If you’re a music lover coming to Korea, your in luck! Seoul’s music scene is alive and well. Known worldwide for K-pop, you don’t have to be a fan of this genre to enjoy the music Seoul offers. Eastern and Western talent can be enjoyed all around, from venues as large as international music festivals held at huge stadiums housing tens of thousands to small dive bars found throughout the city.
On July 9th, I attended a concert at the National Theater of Korea during the Yeowoorak festival, a month long event that is reinventing traditional Korean music. This year the festival is presenting Korean music in four themes: Opening, Crossover, Sensation, and Choice. The concert I attended was a crossover performance, which combined three musical acts; DJ Soulscape (Disc-Jockey), Second Session (Jazz), and SC Yun (Alternative/Funk) into one performance with the underlying theme of Korean Music. Each performer is uniquely talented. Combining their music and incorporating traditional Korean music created a show like nothing I have ever seen before.
Held in the Youth Hall, the small circular building was an ideal environment for the performance which was accompanied by a light show and video footage.
There was a constant steady beat that got audience members clapping along and dancing in their seats. The pianist of SC Yun was great fun to watch as he switched from a grand piano to synthesizer and even ran through the crowd using a melodihorn. The music at times seemed psychedelic as DJ Soulscape created new sounds, and the light show and video matched each beat. SC Yun’s unbelievably talented xylophonist performed using several mallets in each hand as Second Session’s drummer and guitarist combined Jazz music to her melody.
When I think of traditional Korean music, the first song that comes to mind, and one that I personally love, is Arirang. I’ve heard this song countless times at events in Korea but I heard it before like the way the trio tackled the song, first with DJ Souscape introducing the melody in the conventional form and then speeding it up to be combined with SC Yun’s synthesizer and eventually adding in Second Session’s Jazz beats. It was a show I won’t soon forget.
Prior to this performance two music events have really stood out to me. One of the first weeks I was in Korea I attended an Ecological Peace Festival at the DMZ. We stayed at a temple in Gangwon. The second night, musicians from the National Theater came and gave a performance. They used Korean instruments to play both Korean and Western Music. The spring night was warm and lanterns were strung along the entirety of the small stage. As the musicians played their instruments I was absolutely blown away by their talent. Dancers came out from the temple in traditional dress and danced along the grounds, their silhouettes bounced off the temple wall. It was enchanting. My jaw dropped and eyes filled with happy tears as the sweet music echoed from the surrounding mountains. Wow!
On the complete opposite spectrum I have enjoyed the Ultra Music Festival in Korea for the past two years. This two day event is held in Olympic stadium on multiple stages. World famous DJ’s showcase their talent as summer days turn into night with some of the most unbelievable mixes.
These two events were both uniquely amazing, and some of my favorite memories in Korea. If someone told me that they could combine the performances into one spectacular show, I’d be skeptical to say the least. I was proven wrong last week when I attended the Yeoksam Music Festival at the National Theater of Korea. It was a completely new and exciting experience and I look forward to seeing the Korean music scene continue to grow while keeping it’s heritage alive.
The Yeowoorak festival is in its 5th year and runs during the entire month of July. A night at the National Theater of Korea is a real treat and the Yeoksam Music Festival has performances that can suit almost any kind of music lover.
Last year audiences filled performances to standing room only with an average seat occupancy of 121%. Generally a night at the Korean Theater comes close to breaking the bank but during the festival tickets are only 30,000 won. The deal gets even better though! As an effort to educate foreigners about Korean music a 50% discount is being offered for foreigners making the tickets just 15,000 won. So with just a few weeks left, do as I did and grab some friends, dress up and have a fun night at the National Theater! It will surely be an unforgettable experience.
For more information: www.ntok.go.kr