With over 150 acts to pick through for this year’s Zandari Festa, it is a safe bet that everyone attending will be having a fun, but difficult time narrowing down who to see. After the festival released the set times earlier this month, it’s become even harder to pick who to see because so many of the acts are playing at the same time. We here at Rock ‘N Seoul have put our collective heads together to give you our top 15 acts not to miss at Zandari in hopes of helping you finalize your list. The following list isn’t in a particular order, because we would probably have begun squabbling if we’d tried to rank them. Haha.
Billy Carter was on everyone’s list immediately. When a band can take a genre of music from another country and make it truly their own, it’s rare & dazzling. Billy Carter tacks rockabilly & blues and turns it on the side, kicking in their own distinctly Korean vibe. This means that all three of us are desperate to see them perform. (We’re looking at you, SXSW)
Biuret is a band that has been around long enough that a lot of Korean’s take them for granted. But a couple of weeks ago when Cy first found them after I was excited about their first release in 9 years, she instantly became a fan. Proving that not only are they still very much relevant in the Korean music scene, they have the power to pull in new fans as well. So, of course we had to all vote for them.
Hollow Jan instantly made it to all our lists too. We know that it can’t be easy being the only screamo band in Korea, but they perform with so much passion that it’s easy to get lost in their performances. Therefore they are a must-see to all of us.
We spoke to Dongjin Jung of Hollow Jan really quickly to hear his take on Zandari Festa and he had some really kind words about one of the key players of the festival, Myoungshin Ki.
You’ve played a few international fests and many in Korea, what makes Zandari Festa special?
Zandari Festa brings many promoters from overseas to Korea for the festival, which creates very good opportunities for bands. And I think this festival is a bit more focused on the music industry itself than other fests in Korea. I hope Zandari Festa can support and help open doors for all the wonderful musicians in Korea who are working hard to become better known.
Do you have a favorite memory from Zandari Festa in years past?
Last year was our first time to play at Zandari Festa. We met Myoungshin Ki, the president of Love Rock Company, there who sadly passed away a few months ago. We clearly remember his passion and the support he gave all musicians. He wanted to expose many musicians in Korea to more music fans around the world. He was a pioneer and a very inspiring person and his passion and energy impressed us. We’ll perform our showcase at Zandari this year with many good memories of Myoungshin, his passion, and his energy.
A’Z Bus, home of the voice that can reach into your heart and pull emotion out of even the most distant of souls. This hard rocking band took all of us in, and we would love to see them perform live as well. (And hope you do too!)
Night Marks Electric Trio is a Polish based electronic group coming to Zandari Festa for the first time. With Cy’s love of all things electronic music, this group immediately caught her attention, and I found myself gravitating toward them too.
Say Sue Me is the darling of the Busan music scene. Their softer and sweeter melodies hint at a more laid back and less hectic music scene than that of their Seoul counterparts. We all love Say Sue Me, and voted them right into our top 15.
Say Sue Me had a few words for us about Zandari Festa:
As one of the few non-Seoul based Korean bands playing the festival, what do you think Zandari does for Korean bands?
Zandari Festa is good chance for bands to introduce their music to more listeners from Korea and overseas.
Who else are you hoping to see perform at Zandari Festa?
We don’t know all the bands that are playing at the festival, so want to see and expect to meet some new bands.
Street Guns Kimchibilly. AKA: Korean rockabilly. How can you miss with this? Another home run for all of us.
Diealright all three of us have fallen in love with this band on our own, and they’re on the top of all our must-see lists, whether that’s at Zandari or not.
Cosovel won votes from both Cy & Rebecca. Cy said “I voted for Cosovel because, well, I have such a personal and spiritual connection to Björk, and the sound at least vocally reminds me of that raw, uncut, unabashed wildness in Björk’s vocal. I also am in love with the elemental, almost primal makeup of the music and how brilliantly it meshes with their powerful visual style.”
Rebecca said ” With Cosovel I also found myself enchanted with the vocals. I got Bjork and Kate Bush feels which is just about as good as it gets in my book!”
Cosovel answered a couple of questions about Zandari Festa with us:
How did you first hear about Zandari Festa?
