ZANDARI Festa 2016 – A Mini Mini ‘MUSIC’ Special Feature

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I started to write this whilst listening to one of the festival’s featured bands, LAYBRICKS on my iPhone, on a bus in Gwangju, South Korea.

Now, just because I mentioned the type of phone being used, in part to write this article, I’m in no way endorsing an or the iPhone. In fact, far from it, you could say… as it’s recently caused me nothing but trouble – and worsening as I travelled to Korea (later: Cambodia & Thailand). Whether this be a problem with the software, latest iOS update or what, no matter what I deleted the ‘storage remaining amount’ was always ZERO. Sure, I was always guilty of keeping it full to capacity, even before my trip (and with previous phones or devices) but that’s no excuse to now land me in deep trouble regarding what I could and couldn’t do – and you’ll realise, I’m sure, how much this can restrict oneself… no taking photos, apps not opening, switching itself off when it feels like it and, prior to leaving the UK deleting all my pre-July text messages, dating back years!

I also regret deleting apps KakaoTalk, WeChat & LINE but hey ho, whether I really needed to is surely the subject of a pub conversation instead.

Back the device up?! Is that what you exclaim or ask? Yes, in the UK, but I was well into my first few days in South Korea when the extent of the damage was realised. ㅠㅠ, as some may write in Korea, Korean and of course, Hangul.

Back it up? Back to the story, more like! Yep… and… Back to Korea I was… This being my 5th trip in 4 years.

And, my longest visit. 5 weeks!

My agenda was pretty big and long, even if full plans once reaching cities, areas & places weren’t in place.

So, I begin and indeed began in Seoul. As most flights to South Korea do. And around 24 hours into landing I had my ‘traditional’ Korea birthday drinks. Yep. Out of 5 trips to Korea, 4 had been over my birthday! Coincidental, Convenient or Cleverly-planned? A mix of all of these, I suppose.

It wasn’t long though until those celebrations were over and it was time to immerse myself fully – or as best as one can do when enjoying the parties which go along with it, and health issues he may have – in… yes, you guessed it… ZANDARI FESTA 2016!

Damn Right. So… I had already experienced Zandari Festa 2015, a festival which had just 3 years under its belt prior to that year’s. OK, my experience which I refer to, could be seen or read as minimal if you’ve taken a look at the relating article on this website. My excuse would be that I had too much to cover, either in written form or video form. You see, I had committed myself to a written piece, a few video interviews and… OK, I admit… parties. Add to this the fact that quite a bit of time had passed, you can perhaps see what was inevitable. When I returned to write a follow-up piece and build on what I’d started I really didn’t know where to start… or… errr… continue.

Therefore, this posting not only covers 2016 but touches on a little of 2015 [if only thanks to the latter paragraph… hahaha – or ㅋㅋㅋ, as many Koreans express when writing]

Maybe you need more excuses… Well, I have been busy with other Korean events, film events, life events and of course helping Korean act, Neon Bunny (Yoojin Lim) secure a venue and play her first ever London gig. Yep, I’ve been a busy man… And not to mention, editing projects I have, and had been commissioned to come on board with. More news on the latter as and when I’ve permission to post.

Either way, anyway or anyhow, I’d liked the festival or loved it so much that I simply NEEDED to return for 2016, its 5th year!

This year’s Korean trip was kind of all about the Number 5 [I know, I know, my epic http://www.Facebook.com/SouthKoreaDOCUMENTARY revolves, hinges or perhaps is simply structured around the Number 14, but hey!] and I’ll list how it was all about FIVE!

5th trip to Korea
5th year for ZANDARI Festa, if indeed I’d only, thus far attended 2
5 nights on Jeju-do
5 nights in Seoul, on the last leg of this, my Korean ‘tour’ at least
5 place I’d touchdown’d in – well, I’m cheating here but:
SEOUL; BUSAN; JEJU; GWANGJU; SEOUL (and even BUSAN was actually twice;)

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I’ll spare further details of my Korean trip, for now at least and simply push on with rambling about ZANDARI Festa 2016.

As expected with any festivals, yearly music or film events or otherwise, things improve year on year… Or at least should.

There was a slight change in venues, hub and items handed out – for example, the Kangol ‘freebie’ for those taking part (bands; press; whatever) was this year not a lovely and tough tote bag, but a pair of pretty cool trainers! Yes, you read that that right! – as well as other aspects of the festival.

Note: We did get given a lovely string-pull bag, complete with the current ZANDARI Festa logo and more… Just not made by Kangol, as far as I’m aware.

I believe though, that the reason or part reason for a slight change in venues (either for the main concerts or after parties, or even ‘after’ after parties) was because, like in London and elsewhere in the world, corporations and rising rent prices make it difficult or impossible to continue. Don’t get me started, I know. Well, I did start… But don’t get me ‘continuing’!

