London’s Festival of Korean Music 2017: Full Programme

K-Music is back this autumn with a stunning programme of music from Korea, reflecting the country’s ancient traditional culture and its highly innovative and dynamic music scene – one that draws on the past, explores the borders of tradition and modernity and intertwines old and new.

Produced by the Korean Cultural Centre UK and Serious, the festival has commissioned some exciting new collaborations with international artists this year, opening with Black String & Kathryn Tickell at the Union Chapel on 15 September. At the Vortex, taegum player (bamboo flute), Hyelim Kim, performs with exciting rising star, Alice Zawadzki and composer/musician, Woojae Park, is joined by Japanese drummer Shogo Yoshii and British Indian composer Soumik Datta for a special one-off concert at Rich Mix.

Harmonica player, Jeduk Jeon, who has been blind since birth, performs in the UK for the first time with guitarist Juwon Park’s band at Pizza Express; AUX present their theatrical pansori-rock at Rich Mix and Kingston Rudieska, bring ska with a Korean twist to the Borderline. The extraordinary singer Heemoon Lee and band Prelude will perform Korean Man – a highly visual and funny look at male/female roles today – at the Royal Albert Hall (Elgar Room).

Korean Sounds presents a concert of East and West at Kings Place: looking at traditional Pansori (storytelling) and at classical Western opera. The festival closes at the same venue on 25 October with one of Korea’s most creative artists, Jiha Park, formerly of [su:m], performing her beautiful and spellbinding composition, Communion.


Friday 15 September
Union Chapel, Islington
Black String explore the deep bass-like sound of the geomungo (zither) with janggu (drum) and electric jazz guitar to create mesmerizing music, as reflected in their recent album ‘Mask Dance’ (ACT Records). Led by Yoon-Yeong Hoo, they perform ancient Korean music within a modern, experimental setting, as she describes it: “traditional Korean music is very complicated, varied and dynamic. We have very strong rhythms and people are surprised when they hear our music can be as powerful as rock”. Joined by Kathryn Tickell, who is widely acclaimed as the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes and whose work is deeply rooted in the landscape of the North East, this promises to be a wonderful and fascinating collaboration.

Sunday 24 September
Royal Albert Hall (Elgar Room)
Seven Korean men created a show for the National Theatre of Korea and now it tours the world! This show, Korean Man, is led by extraordinary singer Heemoon Lee and features the jazz group, Prelude. Visually outstanding, it takes a hilarious look at male/female roles today, blending Korean folk music and jazz.

Wednesday 27 September
Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho
Harmonica legend Jeduk Jeon is one of the great figures of Korean music today. Blind since birth, he’s been compared to Toots Thielemans for his formidably virtuosic style. Guitarist, Juwon Park’s band has been influenced by flamenco and gypsy jazz, but their range goes even wider. Expect a soulful celebration from this special collaboration.

Monday 2 October
Vortex, Dalston
Hyelim Kim, a superb taegum (bamboo flute) player, has played with Nils Frahm and Lubomyr Melnyk, literally breathing new life into Korean traditional music, and she has reached out to singer Alice Zawadzki to join her in this partnership. Jamie Cullum called Alice “beautiful and uncategorisable – a real force to be reckoned with”, and her dramatic voice, warm humour and creative enthusiasm have left critics comparing her to Bjork and Tori Amos. Together, they chose guitarist Rob Luft and bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado to create a real band of titans for this one special performance.

Monday 9 October
Rich Mix, Shoreditch
Woojae Park is best known for his beautiful collaborations with choreographer Sidi Larbi CherkaouiIn for Fractus V, described by The Guardian as “a marvellous braid of sound, fusing Middle Eastern influences to a wildly ecstatic pitch – as a fierce expression of unity, it resonates across the work”. His main instrument is the geomungo and for this concert he is joined by two of the other creative voices that joined him in Fractus V: Japanese drummer Shogo Yoshii, a member of the taiko ensemble Kodo, and British Indian composer and sarod player Soumik Datta, whose work bridges the world of Indian classical and contemporary music and whose artistic hallmarks are his collaborations with other artists: Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bill Bailey, Manu Delago, Akram Khan, Nitin Sawhney, Anoushka Shankar, Bernhard Schimpelsberger and Talvin Singh, to name a few.

Wednesday 11 October
Kings Place, Kings Cross
This concert focuses on the dramatic genres – opera from the West and Pansori (musical storytelling) from the East. In the first half of the concert, pansori singer Eunhye Jung and Sukki Yoon perform various excerpts out of the pansori literature, including three love songs from the most famous pansori, ‘Chunhyangga’. In the second half of the concert, Korean tenor Keonwoo Kim and Australian soprano Lauren Fagan, both from the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme of the Royal Opera House, with Jae Eun Shin on piano, sing love songs by Grieg, Strauss, Schubert, Lehár, Puccini and Korean composer Juwoon Kim.

Tuesday 17 October
Rich Mix, Shoreditch
Psychedelic pansori-rock from Korea crashlands in Shoreditch en route to the Womex festival. AUX bring together screaming high-pitched sounds of the piri and taepyungso (wind instruments) and an intense rock groove of bass, drums, guitar, keyboards and Korean percussion. They’ve toured America after winning the Grand Prize of the 21st Century Korean Music Project, playing major venues like the Kennedy Center and Symphony Space. Their secret weapon is extraordinary pansori singer Eun Kyung Min, who soars from a growl to a scream, putting the seal on their stunning theatrical performance.

Monday 23 October
Borderline, Charing Cross Rd
Seoul may not be first city you think of when you say “ska!”, but there’s a fanatical ska and reggae movement there, and Korea’s ska pioneers, Kingston Rudieska, are at the front of the scene. They combine ska and jazz with a Korean twist – their great heroes are The Skatalites, and the band mix foot-stomping bluebeat instrumentals – fronted by four horns – with warm, soulful vocal numbers. They call their creation “FeastSka!” and they’re thrilled to be bringing it to London for the very first time.

Wednesday 25 October
Kings Place, Kings Cross
Jiha Park has matured into one of Korea’s great creative artists. First recognised in Britain for her work with [su:m], who were seen at Womad and in K-Music at the Southbank Centre, she plays a range of Korean traditional instruments like the piri (a double-reed bamboo flute). With the group she has assembled to play Communion, her work as a composer has really come of age. The Korean Music Awards said “The greatest virtue of Jiha Park’s album is that it has intuitive beauty, and her songs mesmerize with vivid and lyrical melodies. When the intimate and beautiful melodies of vibraphone, saxophone, saenghwang (mouth organ), yanggeum (dulcimer), piri and clarinet delicately unfold and different instruments create a scenery and story to which you find yourself bound forever”

K-Music 2017 is part of the Korea/UK 2017-18 season, presented by the Korean Cultural Centre UK. This is a year-long reciprocal programme with the British Council, bringing UK artists and cultural producers to Korea, forging new partnerships between creative organisations in the UK and Korea and fostering greater cultural collaboration between both.

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