Kim, Park out to popularize ’gugak’
Jeonju Sori Fest promises diversified programs under new leadership
By Lee Hyo-won
Korean traditional music, “gugak,” is often considered an acquired taste, but composer Kim Hyung-suk and musical director Kolleen Park have teamed up to popularize the overlooked genre.
The newly appointed directors will lead the Jeonju International Sori Festival for the next three years, beginning with this year’s 11th edition that is due in the North Jeolla Province city from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
The event will promote the popular appeal of gugak through a focus on diversity.
“The Sori Festival has done very well so far with its focus on tradition, and so I thought very hard about why it looked to us (Park and I) for help,” Kim told reporters in Seoul, Thursday.
“We promise to make a gugak festival that everyone, including youths, can enjoy. It will be an event that features not only pure gugak but also fun, experimental elements that appeal to the younger generation.”
The 45-year-old musician, known for composing film and musical scores as well as pop numbers, said he has developed a fancy for gugak in recent years.
“I majored in classical music and went on to write ballads and other mainstream music. But as I get older I’m becoming more and more interested in gugak.”
He added that being part of the Sori Festival would enable him to learn more about it, and hopes to create fun programs featuring a mix of orchestral and band tunes.
Park on the other hand may be reputed as a musical expert, but studied gugak composition. While judging the talent program “Korea’s Got Talent,” for example, she was recently seen criticizing a young “gayageum” (zither) player for emulating the Western harp. The 44-year-old stressed the value of gugak, saying that “it is an important music genre that needs to be introduced in all languages of the world.”
This year’s lineup includes 261 performances under 46 programs, created on a budget of 2 billion won. Park will direct the opening performance herself.
“The opening show will be an exciting time-travel experience featuring ancient Korean sounds to modern rap and hip-hop,” said Park. “It will demonstrate what kinds of sounds Korean music is capable of making, and will also serve as an occasion to reflect on the future of music.”
Kim will present a program entitled “Kim Hyung-suk With Friends.” Vocalists Jang Jae-in, Na Yoon-kwon and Ha-rim will join a band featuring both Western and gugak instruments. Popular singer Sung Si-kyung also plans to take part in the performance.
The festival will wrap up with a gala-style concert featuring the folktale “Chunhyang,” which is often called the local version of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The traditional love story may be famous as a “pansori,” or Korean opera piece, but the festival will give it an edgy modern twist by infusing rock beats and b-boying.
The organizers said such modern interpretations do not ignore tradition.
Pansori performances will feature the traditional five acts in a more sophisticated way, while ‘samulnori’ (percussion) will be crossed over with jazz or other styles. There will also be programs featuring the classical side, such as “sanjo” (accompanied solo instrumental performances).
Amateur gugak artists will also have a chance to showcase their talent in the Sori Frontier section.
“I had the chance to judge a number of teams and there were so many talented young musicians. The fusion bands were especially creative,” said Kim, adding that it was regretful that these aspiring musicians did not have the same opportunity compared to pop singers to take part in talent shows like “I Am a Singer.”
“We hope the festival will bring to attention many exciting young artists and become a platform for musical experimentation,” he said.
There will also be guest performances by troupes from across the globe, including Spanish flamenco sequences, Peruvian music, 1970s Ethiopian sounds, American folk/country tunes and Indian folk dance.
Not to be missed are sideline events including fringe performances by 76 ensembles, programs for children, master classes and academic seminars.
For more information about the festival, visit www.sorifestival.com. Learn more on Facebook (facebook.com/sorifestival) or Twitter (twitter.com/sorifestival).