Tag Archives: featured

Steve Khan’s Splendid Mix of Jazz and Afro-Cuban Beats

Steve Khan – Patchwork – Medio Mezclado (Tone Center, 2019)

Virtuoso jazz guitarist Steve Khan continues his enchanting combinations of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms on Patchwork.  In this case, Khan has taken jazz classics and recreated them with harmonic and rhythmic modifications. The jazz artists chosen include Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, Alan Jay Lerner, Keith Jarrett, and Bobby Hutcherson.

Khan has built one of the most formidable rhythm sections in contemporary American jazz, featuring an exquisite blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms; masterfully arranged and recorded.

Khan’s colleague, keyboardist, composer and arranger Rob Mounsey plays a bigger role on Patchwork with inspired string and brass arrangements as well as superb electric piano and synth work.

Steve Khan – Patchwork – Medio Mezclado

Highlights include the opening track, Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke’s “Epistrophy,” a high energy electric guitar piece with a creative rhythm section of drum set, Afro-Cuban drums and bass; and “Bouquet” by Ornette Coleman, with Khan acoustic guitar. This piece is turned into a lovely down tempo bolero with exquisite Spanish and Latin American-influenced guitar work, delicate drums and percussion, and beautiful orchestrations.

Other high points include Khan’s composition “Naan Issue,” a delicious bluesy cha cha cha; the lively “A Shade of Jade” (Joe Henderson) featuring a superb flugelhorn performance by Randy Brecker; the timeless Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane piece “Too Late Now” transformed into a bolero-paced ballad with outstanding guitar work, magnificent orchestrations and subtle rhythms; and the fusion-leaning “T. & T.,” where Khan turns this Ornette Coleman composition into high energy Latin jazz rooted in a Mozambique rhythm. 

Lastly, a tune that captivated me is the outstanding rendering of Keith Jarret’s “The Journey Home.” This is the longest track on the album, with various sections. It opens with a dreamy slow tempo segment with Khan back on acoustic guitar, delivering delicious interplay with the electric piano, and then moving forward to lively Afro-Cuban beats and electric guitar, beautiful wordless vocals. And then the music slows down and concludes with a truly excellent acoustic guitar and synthesizer duet over a layer of percussion and masterfully-crafted orchestrations.

The lineup on Patchwork includes Steve Khan on guitars and vocals; Rubén Rodríguez on baby bass and electric bass; Dennis Chambers on drums; Marc Quiñones on timbales, bongos, percussion; Bobby Allende on conga; Rob Mounsey on keyboards and orchestrations: Randy Brecker on flugelhorn; Bob Mintzer on tenor saxophone; Tatiana Parra on vocals; and Jorge Estrada on keyboards and arrangements.

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Interview with Alexey Belkin of Russian Folk Band Otava Yo

Otava Yo is one of the rising acts in contemporary Russian folk music. The Saint Petersburg Russian-based band has an excellent new album available internationally titled “Do You Love

The lineup includes Alexey Belkin on vocals, bagpipes, gusli, zhaleika; Alexey Skosyrev on vocals, acoustic guitar; Dmitry Shikhardin on vocals, fiddle; Yulia Usova on vocals, violin; Petr Sergeev on bass drum and darbuka; and Timur Sigidin on bass.

Otava Yo’s leader Alexey Belkin talked to World Music Central about the band’s background and the new recording.

Q: How and when was Otava Yo formed?

On the streets of St. Petersburg in 2003, where we decided to busk for fun. The feedback from audience was so great, so we started to busk in St. Pete on regular basis. That time we were playing instrumental Celtic music. Only after 3 years of occasional street performing we made a first record and perceived our selves as a band.

Q: What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

We try to keep music live, in terms that we do not like to copy somebody’s ideas, we prefer to invent our own bicycle. If we see some great idea created by somebody else – it inspires us to make something too. Also we try to keep the main idea of folk songs and do not complicate them. If it is funny cheerful dance song we would not make from it jazzy lounge R&B.

Otava Yo – Photo by Daniil Moroz

Q: Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

I can talk only for myself. I used to listen to lots of Celtic artists – Chieftains, Carlos Nuñez, Silly Wizard, etc. and also Scandinavian bands like Hedningarna, Garmarna. I love Latvian band Iļģi. Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Michael Nyman. All of them could make influence on my musical taste.

