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[Herald Interview] Festival delves into 'K-World music'

2020 ACC World Music Festival wraps up early, may go virtual

Heo Yoon-jeong, the artistic director of the 11th ACC World Music Festival, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald held Wednesday at Seoul National University in southern Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)
Heo Yoon-jeong, the artistic director of the 11th ACC World Music Festival, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald held Wednesday at Seoul National University in southern Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)


Like most fests this year, the 11th ACC World Music Festival has not been able to escape the crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual music festival kicked off Friday, despite the fast-spreading virus crisis. However, as the government decided to expand strict social distancing guidelines nationwide Saturday, the rest of the festival schedule had to be canceled.

“It was like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’” string instrument geomungo virtuoso Heo Yoon-jeong, who led the festival as artistic director, said in a phone interview with The Korea Herald on Sunday. “To meet with the audience even for just a day at a time like this was epic.”

 
Park Ji-ha, who plays traditional Korean instruments, performs at the 11th ACC World Music Festival on Friday at the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju. (ACC World Music Festival)
Park Ji-ha, who plays traditional Korean instruments, performs at the 11th ACC World Music Festival on Friday at the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju. (ACC World Music Festival)

On Friday, 100 audience members attended the festival. As not many could enjoy the event due to social distancing guidelines, organizers are currently discussing whether to hold the festival online.

This year’s festival initially aimed to introduce Korean artists’ interpretation of world music to the local audience. Though a world music festival, foreign artists could not participate this year due to restrictions in overseas travel.

Instead, Heo put forward the idea of “K-World music,” which she performs herself as the leader of contemporary gugak band Black String.

“World music has not been a familiar term to many. Perhaps this could be a chance to share the music with the wider public, introducing them to qualified K-World musicians. Knowing our music better, the audience can appreciate other world music, too,” Heo said during an in-person interview held at Seoul National University on Wednesday in Seoul.

“Korean artists who practice world music have been establishing their places in the international music scene over the last decade. We wanted to introduce what Korean world musicians are doing these days, what we should pursue in the future,” Heo said.

Before the shutdown on Saturday, the festival had high hopes for this year. It was the first time for the festival to sell tickets. Until last year, the event had been free of charge for all.

“The festival should be sustainable. Music is not welfare. Audiences and artists take a different approach to concerts that are paid for. It is not just about the money, but the artists can feel appreciated,” Heo, a performer herself, said.

“State-funded festivals with sufficient budgets are sometimes satisfied with themselves by preparing a well-organized show without hiccups. But I believe we should (delve) more into this. The only way for a festival to develop is by selling tickets, the need to sell tickets can drive the organizers to prepare a better event,” she said.

Heo dreams of establishing a residency ensemble for the festival someday, like a festival orchestra for classical music festivals.

“The keyword of world music is diversity, what matters is for artists to showcase their diversity. However, orchestras need members to sacrifice themselves to cooperate. Perhaps a soloist ensemble can be an option, like a residency program,” she said.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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