Jazz festival takes over Olympic Park

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : May 27, 2019 - 15:24
  • Updated : May 27, 2019 - 15:24

This year’s Seoul Jazz Festival drew nearly 40,000 music lovers for a weekend of fun, food and diverse music, though there appeared to be room for improvement.

Running from Saturday to Sunday at the Olympic Park in southeastern Seoul, the 13th edition of the annual event featured 48 acts from Korea and abroad, such as 90-year-old Cuban jazz legend Portuondo and crossover band Clean Bandit. Live performances took place at five venues spread across the park. 

Audience members watch hip-hop musician Crush’s performance at May Forest on Sunday during the 2019 Seoul Jazz Festival. (Private Curve)

Highlights of the event included performances by jazz guitarist John Scofield, singer Omara Portuondo, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, band Pink Martini and singer-songwriter Lauv, which took place at May Forest.

Portuondo, a Cuban legend who is a founding member of the Buena Vista Social Club, delighted the audience with her moving voice and soulful rhythm. Though she had to walk with assistance, her voice was full of energy.

The nearly 90-year-old vocalist sang about 10 songs while seated, including “Drume Negrita,” “Say Cubana,” and “Besame Mucho,” in a 90-minute performance. 

Vocalist Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club sings Saturday during the 2019 Seoul Jazz Festival. (Private Curve)

Behind the standing area, the audience could enjoy the festival on picnic mats. They were allowed to have food and drinks.

But the venue was slightly overcrowded. The audience had to spread picnic mats close to one another, and people left their mats to watch other performances, leaving the space quite packed.

Genre-wise, the festival has branched out from jazz to other types of music, including indie rock, hip-hop and pop, over the past few years.

Pink Avenue, originally the SK Olympic Handball Gymnasium, saw more upbeat performances with rhythm-and-blues hip-hop singer-songwriter Dean, guitarist-vocalist Jang Beom-june, crossover music band Clean Bandit and more.

Clean Bandit’s performance was a hit. The British trio performed hit tracks, such as “Symphony” and “Rockabye,” with guest vocalists. Grace Chatto kept her vibe high, playing the cello and the violin and singing and dancing in front of the stage.

Still, some festivalgoers had complaints about the management of the event.

“We were told not to bring food in disposable plastic containers for environmental protection. But vendors at the festival are allowed to use them. It doesn’t really make sense,” a festivalgoer said.

Seoul Jazz Festival had banned the use of disposable plastic goods, citing environmental concerns. Attendees were allowed to bring food in reusable plastic containers but were not able to bring take-out or delivery food.

Vendors at the festival, however, served food and drinks in disposable plastic containers and cups.

“Food prices are rather expensive, too. Most of the food, which are finger food for small bites, are priced at around 10,000 won ($8.45). Considering the quantity and the quality, the price is not cheap,” the festivalgoer added.

Organizers said they had banned the use of individual plastic items, as they would not have been able to handle the volume of waste.

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