Q: Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

The first recording with Otava Yo we made in 2006. After all those sessions on the streets we decide to make live album with everything we played for that time. So, it was instrumental album with just 1 song. Raw and live. No bass guitar and no even bass drum. Exactly how we played on the streets.

Three years later we made a new album full of Russian traditional songs, the most popular ones. And it was recorded with using all studio possibilities. We made nice arrangements and used more instruments then we can play live, invited some friends. So, it was fun to make that record and to see how good this music could be recorded.

The new album “Do you love” in 2018 took us a 6 months of work in studio. And I believe it is our most matured work for now.

Otava Yo – Do you Love

Q: Even though you live in a city, your music contains elements of Russian village music. How do you find traditional rural folk songs?

Well, we live in cities, but some of us used to stay in country side. I myself till 15 years old stayed in very small town in private house in suburb of St. Petersburg. I was able to go for a walk without seeing a single car, if I wanted I could make a campfire with my friends in my yard, so it was a happy childhood of small town boy. But there was no folklore in my life. It was USSR and communists did everything they could to steal folklore from Russian population and to replace it with fake academic folklore. But in spite of this the folk songs are all over, all you need just to wish to listen to them. The most of the song we sing we just know. Some of them we found in ethnographic recordings or books. But we never went to ethnographic expeditions.

Q: Otava Yo uses various traditional Russian instruments. Tell us about them and how common are they now?

The most common – electric guitar and bass, the rest are quite rare. Well, to be serious, it is a problem now with getting Russian traditional instruments. You are not able to buy them in store, the only way to get such instrument is only to order it directly from the maker and then wait for a few months. I ordered my new Russian village bagpipe in May and it is ready only now. But it is worth to wait. How common?… Well, not really.

Otava Yo – Photo by Timur Sigidin

Q: Who makes your traditional musical instruments?

Different makers. Some of them are from St. Petersburg, some from other cities. My zhaleikas mostly made by Anton Platonov and Dmitry Dyomin. Gusli by Alexander Teplov. The new Russian bagpipe by Vasiliy Ivanov. Also I am waiting for the new gaita chanter with keys from Moscow’s maker Alexander Anistratov. All of them you may find in Facebook.

Q: Otava Yo is also known for making captivating music videos. Tell us about the process of making videos and who is involved.

We make them in picaresque way. I have directed all the videos we made. As far as I didn’t study how to shoot video so I was not afraid to start to make them and just started to do it without understanding the details of the whole video production process. First two videos we even shot by ourselves, only starting from “Street cleaner” we have invited professional camera man.

The process – usually I start to think about the song for which I would like to shoot video. I listen to it more than hundred times. Then I come up with the main idea and start to work on script. Then with my partner Vsevolod together we write final script and plan all the shootings details including what kind of equipment we will use and where will rent it. Then we shoot 🙂

After shooting we edit it and make post-production.

Nothing special or unusual. The only important thing – I suppose if we would invite the professional director from the side the result would not be like what we have now, just because it is impossible to find so folklore involved and oriented director in Russia or outside of it. So, I had to invent everything especially for Otava Yo. I suppose it is a unique product we made in a single copy, it is very difficult to duplicate. So that’s the whole secret.

Q: How’s the current traditional and contemporary folk and world music scene in Saint Petersburg and other parts of Russia?

To be honest quite bad. The amount of folk groups which on regular basis can play the concerts is very little. The ones which could attract more than 100 listeners even less. We do not have infrastructure for world music. The quantity of world music festivals also is quite low. But I think it is changing a little bit and also with our help too.

Q: If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?

Well, I like Hedningarna and Penguin cafe, I think we could make something interesting together. And Rammstein of course 🙂

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

We are getting ready for Christmas tour, which will happen in January 2020. Now we are in the middle of “Once upon a time” tour which is dedicated to 10 year anniversary of our second album “Once upon a time”. Ten more concerts to go.

We need to finish the new video clip, which we shot in August. I wanted to create an adventurous comedy video and I hope it will work out as I planned. We have some ideas for our youtube show “Zelyonka”, where we invite other musicians and play together. The last month we had a great guests from Sweden – Garmarna. We plan several other interesting acts within this show. And of course we are planning to work on new songs, and this is the most important thing for us now. The recent live video with new song “Zalivochka” which we just uploaded gathered more than 100K views just for 2 days; that means people look forward for new songs from us.

headline photo: Otava Yo by Maxim Drozdov

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Interview with World Fusion Band Solana And Video Premiere

Solana is a world music fusion band originally founded in Valencia, Spain in 2012. Solana combines rhythmically complex and harmonically rich music inspired by folk traditions from around the world.

