Passion of Latin jazz returns to Seoul’s stage

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Passion of Latin jazz returns to Seoul’s stage

You can fly halfway around the world to hear authentic Caribbean music, or your can go to the Seoul Arts Center to hear the same sensuous, stormy rhythms.
From Feb. 27 to March 2, the homegrown Orquesta Cobana will be performing its first concert series of the year.
The show, billed as “Latin Jazz and Salsa: Cobana Beer & Dance with Mambo” will feature pop, bossa nova, mambo and flamenco. Compositions by the legendary Santana, including “Love of My Life,” will be performed. Pop songs such as “Sealed with a Kiss” will be interwoven into medleys. And, for the first time, Cobana will include a flamenco dance in its performance.
“Flamenco can be played as a salsa in Spanish style. It’s a bit different from the Caribbean salsa that we normally play,” says Chung Jung-bae, the group’s leader.
Orquesta Cobana was founded in 1998 by Mr. Chung, a percussionist who studied Latin music in Brazil and the United States.
The group has 21 members, most of them regulars with Korean television broadcast orchestras. Their bold sound comes from a combination of percussion, saxophone, trumpet, bass, piano and four vocalists.
The word “Cobana” is derived from two words: “Corea” (as in Korea) and Havana, the capital of Cuba.
Havana is the heart of Latin music, Mr. Chung says. “Co” demonstrates the group’s determination to adapt Latin music in a Korean manner so Korean audiences learn to love Latin jazz and salsa.
And, not only Korean. Orquesta Cobana performed for the Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada in the Blue House when he visited Korea in 2001.
The Seoul Arts Center concerts are open affairs; the audience is invited to dance on the stage at anytime during the shows.
Before the shows, in the lobby, concert goers will be able to play the bongos, maracas and timbales. And, throughout the evenings, beer will be on tap and snacks will be served.
Next Thursday’s concert has particular meaning for Orquesta Cobana. The group’s trumpet player, Kim Wol-am, died of a cerebral hemorrhage while playing a solo during a concert last Feb. 27. Mr. Chung says that proceeds from next Thursday’s concert will be donated to his family.


by Chung Soo-min
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