Friday, January 19, 2024

2024 in Books - Week Two

 Week two of January was busy. Plenty of performances to see at the ASSITEJ Winter Theatre Festival (if you have kids, the summer and winter festivals in Seoul are a great way to get a dose of very good theatre for children).

I was looking for something easy to read, something not too taxing and Richard Osman came to mind. I read the first two in his Thursday Murder Club series a couple of years ago and decided to catch up. 

So at the start of the week I plowed my way through The Bullet That Missed and The Last Devil to Die (books three and four). They were both a lot of fun. This is not the greatest literature ever written, but it is bloody good writing with solidly plotted stories, mysteries that whilst I could guess a few details still surprised me by the end, and a group of lovable pensioners and police officers (and one Polish ex-killer) that make you want to keep coming back.

Both books felt like the equivalent to Sunday night murder mysteries on telly when I was growing up in the UK. Nothing too taxing, but the perfect thing to doze off to and to make you forget about the worries of the upcoming week. If you like a good murder and you like cosy British humour, then it's well worth investing your time.

The rest of the week was a little bare when it came to books, until the weekend when I was forced to do my required reading for the guest spot I do every Wednesday morning on Arirang Radio.

First was The Consultant by Im Seong-sun, translated by An Seon Jae. It's a thriller about a man who plots assassinations for a living and the premise is fantastic. However, it's a touch too self absorbed and misogynistic for me. I don't think An Seon Jae's translation is at fault, more a case of a middle aged Korean man fantasizing about the criminal life he could have had and the sexy ladies who would have been around him. No-one really wants to read about how much porn the main character is watching, do they?

My final book of the week was much more rewarding - Selected Poems of Kim Sakkat, translated by Kevin O'Rourke. This is available online for free (I got my copy from Google Play) and contains several dozen poems of this nineteenth century itinerant Korean poet. 

To be honest, classical Korean poetry is fine, but it's not really my thing. At least it wasn't until I read this collection. Turns out the poetry snobs of the time weren't big fans, but Kim Sakkat got invited to a lot of parties to come and compose and recite poetry and with good reason. The selected poems are a mix of odes to nature, self reflection, sexual exploits, funny gags and more. There's even a poem about blow jobs, which I really wasn't expecting to be translated by an Irish Catholic Priest.

O'Rourke gives notes on context and meaning where needed and also occasionally gives alternate translations (the family friendly version and then the more adult one for example) and he's clearly not afraid to stay true to the feel of Kim Sakkat's original verse.

If you're put off the thought of Korean classical poetry because of how antiquated or formal it might be, then this is the perfect book to change your mind. 

That's it for this week. The third week of January is mostly looking like comic books, but that's not a bad thing...

Monday, January 8, 2024

2024 in Books - Week One

 I used to post a list of books I was reading/listening to on Twitter each year, but since that site has turned into a billionaire's personal "pick me" project, I thought that perhaps this year I might do something different and post the books here. Plus instead of just a brief one or two lines for each book, I might flesh out my thoughts my thoroughly.

If you're here, then hi! Hope you find a book or two you might like!

Generally, January 1st is a big reading day for me. I feel like if I don't start the year reading, then I won't read at all. This year I started with two short stories for work (I introduce translated Korean fiction and poetry every week on Arirang Radio) - one from The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories and the other from the internet (thanks to the good people at the LTI Korea.

The Penguin Book of Korean Short Stories is well worth an investment of time and money, you get a great selection of translated stories from a range of time periods, some previously unpublished. However, you are getting it curated by editor and translator Bruce Fulton, who has his own preferences when it comes to authors and translators (he really does seem to prefer the works he and his partner Juchan Fulton translate themselves a lot of the time). Nothing wrong with that, but it should be said that the Fultons are very much old school when it comes to translation. They've been around for decades and have been responsible for getting some great Korean books into English, but the feel is a little more old fashioned than some of the... ahem... more youthful translators around.

I've been dipping in and out of this collection since I first got my hands on it and this week's selection was the final story in the book - Kim Ae-ran's The Future of Silence.

If you're not familiar with Kim Ae-ran, then stop what you're doing right now and go and order a copy of My Brilliant Life, her award winning novel about a teenager with progeria. It's deeply moving and also very funny and will have you wiping your eyes thanks to all the dust that's suddenly appeared in the room.