Solana’s sound is guided by flutes, violin, accordion and Spanish guitar, and takes influence from diverse celebrated artists like Tigran Hamasyan, Kíla, Paco de Lucía and Dhafer Youssef.

Band members include Tamsin Elliott on flute, whistles, accordion; Rowen Elliott on violin, effects; Elio Arauz de Marcos on drums, percussion, vocals; Henry Edmonds on electric and acoustic bass; and JP Wolfgang on Spanish guitar.

Solana’s Tamsin Elliott

Solana has a new video titled “Odd Elegy / Allegedly Odd.” Flute player Tamsin Elliott provides details about the video: “It includes a cover of Dhafer Youssef’s Odd Elegy and a string of my own tunes collectively called “Allegedly Odd”, which I composed in response to Youssef’s piece. The arrangement is by the collective brain of Solana. It feels like quite an achievement to finish this video after a year of quite serious health issues which turned my world upside down.”

Q – The band is currently based in the UK but it was started in Valencia, Spain. How did you guys come into contact with each other?

Siblings Tamsin and Rowan Elliott have played music together from a young age. In 2012 they both coincidentally moved to Valencia and reconnected musically, playing in small bars and social centers. They were joined by original guitarist Alex Dickinson and Valencian percussionist Elio Arauz de Marcos.

Solana rapidly gained a following in the city due to the appetite for Celtic and Eastern European folk music there. In the intervening years the band’s sound and line-up have evolved to the present five-piece.

Solana

Q – What’s the background of the musicians in Solana?

Tamsin (flutes/accordion) and Rowan (violin) Elliott were brought up on a diet of world, folk and reggae and spent family holidays at festivals such as WOMAD. This exposure to a large variety of music from around the world, as well as the Celtic sessions in the local pub, has influenced their music-making to this day.

Elio Arauz de Marcos learned percussion from the age of eleven and played various styles from reggae and ska to Latin and traditional Valencian bands. After a few years of mainly playing guitar he rediscovered his passion for drums through the music of Solana. He also fronts rumba, Latin, afrobeat project The Globo Collective on guitar and vocals.

Solana’s Elio Arauz de Marcos

After years of playing guitar, JP Wolfgang discovered and fell in love with the Flamenco tradition and moved to Madrid to study with El Entri in the famous Caño Roto Madrid.

Solana’s Rowen Elliott and JP Wolfgang

Henry Edmonds’ background in jazz and post rock has brought a gnarly edge to Solana’s sound. He enjoys the challenge of fusing different world grooves with more progressive arrangements, and the opportunity to play both upright and electric bass.

Solana

Q – You released an album in 2017. How was that experience and what exposure did you get?

Camino (2017) was recorded over four days -and four sleepless nights- at Henwood studios near London. This is our first album of wholly original compositions and it was with this recording that we began to find our own unique sound. We were lucky to count on the expertise and patience of our childhood friend and all-round musical genius Tom Excell who engineered and co-produced the album.

We received great reviews, with the album being described as “thoroughly invigorating” by Songlines, “A fervent and fertile form of world fusion” by Shire Folk, and our favorite from Folk Radio UK saying that “They make my spice shelf look boring… an accomplished and colorful album”.

Solana – Camino

Q – Are you working on a new album?

Yes, we have lots of new material and are really exited to get it on record. Tamsin is currently waiting for a major operation to sort out ongoing health problems, so touring is on hold until we have a date, but in the mean time lots of work is happening on new compositions and arrangements! Expect the next album to demonstrate a rich sonic tapestry, sometimes playful and often poignant, anchored by a deep respect for traditions. We’re looking forward to sharing something new and bold that goes beyond classic folk conventions.

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The Garifuna Collective Tops the November 2019 Transglobal World Music Chart

Aban from Belize-based The Garifuna Collective is the Transglobal World Music Chart’s number one album in November 2019.

The Garifuna Collective – Aban

The Garifuna Collective has performed in over 30 countries on five continents and has been part of the some of the most celebrated Belizean Garifuna albums of all time, including the critically acclaimed Wátina.

The ensemble includes seasoned musicians from across different generations.