One major issue or other (and larger) sadness is that this year a certain important figure involved with ZANDARI in previous years is no longer with us. The individual we mention here, Myoung Shin Ki, passed away a few months ago. There were tributes / announcements / heartfelt words concerning this. I too met the lovely guy on one or two occasions, I believe, and like any death it’s a tragedy. So much life. I won’t say “so much talent” because that’s irrelevant when anyone leaves this little planet. It’s a loss. Always a deep loss.

With the loss of a brilliant human being and what with losing a venue or two, that doesn’t mean the festival is losing momentum. Far from it, I’d say, judging from my experience this year.

But… where to start [finally] about it?

Well, firstly, there are certain bands I will always want to witness – even if it means making that difficult decision about which band to MISS, due to the program schedule.

Luckily there weren’t too many bands whom I missed out on seeing, and one of the ones I refer to in the previous paragraph is GOONAM (or Goonamguayeoridingstella, to give them their full name!)

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Photo Credit:  Douglas Vautour

Yep. They closed one of the days last year, and that was the final day… This year saw a similar close to one of the festival’s days.

Ever since catching them live on a couple of occasions when they were in London in 2013, I have loved their stuff and when they play live they’re even more amazing, in my opinion than their albums. Not all artists are like that even if people constantly say about artists “they are much better live”… Yep, some musicians I admire can’t replicate the sound of their albums or do something which really gets audience members immersed. Goonam certainly have the energy, funk and, I’d say, lyrics too.

Another band is the one I mentioned at the start of this posting, they being LAYBRICKS.

I somehow managed to miss them at every UK gig and there were certainly A LOT of them. I found out later [at a meal with this duo] – and you’ll found out later about ‘that finding out’ – that they did have someone co-ordinate such gigs, but originally they did all that themselves. It’s no easy task, I can tell you, and I’ve only been hands-on involved with one venue, one gig and one Korean artist [Neon Bunny – as mentioned above and in a couple of articles here on MiniMiniMovie.com.

I’d heard this band were good (incidentally, I’ve since purchased their EP online) but I had yet to witness them. But… yes… this duo really rock! Great melodies, hooks, choruses, you name it! Brilliant live presence too.

Indeed, I did get to witness them this time, in Hongdae (one pre-ZANDARI festa gig… prior to which the two of them whisked me off to & treated me to a meal, where we discussed their UK tour, my projects, politics and more… and one ZANDARI gig). It’s true that I really didn’t know what I was missing, until these gigs. Oh and the duo really get the crowd moving, especially the little group of fans at the front – even including them moving on queue, and accordingly to the lyrics “turn Left… turn Right”, but I’m sure you can imagine.

I won’t go through all the bands I saw and why but one last one… TIRIKILATOPS.

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An unusual name, and so unheard of, you could say that when typed into Google it simply suggests you meant ‘triceratops’!

The connection with dinosaurs doesn’t end there. Check out their little but fab bio:

“Born of a fossilised egg discovered on a Korean mountainside during a heavy thunderstorm! Tirikilatops mash up de place with a combination of kimchi beats, offbeat lyrics of Bom Carrot’s adventures, dayglo colours, hacked keyboards, rice wine, halloween attitudes and earworm melodies.

Boogie down Seoul central!”

I said that the name is unusual and I could also say that their style too… Whether this be their musical style (especially singer Bomi’s vocals), their costumes and act on stage or all of it combined.

Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to interview the duo / trio [I use both words as essentially they’re made up of 2 people, in the songwriting process, at least – but often or usually 3 when on stage].

The video interview will be posted soon and it’s only part of the amount of questions I had. The interview got cut short, essentially due to the noise* coming from the next band, TENGGER – perhaps them sound-checking or starting.

* Or should I really say MUSIC? Noise sounds a tad derogatory.

And try as we might to reschedule the interview we couldn’t quite do it… I’d say probably on my part… I should have been more proactive perhaps.

The latter opportunity came up due to, and ultimately thanks to the radio show by the brilliant Shawn Despres, called “Sounds From The Korean Undeground”.

https://m.facebook.com/soundsfromthekoreanunderground/

http://cfmu.msumcmaster.ca

So… Here’s a little about ZANDARI FESTA. Note: This is from Press detail supplied prior to Zandari Festa 2016:

“The fifth edition of Zandari Festa will take place in Hongdae area from Sept 30 – Oct 3 and will see more than 160 acts playing in a dozen different venues. This year’s lineup will boast many of Korea’s top indie acts along with international talent from South Africa, Madagascar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Estonia, France, the UK, and the US. In addition to the bands flying to Seoul to perform, delegates from a number of Western and Asian festivals and music companies will be attending Zandari to speak as part of the fest’s panels and check out the showcases.