The Future of Silence is not so lovely, this is Kim getting close to horror in some ways. We're introduced to a narrator who is leaving the body of their dying host, an old man, and seemingly on their way to their own demise. At first we're not sure exactly who is talking to us, but as the story unfolds it is revealed that the host is the last speaker of his language and that the narrator is the language itself. We also learn of his imprisonment in the Museum of Moribund Languages and the awful fate that awaits those who are the last to speak their mother tongue. 

As you read there's a sense of creeping dread, but it is the conclusion to the story, which I won't spoil here (but did spoil on the radio) that really gets you. The idea of language as a living thing is fascinating, as are the questions that Kim puts into the reader's mind about cultural preservation and whether sometimes we need to let go or let things disappear. 

It's a story that has been rolling around my head all week and it's worth picking up the anthology for it alone (at least for me).

Next up was another short story, but this time from 1928. LTI Korea have dispersed a whole heap of translated classic Korean short stories online for free and this is one of them - The Human Arachnid by Kye Yong-muk, translated by Eugene Larsen-Hallock.

The story concerns two old friends who thought each other dead, meeting at a very strange carnivalesque exhibit. And yes, there is a human spider involved. Along with a great set up, there's some strong political and social commentary within about the plight of Korean laborers under Japanese occupation, especially those who thought heading to Japan for work might benefit them. It also has something to say about attitudes to disability in Korea back then and, to be honest, right now as well.

It packs a whole lot into eight pages or so and it's freely available for free online. The biggest takeaway for me was the realization that carnivals and freak shows were a part of Korean life back in the 1920s. I think it's the first time I've seen anything like that referenced to in Korean literature or even in Korean film and television and it has got me wondering what kind of performances and shows were traveling around the peninsula. I'm not sure how much information may be out there about it, but as someone fascinated with performance on the margins of society, it's something I may try to dig into in the coming year.

Books three and four of 2024, also read on New Year's Day were much lighter, sillier and gorier. Two graphic novels from the minds of Jimmy Palmiotti and friends - The Last Resort and Queen Crab.

Humble Bundle had a digital sale on of a collection of his work and I saw Garth Ennis mentioned and despite knowing nothing about him decided to pay the eighteen dollars and take a chance. 

Side note - if you're a comics fan and you've not heard of Humble Bundle then it's worth signing up to their mailing list. Once or twice a month they'll have a graphic novel/comics/manga digital bundle on offer, usually themed around a publisher or a creator. If you're a voracious reader, then it's a good way to stock up on things to read and a relatively cheap way to try out someone you're not familiar with. 

Back to Palmiotti...

The Last Resort is a full on sex sodden, ultra-violent zombie infested thrill ride. There's an infected man who washes up at an island resort, everyone gets infected, then there's a plane crash and what do you know? The survivors have to fight their way out if they can. It's not high art, but it's drawn beautifully and if you're a fan of B-Movie style Heavy Metalesque nastiness then you'll probably like it. As for me? It was fine. Like watching a dumb horror film in comic book form.

Queen Crab, on the other hand, is a much more impressive piece of work. Part thriller, part body horror, part over the top nonsense - we get treated to the tale of a young women who thanks to a dirty deed by her husband ends up with giant crab claws for arms and decides to take revenge. Again, it's utter nonsense, but it's done with real conviction and is beautifully drawn. I didn't plan it, but it's funny how The Human Arachnid and Queen Crab found their way to me on the same day.

Tuesday I needed some light relief so opted for a book from my childhood - Gargling With Jelly by Brian Patten. If you grew up in the UK in the 80s there's a very good chance that you might have encountered Patten alongside Roger McGough and Michael Rosen as one of your first introductions to poetry. Much of it is pure silliness or poems as gags, but Patten also sneaks in environmental themes or moments of poignancy in-between the nonsense.

One poem in particular stood out to me - "Someone Stole the" - where the missing item and the three words that make up it are completely gone from the poem and the reader must work out what the hell it is. 

Reading through the collection was a reminder to me of those days of young discovery, where every author was new to me and every book that fell into my lap could trigger explosions of ideas and imagination in my brain. Some books still do, but it has got rarer as the years have gone by.

My sixth book of the year was one I had started in 2023, put down and picked back up again in 2024. It had been sitting in my bag for the past couple of weeks, lying unloved and unread and I felt like it deserved to be finished.

The Korean Pentecost & the Sufferings Which Followed by William Blair and Bruce Hunt. It's a book of two halves with Blair charting the rise of Christianity at the turn of the 1900s and Hunt looking at the persecutions that followed during Japanese occupation and the splitting of the two Koreas.

Whilst both authors may be biased in their interpretation of events as missionaries in Korea, they offer absorbing first hand and second hand accounts that give not only an insight into that point in Korea's history, but also in the attitudes of western missionaries towards the country and their new flocks.

There is no doubt that the introduction of Christianity completely changed the course of Korea's social development. And I found that very much present in book number seven -  A Korean Model for the Healing of Leprosy by Joon Lew M.D.

I picked this up on a whim when I headed to Itaewon on Friday for a meeting and popped into the ramshackle second hand bookshop near Noksapyeong station. I've been visiting that place for over twenty years and it still looks the same. Not only has the decor remained constant, but even the location for each category of books remains as it always was. I hadn't been there for at least five years and yet I found my way around the shop as if I had been there just last week.

Back to the book... Why on earth would you be reading this, Paul?

Well, it piqued my interest when I saw it on the shop shelf. Korea did something incredible in the second half of the twentieth century, managing to almost completely eradicate new cases of Hansen's disease. This book charts not just the medical rehabilitation, but also the shift from shoving every leper into a segregated facility on an island to giving them a chance to make their own villages and make a living.

The book is written by the doctor who led this new initiative and it is a little bit too self-congratulatory in places, but it offers a wealth of photos from his work with his patients as well as giving a clear run down of how he and his colleagues and the patients went about radically changing Korea's situation and also the Korean people's view on Hansen's Disease.

So that's my week in books. Next week one of the Thursday Murder Club adventures will be making an appearance. What else? Not quite sure yet...

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Fox and the Crow - An adaptation for EBS Radio's Morning Special (최수진의 모닝스페셜)

For the past few years I've had the pleasure of being a regular guest on EBS radio and this season they very kindly asked me to not only do the news on a Friday, but also join the host Choi Suejin on Sundays to talk about movies, but also to introduce my own adaptations of famous fairy tales and fables. 

You can listen every Sunday morning to 최수진의 모닝스페셜 from 8am to 10am and hear me read them aloud or instead you can use your eyes and peruse them here... And so here's the first tale I adapted, one of Aesop's most famous fables...

Many people agree that one of the world’s most fabulous foods is cheese. Soft or hard, fresh or matured, pale white, bright orange or blue veined. Whether it smells of the pasture where those dairy cows grazed or stinks to high heaven like a pair of wet socks that have been left in your gym bag for weeks on end, there’s no denying that this most marvelous of culinary creations attracts one and all to the dinner table.

Many many years ago a farmer and his family sat down for breakfast. A meal of bread, sausage, fruit and hot coffee, along with the farmer’s very own goats cheese. A meal that may have cost pennies, but was fit for a king or even a crow…

For it was just as the family were about to sit down to enjoy their breakfast that a big black crow flew through the window, snatched up the cheese with her beak and quick as a flash was out of the house and up the apple tree at the end of the farmer’s field.

The farmer and his family were startled, but they had cheese to spare, so after locking their window firmly so that no more thieving birds could intrude they sat down and ate, wondering how such a bird would dare to raid their breakfast table.

Meanwhile, up in the apple tree, the crow was very proud of herself. She hadn’t eaten for a good two days despite searching the shrubs and bushes for rats and mice, and the local pond for frogs. And so, in desperation she had committed her lightning fast crime and would have laughed with glee if not for the cheese held fast in her beak.

The commotion in the farmhouse and the flight to the apple tree had caught the eye of a trespasser - a certain Mr. Fox who would take a bite of whatever and whoever he could get a hold of. Whilst he wasn’t much taken by the skinny crow, he rather liked the look of the cheese she was holding, and so he slowly, slyly made his way to the foot of the apple tree.

“Good morning, my lady,” the fox called to the crow and bowed his head in the most polite of manners. 

The crow did not deign to answer him, just peered at him with her beady eyes. She’d heard about foxes from her mother and knew that whenever those red ruffians were about there was bound to be trouble.

The fox, undeterred, continued to talk to the crow:

“What a fine specimen you are! My word, I’ve not seen a finer crow in all my years. Her feathers shine in the sunlight, glinting like black gold… And her wings are more magnificent than any hawk or eagle. As for her form, why she is like an avian goddess, I would not be surprised if she was corvid royalty or the like.”

It was the first time that the crow had ever heard such poetic words spoken about her. In her short life her only interactions with other animals were to be told to “shove off” or “leave me alone” or “stop that squawking”, but this fine fox seemed absolutely smitten. She felt even prouder - a fine piece of cheese and a collection of compliments all in one morning.