I’ve been intrigued by Zandari since 2014 when the festival hosted one of the most popular Polish alternative bands, Rebeka. From that moment, Zandari seemed to be one of the most popular destination for underground Polish bands. I love the idea of international cooperation, it forces you to take in new and refreshing perspectives for future creative activity.
What are you most excited about doing during your time in Seoul?
I look at Seoul greedily. For me, the city has something in common with extrapowerology. Peculiar, indescribable, dream-like ethos in cosmic reality. But that’s only the first association, and probably comes as a result of my teenage fascination of Jim Lee’s Batman and Superman characters. The best thing for me is having a chance to participate in the real life of Seoul, to go beyond the role of a tourist. I don’t like having a strict plan, but I still have some compulsory places I want to experience. Beside taking part in festival’s concerts, I’d love to see Seoul’s heritage and some contemporary works of art. For example, I’m delighted by Xooang Choi and his hyper-realistic, nightmarish sculptures. But my main goal is to simply grab the vibe of Seoul through meeting people, exploring the nightlife and getting some delicious Korean food from street vendors.
Crying Nut are arguably the oldest punk band in Korea. But they started so young, the members are still very youthful and energetic, so don’t let that “oldest” tag fool you. (You’d swear they were 15 years younger than they are.) Rebecca & I have both seen them perform and can contest that they are by far one of the most entertaining bands to watch. You’re guaranteed to have a good time watching Crying Nut.
Dead Buttons are definitely one of Rebecca’s favorite bands. She has been very vocal in her desire for them to play SXSW – so we hope that they get the opportunity to impress the officials and come play for us. For now, they’re going to rock the roof off MUV Hall in Seoul for Zandari Festa.
EE are the one band that you need to see live to truly appreciate them. Their recordings don’t do the dynamism of this act enough justice. They travel with a troup of dancers that make the performance a spectacle to not be missed. (I personally had the entire right side of me covered in glitter after one of their Austin performances.)
Jujumo was Cy’s special choice (We each had one). “Jujumo simply because the traditional with a modern twist really appeals to me, especially when done so effortlessly. And the singer’s voice is absolutely to DIE for.”
Jujumo was kind enough to say a few things about her upcoming trip to Seoul.
What drew you to want to play Zandari Festa?
I first heard about Zandari Festa from a woman named Min Kim at the beginning of this year in Okinawa. It sounded like a good opportunity to have our first show in Korea.
Other than playing an awesome showcase, what are you looking forward to doing in Seoul?
Eating lots of delicious food! And while we’re in Seoul, we will also join The 18th Seoul International Youth Film Festival too. After we decided to go to Zandari Festa, a short movie named “Treasure Hunt” that was made in Okinawa was invited to that festival. Erina, the vocalist of Jujumo, acts in the movie and I made the soundtrack for it. We’re thrilled to have the amazing opportunity to join two international festivals during our upcoming trip to Korea.
Uhnellys was Rebecca’s special pick for the list. “I voted Uhnelly’s because of the way they blend rock, hip hop, and jazz. Their sound is just so totally unique and compelling that it grabbed ahold of me on the first listen and I couldn’t get enough. My dirty little secret shame is that I’m not really a fan of jazz. Uhnelly’s is one of the bands that has helped me to broaden my narrow view of the genre.”
We spoke to Kim from Uhnellys a bit to see what drew the act to Korea this year.
You have played a number of international showcases, what makes Zandari Festa a desirable destination for you to play?
With each passing year, I’m becoming more and more interested in learning about the sounds in all the different parts of Asia. Zandari Festa is a good way to gather more knowledge about music from South Korea.
If you could collaborate with any of the other artists at Zandari Festa, who would it be?
I’d love to do a collaboration that involved Korean traditional instruments.
PAKK was my own personal pick for this list. As we all know, I love Apollo 18, and that means that I’ll follow whatever projects the members undertake. Daeinn from Apollo 18 is the mastermind behind PAKK, who just released their first EP earlier this year. I can’t wait to see him perform, even if it’s not as Apollo 18.
That wraps up our top 15 acts to catch at Zandari Festa! We hope you found someone to pique your interest, it’s going to be an amazing weekend filled with fantastic artists from all over the world.