Story by Emma Kalka
Zandari Festa returns to Hongdae on Sept. 29 – Oct. 1
South Korea’s top music showcase festival is back with bang, set to fill 10 venues throughout Hongdae with music from 120 bands from Korea and around the world. This year the lineup is split exactly 50/50 between local and international acts, emphasizing the fest’s goal of becoming a “truly global event.”
Zandari Festa brings together music lovers, musicians and music industry officials for three days of showcases, parties, and conferences in the heart of Korea’s indie music scene – Hongdae.
In line with going more global, last year’s festival featured special British and French Nights, which were so successful that both are returning this year. On top of that, Zandari is adding a special Korea X Singapore collaboration showcase and an Asian showcase as the opening night act, according to Patrick Connor, a member of the Zandari staff.
This year’s Zandari Festa is also broadening its horizons by including midnight showcases focusing on hip-hop and electronica/DJs – a new addition as previous festivals have mostly focused on bands. Festival-goers will be able to party long into the night this year.
Connor said that those who haven’t been to the festival can expect quality music from around the world and a good time, as it’s the “perfect place” to discover emerging talent from both Korea and around the world.
“Oh, and they can expect beer too. Lot’s of beer. Zandari Festa is becoming famous on the international showcase circuit for it’s drinking/party culture,” he added.
Outside of the music and parties, Zandari has always been a major opportunity for local acts to gain the attention of overseas music industries, often helping them land international tours and concerts.
Rock band Dead Buttons was able to tour the U.K. and Europe because of Zandari, while roll ‘n’ roll/blues band Billy Carter landed a spot at the music festival Primavera Sound in Spain this year. Rock band 57 also went on a U.K. tour last year and a U.K. and European tour this year thanks to the connections they made at Zandari.
“It’s a big party that gives you the chance to showcase how good you are for music fans and music executives and maybe grab an opportunity to play somewhere you haven’t been,” said Kim Jiwon, vocalist for Billy Carter. Outside of the festival, Billy Carter also toured Europe, hitting six cities in four countries.
“Every show was different. Some were small and some were big, sometimes we met young and enthusiastic crowds who were dancing and singing along and sometimes we met calm but welcoming people who listened carefully to all the words I sang. And I can say that every single show was f***ing fantastic,” Kim added.
Snow, the drummer from 57, said that, for Korean bands, there are few opportunities to meet foreign bands and staff from overseas music companies, which is why Zandari is a great networking opportunity. It brings in lots of musicians and music industry professionals from around the world.
“We’ve made good friends at Zandari each year that have helped us move forward as a band. [The overseas tours] would not have been possible without the connections we made at Zandari,” the drummer said.
Hong Jihyun from Dead Buttons said touring overseas – an opportunity gained from Zandari – changed his life. He added that besides being a “fun, big party,” it gives musicians the chance to take the next step in their careers.
“They’ve been different every year. We’re growing as a band and the festival is growing up too,” Hong said. “The festival is getting stronger every year and is becoming better known here and overseas.”
This means more delegates are attending, Korean bands are getting to meet more international bands, and more opportunities are being created for all artists at the festival.
Outside of local acts, 60 foreign bands are coming in for the showcase festival, and many are eager to mix and mingle with the local scene.
“We heard Zandari is the place where artists connect with each other, so we’re looking for inspiration and to make lots of connections,” said producer/synthesizer player Shih Ting Tang from Taiwanese act Ruby Fatale. “We want the Taiwan underground music/art scene to interact with the Korean scene and hopefully touch a larger audience.”
Shih Ting Tang describes Ruby Fatale as “electronic, glitch, atmospheric, cinematic and human,” adding that they incorporate various styles with the intent of making each song narrative and emotional. This is their first time playing at the festival, which they heard about from the head of South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. “He told us that Zandari is an awesome music festival and we jumped at the chance to play.”
Iman, guitarist from Singaporean punk band Iman’s League, said he learned of Zandari while the band was on a previous tour of Korea.
“We did our research and realized that the event has grown considerably in stature over the past few years and has the potential to be one of the leading festivals in Asia,” he said. “With musical acts from all over the world uniting in one festival, it will be an amazing learning and performing experience for us.”
For Austrian band Farewell Dear Ghost, while it’s not their first time in Asia, it is their first time at Zandari. The band said previously they were overwhelmed by the audience’s reaction. They are grateful to be traveling to Korea and taking part in the festival, as well as sharing their emotions with so many different people.
“Unfortunately, Korea and the Korean music scene is not very present in Europe or at least in the area where we are making our mark. Therefore, our inner pioneering spirit came to life when we heard about Zandari.”
Zandari takes place from Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 at 10 venues around Hongdae. One pass will allow participants entry into all the festival venues. One-day tickets are 50,000 won while passes for all three days are 100,000 won. They can be purchased on Ticketlink.
To follow the festival schedule and get more information, check out Zandari Festa’s website at www.zfesta.com.