But the fox did not stop there:

“I must declare that this beautiful bird is perfection personified and I only wish I could hear her voice. With such a fine form, she surely must also be the most talented of songbirds. Oh deary me, what I would give for one song from the beak of this beauty. Why, if I heard it I would fall to my knees and declare her the queen of birds.”

The crow was overcome with emotion - “the queen of birds”, could it be true? With just one tune she would prove her worth and gain a title suited to her magnificence. Plus it would be rude not to give such a fine fellow the gift of song he sorely sought.

And so, she lifted her head, opened her beak wide and let out the most outrageously ugly caw. A clamor of squawks and squeaks and squeals came forth as she sang with all her heart. Her moment of glory, her moment in the sun. Images of adoring admirers surrounding her as she performed ran through her head. She would organize a concert in the clearing in the forest. There would be hundreds, no thousands of woodland creatures all aching to hear her voice… And they would bring gifts, the finest mice and rats and frogs and worms, and she’d never have to steal again. Fame at last.

The fox, on the other hand, was busy chewing. He’d caught the cheese in his open mouth, and was enjoying his hard won breakfast. He gulped the cheese down, licked his lips and bowed deeply to the crow.

“You’ve got quite the voice,” said Fox, “but, just between you and me, it’s nothing compared to Freddie Mercury, you’re no queen at all, unless…. I tell you what, I’ll give you a royal title - the queen of fools!”

And with that the fox laughed loudly and went on his way and the crow learnt an important lesson. 

Back at the house, the farmer and his family, mid-breakfast, were suddenly startled by the atrocious song of the crow. 

“Sounds like the stupid bird choked on our cheese,” said the farmer, “Serves her right for stealing off our plates.”

“Never mind her,” said his wife, “I’m more worried about our chickens. I heard from next door there’s a fox on the prowl in this neck of the woods.”

“Not to worry, dear. I’ve a gift for him and that thieving crow.” Replied the farmer, as he finished his final slice of sausage. And with that he stood, picked up his gun and went out to the field to do a little pest control. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A Sober End to 2022

Somebody subscribed to me on Medium. It piqued my curiosity and so I logged in for the first time in goodness knows when to discover that I have never written anything on there.

Perhaps it’s time to start.

Not just on there, perhaps I should start posting here again as well.

So, here I am, in Seoul, South Korea in the last week of the year with a mild case of bronchitis and a final few radio broadcasts to do before 2022 ends.

In case, you don’t know me (and let’s face it, chances are you don’t), my name is Paul and I’m a theatre maker, broadcaster, writer, translator, voice actor and general sort of person who is available for hire for anything related to the above. I’ve been here in Korea for the past 22 years (I came here with a touring theatre production, fell in love, moved here and never left) and it has been a reasonably good life (apart from the one time someone tried to burn down our building and almost killed us). Let’s move on.

The sober end of the title refers to me being on antibiotics for the aforementioned illness. No celebratory tipples for me till Saturday thanks to the (perhaps unnecessary, after all if this is a viral infection then the drugs are going to do diddly squat) prescription from my very pleasant local ear, nose and throat physician.

Probably just as well to spend this week with a clear mind after all that has gone on in the past twelve months.

Personally speaking, it has been an incredibly productive year that has left my bank account overflowing and my energy levels pretty much depleted to nothing. I have that very bad freelancing habit of saying yes to almost any kind of paid employment wafted under my nose, which means this year I have (alongside my usual radio gigs) voice coached one of Korea’s biggest film actors, taught phonics on video through cookery and art with a puppet duck, brought Anthony Browne’s picture books to life (on a very small scale) at the Seoul Arts Center, toured Gyeonggi-do Province with a storytelling jazz concert, performed more storytelling concerts online, pretended to be a number of world leaders for some government videos, narrated an audiobook about the life of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, written and performed in an (award winning — what? A very welcome and very big surprise) audio drama for Gwangju’s English language radio station, proofread a selection of books, flash cards and theatre surtitles, written and directed a puppet show based on a Polish fairy tale in Suncheon, translated a musical version of Romeo and Juliet into English, taught an online series of lectures on how to study English in fun ways with your children, and made my debut appearance on a KBS history panel show. I’m exhausted just remembering and listing what has been going on.

It has been a lot.

Too much.

At least according to my therapist.

So, I’m taking stock of myself at the end of 2022 and trying to work out what I will do, what I want to do and what I want to not do in 2023.

For the past decade or so I’ve had the luck and privilege to be able to write a few series of children’s books, along with a handful of plays and a larger handful of small scale storytelling shows and workshops. Next year I’m hoping to add at least one more play to the list, along with a novel that has been rolling around in my head for the past twelve months.

