Yeourak Fest jazzes up Korean traditional music
Yang suggests fusion of gukak, theater and literature
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The 2012 Yeourak Festival, a feast of Korean traditional music with a twist of jazz, literature and even theater, kicks off Tuesday at the National Theater of Korea (NTOK) and will run through July 21.
The Yeourak Festival began in 2010 so Korean classical musicians could take a step closer to the public. Reflecting the increasing diversity of Korean traditional music, the number of participating performers has more than tripled from the initial four to 13 this year.
Ahn Ho-sang, president of NTOK, said the festival aims to make Korean traditional music more familiar and approachable.
“The 2012 Yeourak Festival will be a place to meet young musicians, who will lead the Korean music scene for the next two to three decades,” Ahn said.
The 19-day listening pleasures feature a variety of “gukak,” or Korean traditional music, going in a new direction.
Korean-Japanese crossover musician Yang Bang-ean will take part in the 2012 Yeourak Festival as both an artistic director and performer. He participated last year as a performer and took the artistic director position this year.
“I was fascinated by last year’s festival where traditional music was combined with other things. I will make Yeourak Festival a place where musicians find a nexus with other genres and the audiences can make contact with artists,” Yang said.
Lee Ja-ram, a “pansori” singer known for her original pieces, will perform “Sacheon-ga” on July 7 and 8. She revamped the old-fashioned definition of pansori, or Korean traditional narrative music, and received rave reviews from critics and audiences. “Sacheon-ga” is an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Person of Szechwan” in the form of pansori. Lee wittily reflects social conditions in the performance and she alone plays more than 10 characters in the 140-minute show.
Korean traditional music ensemble Jeong Ga Ak Hoe presents “Wangmorae,” or “Coarse Sand,” on July 12 and 13. The narrative music theater combines a reading of Hwang Sun-won’s novel “Wangmorae” and Korean traditional music. The performance will show how Jeong Ga Ak Hoe explores traditional music in the 21st century.
The Lim, a group of Korean traditional music performers presenting original works, will have a concert titled “Green Circle” on July 14 and 15. Using musical instruments such as a haegeum (two-stringed zither), daegeum (large bamboo flute), guitar and piano, The Lim will present a variety of music from healing music to “gut” (a shaman ritual).
Gayageum (a 12-string traditional Korean instrument) player and indie musician Jung Min-a will host a concert in the style of a talk show called “Your Story” on July 13 and 14. She is said to have expanded the boundaries of Korean traditional music and one of her songs are included in middle school music textbooks as an example of modernized gukak.
Other selections of the festival include traditional percussion band Noreummachi’s “The K-Wind;” Suri’s “Cheerful, Reach the Sky;” and haegeum soloist Ccotbyeol’s performance, “Time of the Forest.”
As a finale on July 21, a “Yeourak Concert” will be held and all performers will gather for a jam session. Artistic director Yang will play the piano with Japanese bass player Masayuki Suzuki and violinist Reiko Tsuchiya.
Tickets cost 20,000-30,000 won and outdoor performances are free. The NTOK is located halfway up Mt. Nam in central Seoul and near Dongguk University Station on subway line 3.
For detailed information, visit www.ntok.go.kr or call (02) 2280-4114.