Started in 2012, Zandari Festa quickly established itself as South Korea’s largest music showcase festival. The annual event takes place in Seoul’s Hongdae area, the epicenter of youth culture in South Korea and ground zero for the country’s indie music scene. Each fall, Zandari Festa brings together acts and music industry professionals from around the world for concerts and conferences at a number of unique venues around Hongdae. One wristband allows festival-goers access to all of Zandari Festa’s shows.

Along with showcasing established acts and exciting up-and-comers from South Korea’s burgeoning indie scene, with each passing year Zandari Festa has placed a greater emphasis on becoming a truly global event. At 2012’s inaugural Zandari Festa, acts from two other countries traveled to Seoul to perform. The 2016 event will feature artists from 18 different countries. This year will also see two special branded showcases, the “Sound City Takeover at Zandari Festa” British Night and the “Esprit Français” French Night, that will highlight some of the top emerging talent from both places. By attracting more international talent, Zandari Festa has been able to expose audiences to a wider range of musical talent and has helped build bridges that have allowed for Korean and overseas artists and Korean and overseas music companies and festivals to better communicate, work together, and learn from each other.

Zandari Festa 2016 will take place from September 30 – October 3 and will see more than 160 acts performing at a dozen venues to enthusiastic crowds of music fans, journalists, and global industry professionals. Featuring four days packed with showcases from fantastic homegrown and international acts, this year’s Zandari Festa promises to be the most exciting edition of the festival yet!

Quotes:
“This really has grown considerably since its inception in 2012, fast becoming one of the hottest festivals around.” – Cubed3

“Zandari Festa has become a precious jewel of the Hongdae music scene.” – The Secret World of the Korean Indie Scene

“… the Seoul-based event is definitely growing in stature and is rightfully becoming one of Korea’s more talked about fests in the local and overseas indie scenes.” – View of the Arts

“… one of the country’s ‘must-attend’ autumn musical outings.” – Groove Korea

“… the largest indie music festival in Korea and one that adds even more exotic musical flavor to an already simmering Hongdae indie stew!” – 10 Magazine”

And almost lastly…

Here’s a little list of all, or at least most artists I did manage to see – in no particular order – None of whom let me or the rest of the audiences down, it would seem:

TENGGER – Having been in touch with one of the band members previously and not being able to make a UK tour date of theirs, I was in my element, you could say when I finally witnessed them play, immediately after the brilliant TIRIKILATOPS.

BILLY CARTER – A sublime joy to watch and one of the band members truly rocked, along with others at an after-after-party, probably around 5 or 6am. Excuse my memory regarding the latter.

GOONAM – See previous details above.

COLONEL MUSTARD & THE DIJON 5 – Didn’t think I’d actually see this British ensemble band perform but soon realised – plus I’d bumped into them several times throughout Z Fest – that they were showcasing their amazing talent & style at the British Night. So much crowd participation which had so much intensity. I’ll try and share a little footage I have with you all soon.

TIRIKILATOPS – A very unique band, true artists [musically and in other ways]… See previous paragraph/s.

STREETGUNS – A very boppy ‘boyband’ one could say, but much more talented than the ‘average & manufactured’ band with boys. Their costumes are kind of retro and style quite unique. I first bumped into these lads when I interviewed JAMBINAI last year.

LOVE X STEREO – So, so, so proud of Annie Ko & the gang and in a kind of surreal way. I mean, I first met her and bandmate/s back in 2012 & even before hearing their music. It’s now the second time I’ve had the pleasure of catching them live (well, like GOONAM and others they’ve been busy gaining fans over at SXSW and elsewhere. I hear a UK visit, well-overdue in my opinion, is on the cards – I had a lovely, albeit late chat with Ms Ko one evening or in the morning hours at Zandari.

LAYBRICKS – See a previous paragraph or two for these outstanding musicians.

DANPYUNSUN AND THE SAILORS – I very almost didn’t see these but upon a recommendation or two I did end up catching them. So happy that I did, especially as they later played a gig in London whilst I was still in Korea. An eclectic mix of musicians and instruments… Astounding violinist included!

ASEUL – A solo keyboardist & vocalist with sublime beats and voice. In fact, I not only had heard of her via NEON BUNNY but also, last year at ZANDARI, ahead of Love X Stereo I’d witnessed her play, unbeknown to me that this is who it was. In fact, she went by a different name then.