Whether either of them will actually happen is uncertain, but it will be fun to find out whether I can actually commit to either project without letting all the other work push them out.

nd so we come to the end of this first post, which will hopefully either endear you to me or push you away in search of a more suitable writer. Thanks for reading in any case. And may the end of your 2022 be sober/drunk/delightful/enlightening/terrible.*

*Please delete as applicable.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Ode To Gimbap

Here's your moment of zen for the day - a beautiful 10 minute film about Gimbap:

Munchies have put together an excellent little documentary titled "Self Expression Through Gimbap" about chef/artist Toyoung and her delightful Gimbap restaurant in Seoul. Short, sweet and bound to make your mouth water. An ode to good food, good pottery, good friendship and the marriage of art, cuisine and different cultures.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Yes, just like that bloke 2000 years ago, my blog has risen again on Easter Sunday. Now that blogging is completely unfashionable, antiquated and of no interest to anyone, I feel like it might be the right time to start again. 

So, Happy Easter to you all! I spent my weekend on a cross-cultural inter-family exchange at a themed pension city on an island off the coast of Incheon. After a night of heavy drinking, meat grilling and story swapping we got up early and prepared a rather special Easter breakfast - chapjae and chocolate eggs (as well as some other bits and pieces). 

A strange combination, but it was a chance to celebrate the best of both worlds and who doesn't like chocolate for breakfast?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Joys Of Summer (Plus A Little Bit Of Shakespeare)

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.

My vibrating bottom will haunt your ears

Summer is well and truly here on the peninsula, we've survived the muggy monsoon season and now we're onto the even muggier month of August. A time to appreciate the constant whine of the cicadas whilst you slowly melt onto the pavement in a dehydrated sweaty mess.

Still, life isn't all bad when the air conditioning is on full blast, your feet are in a bucket of cold water and you're halfway through eating your own weight in ice cream.

Plus, I have news of an event that doesn't seem to be getting any English language press in Korea (at least not that I could find). On August 15th and 16th, the Marronnier Outdoor Stage in Daehangno is playing host to an English language production of Hamlet.

This isn't just any old performance, it's part of the "Globe to Globe" world tour by the Shakespeare's Globe theatre troupe. Started back on April 23rd 2014, the plan is to take Hamlet to every single country on Earth (on a whopping two year tour) and this month Korea gets a flying visit from the company.

Tickets are free, but you will need to be able to understand Korean or at least have someone understand it for you if you want to get your sweaty little hands on them. Head here to book tickets! The shows start at 7.30 on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th of August and you'll get to see the Danish prince in all his glory.

Here's a sneak preview of sorts:

So get off your bottom, get booking and enjoy a summery Shakespeare evening... 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Well, 2014 is dead and gone and I’m still here sitting in my underpants and considering what 2015 may hold. New experiences? New friends? New work? Rainbows? Unicorns? Kittens with lasers for eyes? Possibly… What I do know, is that the past twelve months have been a whirlwind of change, sometimes filled with excitement and sometimes filled with pain.

In February the performing company of Latt Children’s Theatre was almost fully shut down after 11 years of operation, with only a skeleton staff remaining for the summer. The theatre still continues as a venue that also will occasionally put on its own productions, but it has ceased to function as the only English language children’s repertory theatre company in Korea. After spending over a decade making shows together, it was a very strange feeling to have everything shut down and for an important chapter in our lives to close. I remained with the company for the summer festival, putting on two smaller scale shows and doing some storytelling and we were lucky enough to have two great Korean language children’s theatre companies come in to perform alongside us.

With the ending of one endeavour came the start of two others. First with the founding of a new company - Jam Box Theatre - hopefully persevering with the work we have done at Latt and continuing to entertain and inspire families in the future. Our first show was done in partnership with Latt Children’s Theatre, allowing us to perform at the venue and giving us a chance to present a brand new work: Fairy Tale Box. Fifteen fairy tales told in one hour in all sorts of ways - some long, some short, some scary and some silly, we mixed European and Korean traditional tales together to give our audiences something a little different. Pigs, princess, wolves, tigers, turtles, rabbits and a Snow Queen shared the stage and we had a joyous month long run with over 4,000 people coming to see us perform.