November 2019 Chart

  1. The Garifuna Collective – Aban – Stonetree
  2. Tinariwen – Amadjar – Anti- / Wedge / PIAS
  3. Habib Koité – Kharifa – Contre-Jour
  4. Aziza Brahim – Sahari – Glitterbeat
  5. Lakou Mizik – HaitiaNola – Cumbancha
  6. Mah Damba – Hakili Kélé – Buda Musique
  7. Lajkó Félix & Vołosi – Lajkó Félix & Vołosi – Fonó
  8. Baba Zula – Derin Derin – Glitterbeat
  9. Kayhan Kalhor, Rembrandt Frerichs, Tony Overwater, Vinsent Planjer – It’s Still Autumn – Kepera
  10. Rachid Taha – Je Suis Africain – Naïve
  11. Ballaké Sissoko & Baba Sissoko – Sissoko & Sissoko – Homerecords.be
  12. Dona Onete – Rebujo – AmpliDiversão / Mais Um
  13. Otava Yo – Do You Love – ARC Music
  14. Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, Jesse Paris Smith – Songs from the Bardo – Smithsonian Folkways
  15. Vova – Garmi Doç – Ada Müzik
  16. Cimarrón – Orinoco – Cimarrón Music
  17. V.A. – Pour Me a Grog: The Funaná Revolt in 1990s Cabo Verde – Ostinato
  18. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party – Live at WOMAD 1985 – Real World
  19. Baba Sissoko – Amadran – Homerecords.be
  20. Jako el Muzikante – Ven al Luna Park – Xurxo Fernandes

More at www.transglobalwmc.com

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Award-Winning Czech Fiddler Jitka Šuranská Dies at 41

Czech Violinist and winner of three Anděl Awards, Jitka Šuranská passed away on Monday, October 28, 2019 after a severe cancer illness.

Jitka Šuranská had been actively involved in music since her childhood. She played traditional folk music for ten years with the Dulcimer ensemble of Stanislav Gabriel. Jitka also devoted herself to classical music. She was a member of the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic in Zlín.

The meeting with musician and journalist Jiří Plock was essential for her. Together they recorded “Písňobraní” (i.e. Song-gathering) for which they won the Anděl Award in 2005. In 2012, Jitka Šuranská moved on. She bought a Loop Station and started playing and singing solo. This was followed by cooperation with the Slovak trio Pacora, producer Stan Palúch, and in 2013 the first solo album “Nězachoď slunečko”. She received the second Anděl Award in the World Music category for her album.

Jitka Šuranská

In 2014 she fulfilled her dream of having her own band. “What more could I have wished for – the Jitka Šuranská Trio,” she said on her website. In 2016, the debut album of the trio called Divé husy (i.e. Wild Geese) was released. In the same year, she began to cooperate with the Women’s Choir of Kudlovice.

She won the last Anděl Award in 2017 for a music project with the eponymous album name Beránci a vlci (i.e. Lambs and Wolves). This happened in the Folk category. Together with her trio, it was awarded to the Women’s Choir of Kudlovice, the Association of Independent Jazz Artists and the Beskydy band RukyNaDudy.

Czech record label Indiescope stated in a press release: “The passing of the energetic musician, who was breaking the borders of folk music and pushed it into new spheres, is an irreplaceable loss not only for the Moravian music scene.”

headline photo: Jitka Šuranská in 2015 – Photo by Barka Fabianova

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Extraordinary Final Recording from Rachid Taha

Rachid Taha – Je Suis Africain (Naïve/Believe, 2019)

Rachid Taha, a leading figure in modern Algerian and French music died in late 2018. Je Suis Africain is a posthumous album with material Taha was working on before he passed away.

Rachid Taha – Je Suis Africain

Je Suis Africain encompasses many of the wide-ranging influences that characterized Rachid Taha’s music: rock, Algerian rai, Arabic and Arab-Andalusian orchestral arrangements, West African rhythms, blues, Congolese rumba, French chanson, spaghetti western-style influences, Spanish music, and Gnawa trance music.

Taha’s lyrics were a mix of passion, African pride and social justice.  The songs on Je Suis Africain are in Arabic, French, Spanish (sung by Flèche Love, aka Amina Cadelli, a Swiss-Algerian vocalist) and, for the first time, in English.

Je Suis Africain is a remarkable cross-genre album by an iconic bohemian artist who created music rooted in African traditions and western rock as well.