BIG BABY DRIVER TRIO – I decided to catch half of ASEUL’s show and then head up* to the remaining few songs of BIG BABY DRIVER TRIO (*this wasn’t a difficult feat as both were in the same venue, the latter trio performing in Club Steelface rooftop space… And what a lovely space it is. I should add that band, PATIENTS or at least front man, Sumin Jo runs Steelface Records… & hence the club name and record label are connected). The trio were bringing a great mood and melody to both the roof and the outside weather. Their songs are unique and, I guess perhaps moody, but definitely a little melancholy. I didn’t want to miss BIG BABY DRIVER TRIO’s set, especially as I caught the main woman ‘BIG BABY DRIVER’ play last year at ZANDARI, plus had a little chat with her – her solo stuff is very chilled. Whether the rooftop, fitting for a warm Autumnal evening, or BIG BABY DRIVER’s Summer-Autumn feel tunes, it certainly wasn’t a setting, setlist or night I’ll easily forget.

TELEFERIK – Featured or showcased at the French Night and elsewhere, this band blew us all away… with music not weapons! After bumping into the band member and essentially the guy behind the band, I believe, I not only was pleasantly surprised but shocked. The way they appear on stage is not how you’d imagine they sound. Words probably can’t describe… right now anyway!

Wanted to catch but missed:

The Barbarettes (timing essentially, although perhaps I did have time – however, I may have been misled by my own brain, perhaps thinking they were really a covers band, even if they have a different way of doing it. I believe I therefore lied to myself, realising only after when I read an article. I’m sure I’ll witness them someday soon.

Galaxy Express (seen before, even interviewed them but other priorities this time around)

Djang San (met him last year and kind of stayed in touch but again, didn’t catch him play, only to chat to)

Patients (Although witnessed in London before, I didn’t catch Sumin & the gang as part of ZANDARI 2016, I did make a special trip back to his club for a Halloween themed night – Patients played, along with 57,  The Punk Drunk Love & Rock N Roll Radio… at the tail end of my 5 week South Korea trip.

Nature Airliner (as above essentially, but good to bump into him this year)

DTSQ (didn’t catch them play, but saw them at various parties)

Max Reynolds (someone else I’d stayed in touch with after hanging out and going for food last year but timing, or my bad timing meant that I didn’t see him play this year either!)

Kim Sawol & Kim Haewon (timing again, but heard lots of good stuff about them – I was handed their CD by a certain someone I know at the festival, and if my memory serves me correctly it was she who I also met at Glastonbury a couple of years back, with Gonne Choi)

On the subject of Ms Gonne Choi, I was both surprised and ecstatic to see her, as well as one half of Uh Uh Boo Project at party/ies… Not to mention many other familiar faces. One familiar face which always brings me joy and conversation is a pleasure too, to see that of MinJung from Ego Function Error – we first met very randomly at Glastonbury one year. And although Ego Function Error played at both this and last year’s ZANDARI I’ve still not witnessed the band!

I must also give a little shoutout to the brilliant Vivian [we originally met in London when she was helping Juck Juck Grunzie – see the video interview in my Zandari Festa 2015 article] who introduced me to the brilliantly minded guy from KINGSTON RUDIESKA. I didn’t manage to catch his band but we had a great little chat about the state of the world… the Korean one in particular, I guess [Apolohies, I’ve drifted into politics territory again!]

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Unfortunately, those ‘file recommendations’ don’t include correcting band member names when you’ve got them the wrong way around – see last year’s Zandari Festa article for details! 

In fact, on this trip I realised how much of a connection there is between music and political issues. The topic, or topics came up with many artists and representatives when I chatted to them… Sure, I may have sometimes been the instigator but the feeling of hurt, anger, betrayal and more is there. We are thinking alike in these hard, political times, whether in Korea or the world. Thankfully, music helps us deal with such issues. To put it another way, perhaps, music really can give the artist or anyone a VOICE!

However, whether meeting journalists / activists / enthusiasts / artists / photographers / organizers / volunteers / friends it’s all proof that music can bring us closer together.

And speaking of music and being closer together, I happy to meet up with, spend time with and even eat with my friends Haekyung and Lu Yin – the latter is a co-founder of the http://www.Facebook.com/LondonAsianFilmSociety, along with me and a handful of others… She also runs the brilliant SumgyeojinGem.com website, which specializes in Korean music, film and other aspects of the culture.

After all the chatting, listening, working and partying I left the festival feeling musically refreshed even if my body was far from freshly detoxed.

And, as I make my way through Cambodia [as I type this part I can confirm that today I’ve travelled from Kampot to Phnom Penh and am now on the way up to Siem Reap] I’ll leave YOU with these words…

Words beginning with Z are the last in a dictionary, but to me, ZANDARI is where indie music begins, not just in Hongdae, Seoul but in the world. May the Fantastic thing that is is Zandari Festa continue to be seen as not only a Festival which is breaking boundaries but showcasing brilliant Firsts, Familiars, great Finds & artists which are certainly not on their Final legs.

More information about Zandari Festa and the artists can be found here:

http://www.zfesta.com/en/

Here’s a highlight video from last year’s fest: