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall on October 11
+ ONLINE www.serious.org.uk/k-music