Buy Je Suis Africain

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New Festival Fusión x Camarón to Celebrate Innovative Flamenco Artists

The first edition of the Fusion x Camarón festival will take place in San Fernando (Cadiz province, Spain) on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The event will coincide with the 69th anniversary of the birth of legendary flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla. The festival takes the revolutionary figure of Camarón as inspiration and central topic of its programming, providing a glance at current innovative flamenco.

Fusion x Camarón Press conference in San Fernando with Dolores Montoya “La Chispa”, Familia Camarón, Nani Cortés, San Fernando Mayor Patricia Cavada and music presenter Javier Vázquez Selvático.

La Familia Camarón (Camarón Family) will open the festival. The other artists announced are Raimundo Amador, Kiko Veneno, Diego Carrasco, Maloko & Carrasco Family, Maka, Tomasito, Nani Cortés & Lin Cortés, Alba Molina, María José Llergo and psychedelic Andalusian rock band Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba. The event will take place in a temporary covered space at the San Fernando Fairgrounds.

Camarón de la Isla was a groundbreaking artist in flamenco art. He released a seminal innovative work, the album “La leyenda del tiempo” (The Legend of Time). That recording sought new expressions, new airs, and new sounds. Guest artists featured In “La leyenda del tiempo” included some of most innovative Spanish artists of the time: Kiko Veneno, Raimundo Amador, Tomatito, Jorge Pardo, Rubem Dantas, Gualberto and Andalusian rock band Alameda, among other artists, and the no less revolutionary producer Ricardo Pachón.

Two of those artists, Kiko Veneno and Raimundo Amador, head this new festival, FusiónxCamarón, along with Jerez-born cantaor (singer) Diego Carrasco; his nephew Maloko accompanied by his Carrasco Family; Granada artist Maka, and the whirlwind of gitano (gypsy) rock Tomasito.

More information at Fusión x Camarón.

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WOMAD Gran Canaria 2019 Set for November 7-10

World music festival WOMAD Gran Canaria-Las Palmas de Gran Canaria will present 32 artists from four continents November 7-10, 2019 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

The international lineup includes Ghanaian artist Pat Thomas, Brazilian diva Dona Onete, Iranian-born Afghan Elaha Soroor with the duo Kefaya, Altin Gün, DJ Mam, Hanggai, Jungle by Night, Nayaband, Sofiane Saidi & Mazaldd, Tupinamba and Trans Sound Kabar.

The Spanish mainland artists this year are Novedades Carminha, Lorena Álvarez and The Limboos.

The concerts will take place at the Santa Catalina and Boulevard stages and the emerging Canary Islander artists will have their own space LPAJuventud @ WOMAD, at the Plaza de Canarias.

Atlántida

The Canary Island’s presence includes six groups and soloists at the two main stages:  Althay Páez, Atlántida, Birkins with Álvaro Suite, Fajardo, Lajalada and Toto Noriega.

Among the fortnight of planned activities, a set of film screenings with seven feature films and three short films will show contemporary visions of Africa.

There will be dancing and percussion in the workshops for adults and children that will be taught by Peruvian Mariella Köhn with percussionist Walter Sánchez.

The commemoration of the arrival of man on the moon will be disseminated in various activities of the Elder Museum and in children’s workshops.

It is an artistic roster that perfectly condenses the essence of WOMAD and that will offer a magnificent sound and cultural map of the world in a unique communion of tradition and innovation, because culture is history, but also evolution, and that responds to this programming ”, assured festival director Dania Dévora in her presentation.

The mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Augusto Hidalgo, expressed his happiness for the new edition of the festival: “We are tremendously happy with this new edition, to which the Government of the Canary Islands finally joins more firmly. We also add value with a new stage for emerging bands that was born from an initiative of the City Council of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria through its Department of Youth ”, referring to the new emerging bands stage, LPAJuventud @ WOMAD.

Likewise, the president of the Cabildo (island government) de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, expressed his commitment to the WOMAD festival, which he has described as one of the “great events” national and international. “There are no events of the transcendence of multiculturalism like WOMAD,” he said.

Finally, the president of the Canary Islands regional Government, Ángel Víctor Torres, expressed his delight to contribute to the celebration of this festival that has, in his words, “a transcendence that exceeds music, as it contains values ​​that we share, of multiculturalism, inclusion and also has great economic value for the city and the island.”