The other new beginning was much more of a surprise. For the past four years I’ve been guesting on various radio programmes on TBSeFM and Arirang Radio, talking about Korean culture, festivals and events, but this summer I was given the opportunity to audition as a full time dj and you can now hear me daily as part of the Wake Up Crew. I sit in a studio with Punita Bajaj and get to waffle on about all sorts of interesting things and you can hear us every morning from 5.00 till 7.00. A little early for most people, but do take a listen if you have the chance. Thanks to the format of the show I get to share a story I’m interested in every day as well as music of my choice which has led to me being able to start playing old Tom Waits tracks pretty much every week, much to the annoyance of my cohost who would prefer more Michael Buble... 

As for 2015? I’m in rehearsals for a Singalong Concert which opens next week - a chance for young kids and the parents to singalong to some nursery favourites including Old MacDonald Had A Farm and The Wheels On The Bus, as well as planning new shows with Jam Box Theatre for the coming year. If you’re studying at certain academies you may also get to hear me as the disembodied British male voice in some of your upcoming listening tests and if you haven’t seen the Korean film Cart yet, then you should, because my wife is in it and she is fabulous.

I’m not sure what else the new year will bring, but I’m hoping there will be more joy than sorrow, more delight than pain and more interesting times ahead. Happy New Year!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Musical Whale Of A Time!

A week and a half ago I had the good fortune to be given a free ticket to the Yeowoorak Festival by the K-Performance Supporters programme. There have been numerous performances throughout the festival, but I was offered the chance to attend one in particular - The Whale In The Moon - a collaborative concert between two particularly interesting bands, Second Moon and Coreyah.

Second Moon performing "Ice Pond" live on MBC

Second Moon are a funky, spunky "ethnic fusion" group made up of six instrumentalists and are perhaps best known for the contributions to the soundtracks of tv dramas like Princess Hours and Island. A mix of drums, keyboards, melodion, mandolin, guitar, double bass, uilleann pipes, accordion and violin.

Coreyah's music video "Whale Of A Time"

Coreyah are a little more Korea focused in terms of their musical sensibilities, five musicians using a mix of traditional instruments including daegeum, sogeum, geomungo and janggu alongside guitar, drums and other more eclectic musical tools to create a wide selection of worldly tunes that are complemented by singer Kwon Ah-shin's vocals.

A grand total of a dozen performers on stage that night, all attempting to play a mixed bag of the two teams' repertoires. Some tunes were more successful than others, with Second Moon's own compositions often outshining those of Coreyah. However, both teams played with aplomb and every musician seemed to be giving their all to every number, no matter the origin.

The audience (seemingly mostly composed of fans of both Second Moon and Coreyah) lapped every song up, but to be honest by the halfway mark I found my interest flagging, especially when two male members of Coreyah decided to perform an ear-splittingly bad rap number.

Still, it was well worth going and it makes me happy to know that the National Theatre of Korea is willing to invest time and money in an experimental music festival that attempts to break new ground and bring innovative artists together. I also hope I get to see Second Moon again at some point, but to be honest I think one performance from Coreyah was enough for me.

The Yeowoorak Festival comes to a close this weekend, but do not fear the National Theatre has already released its line up for the 2014/2015 season and then are plenty of productions that demand attention, including more screenings of performances from the National Theatre Live programme in the UK.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Cool Fusion Music Festival For These Hot Summer Nights

It's too bloody hot these days and I'm in need of some sort of distraction. Fortunately the National Theatre are offering their own musical remedy in the form of the 여우락 (Yeowoorak) Festival. Celebrating it's fifth anniversary this year, it's a month long celebration of new music and all of it is somehow linked into the traditions of Korea.

Thanks to the lovely people at the K-performance supporters program I've blagged myself a ticket for this Friday's performance of The Whale In The Moon, which promises to be an innovative collaboration between Second Moon (a Korean band that plays Irish music) and Coreyah (a traditional Korean folk music group). I'm not quite sure what to expect, but if anything it will be something I've never heard before and that's pretty much the idea of this festival.

Yeowoorak translates to "here is our music" (according to the festival organizers) and it promises completely new concerts by some of the best artists from Korea and across the world. Over 23 days, you get a chance to see 10 different concerts put together by a total of 101 musicians. Each performance links back to Korean traditional music in some way, whether it's master saxophonist Kang Tae-hwan playing with a traditional singer and a geomungo player, or Han Seung-seok and Jung Jae-il combining pansori and piano to bring new life to the old fairytale of Princess Bari. An astonishing range of concerts.

The other good news is that if you're not Korean and you can produce a passport or student id, they'll give you 50% off the ticket price - 15,000 won instead of 30,000 won. Well, worth a look see if you're a fan of traditional music.