The Yeowoorak Festival reinvents traditional Korean Music

Written by on July 16, 2014 in Arts, Worldwide Korea Bloggers

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.
The Yeowoorak Festival

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 independently extremely talented. Combining their music and incorporating traditional Korean music created a show like nothing I have ever seen before.

The National Theater of Korea

This year the festival is presenting Korean music in four themes Opening, Crossover, Sensation, and Choice.

Held in the Youth Hall, the small circle building was an ideal environment for the performance that 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.

Click here to listen to some of the performance!

When I think of traditional Korean music, the first song, and one I personally love, that comes to mind is Arirang. I’ve heard this song countless time at events in Korea but never like I heard it before as the trio tackled the song first with DJ Souscape introducing the melody in the traditional 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.

The Yeowoorak Festival

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 traditional 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 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 independently amazing, and some of my favorite memories in Korea. If someone told me 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.

Booking: 02)2280-4022/5870

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About the Author

Megan Fox

Megan Fox is a journalist and teacher currently living and working in Seoul, South Korea. She is a freelance writer contributing to publications including Stars and Stripes Newspaper (Korea Stripes), Korea Net, Discovery Magazine and 10 Magazine. She also writes a blog called 'Seoulmateskorea' about her experiences living in Seoul. Megan enjoys traveling and has visited over 50 countries throughout Europe, North America, South America and Asia. Her hobbies include volunteering, hiking, food and gardening.