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World Music Showcase globalFEST Announces 2020 Program

American world music showcase globalFEST 2020 is set to take place on January 12, 2020 at the Copacabana club in Manhattan, New York.

Yungchen Lhamo

The globalFEST 2020 lineup includes:

– Ak Dan Gwang Chil (South Korea): Korean shamanic music

– Bohemian Betyars (Hungary): speed-folk (NY debut)

– Cheikh Lô (Senegal): spiritual West African folk

– La Chica (Venezuela/France) Introspective electro pop (USA debut)

– Les Amazones d’Afrique (France): West African female supergroup (USA debut)

– Meklit (Ethiopia/USA): Ethiojazz

– Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas (Louisiana/USA): accordion-driven Creole dance music

– San Salvador (France): (USA debut) French polyphonies and percussion

– Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda (Algeria/France): Raï (USA debut)

– Tufan Derince (Kurdistan/Netherlands): Electric Kurdish wedding songs (USA debut)

– Xenia França (Brazil): Afrofuturistic Bahian soul

– Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet/USA): Songs, chants and prayers by iconic vocalist

More at globalFEST

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Jeonju International Sori Festival, a Fascinating Window into Korean Music and Beyond

The 2019 Jeonju International Sori Festival took place October 2-6 in Jeonju, a city located in southwestern South Korea. The festival is held in a exquisitely-designed, comfortable performing arts complex called Sori Arts Center of Jeoballuk-do that includes various indoor theaters and several outdoor stages.

The 2019 edition of the Jeonju International Sori Festival focused on wind instruments. Due to an approaching typhoon (that thankfully weakened), the outdoor events on October 2nd were cancelled. The official program started October 2nd with a grand gala at 7:30 p.m. at the elegant and restful Moak Hall with Wish on the Winds, featuring master Instrumentalists and singers from around the globe.

United Youth Wind orchestra of Jeollabuk-go at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The show started with Mazurka on the Wind, a lively performance by the great Polish contemporary folk group Janusz Prusinowski Kompania, joined by wind instrumentalist Manu Sabate from Barcelona, Spain. Next came Sujeon Variations, another highlight, with the United Youth Wind orchestra of Jeollabuk-go. This was a magnificent group of 200 young school students playing a variation of Sujecheon (Korean court music) on wind and percussion instruments.

Sacred music was represented by the gorgeous vocals of Georgia’s Iberi Choir and the Buddhist ritual music of Jeonbuk Yeongsan Jakbeop Preservation Society, joined by organist Miyeon.

The Ethnic Innovation segment showcased two talented Taiwanese artists, suona master Tseng chien-yun and Chung Pei-yun. They were followed by The Songs of the Forest with bamboo flute virtuoso Won Janghyun and his students.

Karen Lugo, Korean traditional dancer Cho Sehoon and Dominika Suchecka – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The opening show also included spectacular dance, represented by three diverse styles: flamenco from Spain performed by Spain-based Mexican dancer Karen Lugo, Korean traditional artist Cho Sehoon and belly-dancing by Dominika Suchecka.

Wind masters at opening ceremony – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The show ended with a wind instrument extravaganza conducted by musician and composer Park Jechun, Commissioner of the Jeonju International Sori Festival. The show highlighted various instrumentalists and ended in a freeform improvisation. The lineup included Kang Taehwan on saxophone; Won Janghyeon on bamboo flute; piri master Choi Gyeongman; Tibetan flutist Nawang Kechog; Janusz Pruzinowski; Manu Sabaté; and Anders Harberg.

October 3

On Thursday, October 3rd, I got to see a pansori performance for the first time. Pansori is a captivating traditional Korean art form that brings together poetry, storytelling and music. The format includes one singer/narrator (male or female) and a drummer that keeps a steady beat and engages with the singer with encouragement calls.

Pansori includes only 5 stories and fans known them well. I attended the Sugungga performance, featuring two renowned masters. As you can imagine, now knowing Korean is a barrier to understanding the nuances of the story. However, the festival provided a guidebook in Korean and English that helped follow the story. Additionally, this performance showed the texts in Korean and English projected on several walls.

Lee Nancho, Pansori Five Batangs – Photo by Angel Romero
Pansori drummer, Pansori Five Batangs – Photo by Angel Romero

The Sarungga story is very fun to follow. This performance included two masters. Lee Nancho and Lim Hyeonbin.

