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Four days of jazz festivities take over Jara Island

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : Oct. 9, 2023 - 16:44

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Ju Hyun-mi sings on the first day of the 20th Jarasum International Jazz Festival held on Jara Island in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, Friday. (Jarasum International Jazz Festival) Ju Hyun-mi sings on the first day of the 20th Jarasum International Jazz Festival held on Jara Island in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, Friday. (Jarasum International Jazz Festival)

GAPYEONG, Gyeonggi Province -- South Korea’s biggest jazz festival completed its four-day run on Monday with a total of 42 acts from around the world.

The Jarasum International Jazz Festival, which started in 2004, takes place in October every year on Jara Island, a river island in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province -- some 40 minutes from Seoul by the ITX Cheongchun High Speed Train.

This year, more than 30,000 music lovers attended the paid areas of the festival, the event organizer said. The 2023 JIJF offered both paid and free stages throughout the festivities.

The first day was greeted by Kingston Rudieska and the Ju Hyun Mi Jazz Project. Kingston Rudieska is an eight-piece session band performing ska, dedicated to Jamaican-derived music in Korean-nuanced interpretation, and Ju Hyun Mi Jazz Project is a jazz duo made up of diva Ju Hyun-mi and jazz drummer Yoon Phil, who strive to transform traditional trot music into jazz rhythms.

On the second day, Vladimir Cetkar, a Macedonian artist based in New York, and Julian Lage, a California-born, New York-based musician took to the stage.

Vladimir Cetkar (right) and Filip Stevanovski (left) (Jarasum International Jazz Festival) Vladimir Cetkar (right) and Filip Stevanovski (left) (Jarasum International Jazz Festival)
Na Youn-sun (Jarasum International Jazz Festival) Na Youn-sun (Jarasum International Jazz Festival)

The third day saw Adam Ben Ezra, a versatile Israeli jazz musician playing violin, piano, clarinet and flute, and Na Youn-sun, a South Korean jazz vocalist. The South Korean jazz singer presented her all-time famous repertoire in a unique style in celebration of the festival’s 20th anniversary.

The last day was graced by Richard Bona and the Jazz Ambassadors Orchestra. This year marks his third visit to Jara Island for the festival, adding to his previous participation in 2005 and 2015. The Jazz Ambassadors Orchestra performed the theme songs featured in a local online role-playing game Mabinogi.

This year's JIJF put a focus on Canadian jazz musicians. Iconic Canadian jazz musicians including Bria Skonberg, John Hollenbeck, Anna Webber and Misc joined the four-day-long festivities. Skonberg, a singer and trumpeter, surprised the Korean audience with her interpretation of Sim Soo-bong’s “Men are Ships, Women are Ports,” a much beloved South Korean song in the 1990s.

The JIJF closed with the Yoo Taekeon Quartet, a South Korean group that plays swing and jazz in the style of early 1930s New Orleans.

Recordings of the four days of the festival will be available at U+ Stage, the art and performance content service available through U+, in late October.

The audience watches the stage at the 20th Jarasum Jazz Festival, held on Jara Island in Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday. (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald) The audience watches the stage at the 20th Jarasum Jazz Festival, held on Jara Island in Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday. (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald)