A jazz festival comes to ‘turtle’ islandWhat would it be like to spend three days on the back of a turtle, listening to the saxophone while looking up at the stars? Next weekend, you will have a chance to make this surreal notion come true ― to a certain extent.
From Sept. 2-4, 180 jazz artists from around the world will gather on Jara Island in Gapyeong county, Gyeonggi province, for the Jarasum International Jazz Festival. Jara literally means “turtle,” which the island’s shape resembles.
The event is in its second year and is the fruit of an ambitious effort to create a jazz festival in Korea. Local organizers hope that it will become the domestic counterpart of renowned jazz events such as the Newport Jazz Festival or Montreal Jazz Festival someday.
About an hour's drive from Seoul, the island of Jara is very much like a turtle not only in its shape but in that it submerges in the rainy season when the waters of the Bukhan River rise.
When it’s above water, some sections of the island are used to farm yellow Korean melons; most of the area has short vegetation and smaller trees. In the driest season, the island connects to the mainland, making it a few minutes’ stroll from the Gapyeong train station. Despite its accessibility, however, no one actually lives on the island.
Last year, the festival was held amid pouring rain ― one day’s events had to be cancelled ― but still 25,000 people attended the event. Boosted by this success, the program was expanded this year to include 15 foreign bands and 20 Korean bands.
Five performance “stages” will be set up with events taking place simultaneously. The range of performances varies from classical jazz concerts to standing rave-style parties with DJs mixing electronic tunes.
The first day opens up with performances of groups like the Nah Youn Sun Quintet and the Mike Stern Band, among others. Mike Stern is considered one of the greatest guitarists of this era, along with Pat Metheny and John Scofield. An “Island Fever” party featuring Korean and Japanese DJs aims to heat things up at the KTF Party Stage until 4 in the morning.
Saturday’s schedule begins after lunch with the Asia Percussion Unit playing on JJ Street. At another location, music meets avant-garde silent film as the group CINE-MIX mixes electronic, contemporary and pop music with visual art in a concert titled “Studies on Paris.”
Fusion jazz band Vital Information, led by Steve Smith, the former drummer of the rock band Journey, will present powerful sounds and elaborate techniques of jazz rock. Other highlights of the day include the Darren Sigesmund Quintet and Joshua Redman Elastic Band playing at the KTF Jazz Stage.
The final day includes performances of Finnish jazz group Trio Toykeat, the Song Young Ju Trio and the Richard Bona Band.
In addition to music, there will be leisure activities such as banana boat riding, treasure hunts and hot air balloon riding; photo exhibitions of jazz artists; and various crafts.
by Wohn Dong-hee
Details of participating artists and the festival schedule can be found on the festival’s English Web site at www.jarasumjazz.com. Tickets are 10,000 won per day for adults and 5,000 won per day for children up to 17 years of age. For more information, call Advanced Music Production at 02-3445-2813.