Song Sunseop, Pansori Five Batangs – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival
Lee Jaram, Pansori Five Batangs – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

Later in the day, the Jeokbyeokga pansori was performed by Song Sunseop and Lee Jaram. The other three pansoris took place October 5th and 6th, featuring JoTongdal, Yu Taepyeongyang, Kim Yeongja, Choi Hyeonju, Kim Myeongsin and Jeong Sanghee.

Kim Yulhee

The pansori tradition is carried forward by a new generation of performers. Five artists appeared in the Young Pansori Five Batangs set: Lee Sung-hyun, Kim Yulhee, Jeong Yunhyeong, Choi Jandi and Gwon Songhee.

Iberi Choir work at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero
Tannemotion concert at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

There is a lot to see during the afternoon and evening. Some of the highlights on October 3, in addition to pansori, included a workshop/concert by the magnificent Georgian ensemble Iberi Choir; and Korean fusion group Tannemotion, winners of the 2013 KB Sori Award.

CBS Starlight concert – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The most popular event that night by far in terms of audience was the Starlight K-pop ticketed show at the Open Air Theater. The performance included artists loved by all generations, including Korean rock stars BooHwal and pop singers Jeong Hunhee, Choi Seongsu, Hong Gyeongmin and Park Migyeong.

Janusz Prusinowski Kompania workshop at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

Later came an entertaining workshop by the Polish group Janusz Prusinowski Kompania followed by a concert by Polish act Masala Soundsystem, who delivered a mix of global sounds, electronics and ragga/rap.

Tamikrest at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero
Tamikrest at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

One of the best evening concerts was the performance by Tuareg group Tamikrest, an enthralling southern Algeria-based desert blues band formed by Malian musicians and French band members

The final concert on October 3rd was by Tres Bonbon, a Korean Afropop band that fuses Asian melodies and African rhythms. The group includes Korean musicians Giwan Seong; Doyeon Kim; Haneul Kim; and Yunhee Choi; along with Amidou Balani Diabate from Burkina Faso.

October 4

October 4th started with several shows for children, included traditional Korean puppetry. There were also workshops by Swedish wind instrument virtuoso Anders Hagberg; Ensemble Selene, a band featuring members from Korea and Argentina; and various percussion workshops.

Jeong Yunhyeong at the Cypress Forest at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

In the afternoon there were more percussion workshops and the continuation of the Young Pansori Five Batangs series. This time the setting was the relaxed Cypress Forest stage in the woods. The audience enjoyed the show sitting on benches, lawn chairs and resting on hammocks. Young master Jeong Yunhyeong performed the Jeokbyeokga pansori.

Jeonjeup Nongak at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

In the late afternoon, there was a spectacular show of nongak, Korean rural folk music performed by the drummers, percussionists and acrobatic dancers of Jeonjeup Nongak. The integrated ensemble includes men and women playing various types of drums and gongs led by a loud horn.

Ogando, another winner of an earlier edition of the Sori Frontier contest, performed at 6:00 p.m. It is an all-female Korean fusion group.

An evening highlight was the first episode of the Sacred Music Series at Yeonji Hall. The concert featured the marvelous Georgian ensemble Iberi Choir and the Korean Jeonbuk Yeongsan Jakbeop Preservation Society. The Iberi Choir delivered a beautiful set of songs from Georgia’s ancient Christian tradition along with ballads, legendary tales and lullabies. The Jeonbuk Yeongsan Jakbeop Preservation Society performed a charismatic traditional Buddhist ceremony to guide the souls of the departed to heaven.

Asia Sori Project 2019 – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

Next came the Asia Sori Project 2019. It is an international artist residency program in Jeonju that brings together Asian musicians. The artists in 2019 included Sosorbaram Enkhtur (Mongolia) on morin khuur and khoomei; Enkhjin Oyuntsetseg (Mongolia) on bishguur; Duy Nguyen Quang (Vietnam) on dan nhi; Tho Nguyen (Vietnam) on dan tam thap luc; Vishwa Bharath (India) on urumi and parai; Zulfikar Rizki Ananda (Indonesia) on talempong and katindik; Eunyoung Jin on pansori(Korea); Jun-Young Noh (Korea) on percussion; Jihoon Kwon (Korea) on percussion. Jae-Hyo Chang: Music Director. Miyeon: Composer.

