With local festivals starting to shut down or downsize, there is one fest that stands out – not only surviving but thriving. And according to organizers, that’s because it takes risk.
“The biggest reason for the ‘folding’ is that most of the festivals relied on having a mega lineup that came from just picking up some of the headliners of Japanese festivals such as Fuji Rock and Summersonic. I think that’s lame,” said project manager Cecilia Soojeong Yi. “Zandari Festa takes risks. We believe that we have a great lineup every year, and we’re very proud of it.”
She continues that they want people to know this isn’t a festival where people can come, sit in their camping chairs or on a picnic mat, and listen to whatever music is playing while eating cheap steak from a food truck.
“This is an experience of the real music culture that happens 365 days a year in Seoul or every other country that participates in Zandari Festa,” she said. “This is something that only we can do and no other festival in Korea could copy. That’s why we’re still alive.”
Zandari Festa is, above all, a showcase festival meant to connect musicians and bands with music industry professionals – both those local and international. The festa has been able to help Korean bands play abroad and international bands to book shows here in Korea.
Just from last year’s festa, Korean band Say Sue Me is getting bigger in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, while this spring the organizers were able to bring National Pidgeon Unity, Dead Buttons, Billy Carter, DTSQ, In the Endless Zanhang We Are, and Danny Boy & the Carriages to U.K. festivals such as Liverpool Sound City and Focus Wales, along with Primavera Sounds in Spain.
Yi says that Zandari Festa keeps the gate open for musicians whether they cross it or not.
“We keep researching live music scenes around the world and networking with key people in order to connect them with the Korean music scene,” she said. “When a band is ready, they will easily go out of the country to explore other country’s music scenes and make more opportunities using our connections.”
She adds that the local music scene won’t be enough for all these talented bands. Not to mention, the music scene should be geographically mixed.
“That’s the future, and Zandari Festa exists for the future,” she said.
This year’s festival has been revamped just a bit. Yi said that they’ve re-arranged the time schedule so that attendees can enjoy as many acts as possible. In addition to the official showcases from 5 to 10 p.m. each day, they are expecting more special events from participating countries and continents, along with other special themes.
There will be special nights hosted by the French Institute and Liverpool Sound City, highlighting some of the best emerging musicians from France and the U.K. There will also be a new event presented by HOT – Hungarian Oncoming Tunes – that will present three bands, including Mongooz And the Magnet, who make “no bull-shit, feel-good rhymes,” and folk band Platon Karataev.
“Our goal for this year is to match more musicians with more of the music industry professionals we’re inviting such as festival promoters, bookers, labels, etc.,” Yi said. “We want to continue to expand the opportunities from continent to continent.”
For Daniel Kim from Seoul band Danny Boy & The Carriages, Zandari Festa is a great opportunity to meet new people. It’s the band’s second time performing and he said they believe they have a better idea of what to do, and will work hard to get lots of people to come to their showcase.
“First of all, it’s a great festival just by gathering all these bands from around the world together. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends, you know. And one of the things that many bands don’t know is that there are around 100 or more delegates from many different countries. They should try to network and get the most out of it,” he said.
“I want to experience new bands from other places and see how they act on stage, how they approach music, and how they think. I want to watch as many bands as I can,” he added.
For Daegu band Drinking Boys & Girls Choir, Zandari is a good opportunity for regional bands like themselves, who are located out of Seoul and don’t have a label.
“Before we played at Zandari Festa, we never imagined being able to tour in another country. But at the festival, we met so many musicians from around the world and it broadened our view,” said drummer Myeongjin Kim. “In August of this year we toured in Indonesia, and next year we’ll be doing a U.K. tour.”
Kim added that they hope to meet a lot of bookers and promoters while performing this year, as well as partaking in the large amount of free beer that the festival is quickly becoming famous for. The band just released its first album in February and they plan to promote it at Zandari.
“In my experience, the more active you are, the more you’ll gain from the experience,” Kim said, advising first-time bands and artists that are performing to “meet more people, talk lots with everyone, enjoy yourself and keep drinking.”
For Geoff Smith from Canadian band Gunner & Smith, coming to Zandari is about more than just the people and the music. It’s also about the food.
He said the last time they played at Zandari, they barely scratched the surface of the cuisine that Seoul has to offer, but this time he is committed to eating fried chicken every night.
“After a late night of music and a few beers, that stuff is irresistible! I need to eat enough to last me a whole year in four days, so I have my work cut out for me,” he said.
Beyond that, he said that any scene gets better by bringing in music from different places and any chances artists have to meet artists from other countries is helpful.
“Artists need a network of people to help them move out of their city to new places. Zandari Festa is a great opportunity for that,” Smith said. “I hope to keep meeting people from different places and share our music with new audiences. We’d love to come back to Korea for a proper tour sometime soon.”
For band Anita Parker, who is coming from Basque Country and playing in Zandari for the first time, the chance to perform in a global festival is a gift.
“We want to show our music to a new audience. We think that it is very powerful to create communication between different people through music. We want people to react to our music and have a very good time with Anita Parker,” said vocalist Ane Martinez.
The band mixes electronic dance rhythms with different sounds and music genres, and performs in Basque. Martinez said the festival is an exceptional chance to showcase their music in an exotic place, but in a global environment.
“We love learning about new cultures and places. Having the opportunity of being in a country like Korea, with a long history and which nowadays one of the most trending countries all over the world, is going to be something that we are not going to forget easily, for sure!” Martinez said.
Zandari Festa takes place from Oct. 4-7 in various venues all over Hongdae, Seoul. Check out the festa’s Facebook page and website for timetables and ticket information.