From Oct 2–4, nearly 260 bands from around the world hit Seoul for Korea’s largest music showcase festival, Zandari Festa. Included in the lineup are three Jeju-based acts – Zen Alone, Laranjinha, and Kundalini Trio.
Zandari Festa has been held every fall since 2012. Similar to other club-style festivals like South By Southwest (SXSW) in the US or The Great Escape in the UK, wristbands allow attendees to travel between almost two dozen venues and choose between performers.
This style of event encourages show-goers to check out music they may be unfamiliar with. While this can bring musicians new fans, the increased competition can also mean that acts sometimes draw smaller crowds than anticipated. That’s what happened to singer-songwriter Zen Alone last year.
“I played at Club Auteur in 2014 and there was only one person watching the show,” laughs Eem Hyun Jong (a.k.a. Zen Alone). “But I remember that the club’s staff were very friendly.”
Zen Alone’s first time gigging at Zandari Festa was in 2013, and despite last year’s low turnout he happily returned to showcase his acoustic songs again at this year’s bash.
“It only happens once a year and there are so many concerts happening,” says Eem. “So it feels like sports day in elementary school. I like the feel of the fest.”
“I also like that bands that are not famous can participate and that people can watch all the shows without paying too much. And I like that all acts are treated equally and given the same benefits and support regardless of their stature.”
Eem released his debut disc, “Old Diary,” as Zen Alone in 2013. Before that, he drummed in the punk band 99Anger and was the vocalist in the punk/hardcore band 10 Minutes Late. He’s already written material for his sophomore Zen Alone offering and will be playing new tracks at Zandari Festa.
Eem agreed that Zandari Festa is a good event for Jeju musicians to participate in: “It’s a great chance to meet musicians and music fans from different regions other than Jeju.”
David Bevilacqua (a.k.a. Laranjinha).
David Bevilacqua played at Zandari Festa in 2013 under his own name and returned last year using the moniker Laranjinha. He also believes Zandari Festa allows Jeju musicians to network and reach music fans from Seoul and throughout the mainland..
“Jeju is kind of small, so I often have at least some degree of connection to most of the audience who see me play here, but it was pretty cool to get a crowd of complete strangers that showed up to see me at last year's Zandari,” he says. “It was a really friendly crowd, and I even got some shout outs on Twitter and ended up on someone's blog.”
Bevilacqua’s music as Laranjinha is a mix of MPB (which is Brazilian popular music), funk, soul, jazz, R&B, and pop. While Laranjinha is a solo project, Bevilacqua often collaborates with guests from different stylistic backgrounds. He’ll be doing this at Zandari Festa too.
“Unfortunately Simon Powell, the violinist with whom I've been playing for the past several months, can’t come, but I'll be joined by the talented jazz musician Kyle Ohlson on flute, clarinet, and saxophone,” he said.
Aside from playing at his Zandari Festa showcase, how does Bevilacqua intend to spend the rest of his weekend in Seoul?
“Well, there's an artists’ lounge at the festival with free beer, so I plan on seeing how many of those I can drink before the staff starts giving me dirty looks!”
Made up of American and Korean musicians, the four-piece experimental rock band Kundalini Trio will be playing Zandari Festa for the first time in October.
“Yes, there are four people in a trio!” says drummer Douglas Dennis for anyone questioning the group’s make up.
Like Zen Alone and Laranjinha, Kundalini Trio’s desire to play in new markets led them to apply for Zandari Festa.
“Several people recommended it to us, and we are clawing our eyes out only playing in Jeju,” says Dennis.
Kundalini Trio are preparing to issue their first album, “Kundalini Awakening,” in the United States and Korea later this fall. Although the audience can expect a sneak preview of that material at Zandari Festa, Dennis is coy about what else is in store.
“We’ll never unveil our secret plan,” he says. “Witness it live at this never-been-seen-before, one-time only event!”
With that kind of build-up, some local fans may be tempted to fly to Seoul with the band to find out for themselves!
Zandari Festa 2015
Various venues in Hongdae, Seoul
Delegate Pass: 100,000 won
Sat-Sun Pass: 45,000 won
For more info: zfesta.com/en/zfesta.com/en/
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