Song of Masters ‘Ways of Winds – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The show Song of Masters ‘Ways of Winds’ took place at 8:00 pm in Moak Hall. The program included Kang Taehwan on saxophone; Kang Sungwon on songs; Anders Hagberg on flute; Lee Changseon on large bamboo flute; Nawang Khechog on Tibetan flute; Yeo Mido on improvised dance; and Tseng Chien-yun on suona, saenghwang, zither.

Next came another performance by Janusz Prusinowski Kompania accompanied by Manu Sabaté.

The last show featured Akdan Gwangchil, a group that performs a modernized version of the music of Hwanghae-do (the western provinces of North Korea) combined with electronics.

October 5

The program on October 5th started with Janusz Prusinowski Kompania’s workshop in the Cypress Forest followed by a children’s theater event.

Imperial Kikiristan at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

In the afternoon, French brass band Imperial Kikiristan entertained the public with a fun mix of Balkan and popular classics and humorous sketches targeting the audience, especially children.

The pansori series continued with Choi Jandi‘s Young Pansori Five Batangs Hyun Joo.

Gaak at The Sori Frontier contest – Photo by Angel Romero

The Sori Frontier contest took place at 3:00 p.m. This contest showcased three innovative young Korean acts that fuse Korean music and other elements. Read the news story about the contest here.

The excellent Sacred Music II series presented a set of western classical music works along with new works by Korean artists performed by renowned cellist Sung-won Yang & TIMF Ensemble. The second half introduced the Araetnyeok Suryukjae Preservation Society with a Buddhist ceremony from the Youngnam region that comforts the dead souls remaining on the land and in the water.

The Jeonbuk Nongak showcased the dazzling farmer’s folk music of Gochang Nongak.

Sanjo Night featured two wind instrument maestros, Choi Gyeongman on flute and Won Janghyeon on large bamboo flute at Moak Hall. They were joined by Yu Jisuk and Jang Munhee on vocals and Kim Gyuhyeong on drum.

The highly polished Modern Maori Quartet crooners presented a set of Maori classics. The group includes James Tito, Matariki Whatarau, Maaka Pohatu and Francis Kora.

Tamikrest at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

The enthralling Tuareg sounds of Tamikrest returned for an additional live performance in the evening.

Day 6

Sunday events started at 11:00 a.m. with a series of workshops by Jin Yun Kyong. Maori Quartet along with activities for children.

Brass band Imperial Kikiristan amused the outdoor audience one more and was followed by two pansori performances: Young Pansori Five Batangs with Gwon Songhee at the Cypress Forest and Pansori Five Batangs with Kim Myeongsin and Jeong Sanghee at Moak Hall.

Iri Nongak at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

Iri Nongak provided a dynamic show that included music and choreography.

Korean fusion band The Tune, winner of the 2014 Sori Award, delivered a great performance with a mix of traditional Korean sounds and musical instruments such as haegeum and drums combined with keyboards and vocals.

Next came Janusz Prusinowski Kompania with another set of beautiful contemporary Polish folk music.

Park Jechun (blue t-shirt) at the closing ceremony – Photo courtesy of Jeonju Sori Festival

The festival ended with the animated closing show called Rock and Sinawi, bringing together hard rock and sinawi (traditional Korean music). The stage featured a mix of traditional Korean and rock musicians, conducted by festival commissioner Park Jechun. Park is also drummer and he joined in on a second drum set for a few minutes, delivering one of the most spectacular moments of the show.

bibimbap

In terms of food, there are lots of options in the festival grounds and nearby, as well as in the hotels area, including the bibimbap (rice with sautéed and seasoned vegetable with chili sauce, available with or without meat), kimchi, bulgogi, various types of soups and noodles. The festival area also has several cafes where you can get some fod, coffee, tea and other beverages, and sweets.

Gyeonggijeon Shrine at Hanok Village in Jeonju – Photo by Angel Romero

While in Jeonju, a must see is Hanok Village. There, you will find traditional Korean buildings, gift stores, restaurants and temples.

You can get to Jeonju via high speed train or by bus, directly from the Seoul airport.

Special thanks to the staff at Jeonju Sori Festival, specially Joy, Han Ji-young, Park Je Chun and our interpreters Rachel and Rose Lee.

Recommended links:

Jeonju Sori Festival
Hanok Village
10 reasons to put Jeonju on your bucket list (Lonely Planet)

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