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K-pop, cultural performances at the 11th Korea Festival 2023

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Dubai: Here’s some good news for K-culture fans. The annual Korea Festival is returning to the UAE this week.

The Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the UAE and the Korean Cultural Center have announced that the 11th Korea Festival 2023 will be held on October 27 and 28 at Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi.

With the theme ‘Sustainable Culture: Flowing into the Future’, the two-day festival will celebrate Korean culture and feature Pansori, a Korean genre of musical storytelling performed by a singer and a drummer; Minyo, which is Korean folk music and K-pop.

The annual event began in 2013.

“This year’s festival will place special emphasis on the theme of ‘sustainability’ and envisions this event as a meaningful occasion to highlight eco-friendly and cultural sustainability,” said a press release ahead of the event.

On the first day, attendees can expect a lineup of performances, including ‘K-Maestro’ by the National Gugak Center, which is considered the primary institution in South Korea for learning Korean traditional music, including both court music and folk music.

The Namwon City Art Troupe will perform ‘Mut and Sinmeong: Elegance and the Divine Spirit’ and there will be a Taekwondo demonstration by the Ark Unit.

K-pop sensation Dios, a band that debuted in 2021, will also be seen performing at the event.

The second day’s lineup includes performances ‘K-Music, Soul’ by the Chungbuk Cultural Foundation and the event’s highlight, a K-pop concert titled ‘Kite: K-Pop in the Emirates’.

Additionally, ‘On the K: Taekwon’, a show which merges the martial art of Taekwondo and K-Pop will also be screened on the second day.

Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the Korean Culture Experience Zone, offering a glimpse of K-tourism, K-beauty, hanbok (traditional clothing), Korean traditional games, and traditional art workshops.

According to the press release: “Yong Hee Lee, the Cultural Attaché of the Korean Embassy, emphasised… that the Korea Festival 2023 has been thoughtfully curated to introduce performances that revitalise traditional Korean dance and music, seamlessly fusing them with contemporary expression. He also hoped that these diverse efforts and innovative interpretations by the National Gugak Center, Namwon City Traditional Art Troupe, and Chungbuk Cultural Foundation will resonate with the local audience.”

In addition to the two-day event at Umm Al Emarat Park, K-culture enthusiasts can also enjoy a K-Maestro Exhibition from October 23 to 29 and the 11th UAE Korean Speech Contest on October 29 at the Korean Cultural Center in Abu Dhabi.

Following this, the Medical Korea 2023 seminar will take place on October 31, at Dusit Thani, Abu Dhabi. To culminate the festivities, the Korean National Day Reception will be held at the St. Regis Hotel, Abu Dhabi on October 31.

Entrance to all events is free, with a park admission fee of Dh10. More details are available on the Korean Cultural Center’s website.

Event schedule and details:

1. ‘K-maestro’ by the National Gugak Center (Korean Traditional Music ‘Pansori and Sanjo’)

Time: Friday, October 27, 6pm and Saturday, October 28, 5pm

Pansori is a South Korean musical storytelling method that consists of a vocalist and a drummer called a ‘gosu’. ‘Pan’ refers to a place where an audience gathers’, and ‘sori’ means ‘song’ or ‘sound’. Most of these songs express traditional Korean literary works or folktales through sound. To convey a lengthy story through sound, a Pansori singer refines their vocal skills over an extended period.

In 1964, Pansori was designated as Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Property number 5 to preserve its unique culture, and in 2003, it was recognised as a Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A new genre of Pansori, known as ‘creative Pansori’, featuring new stories, continue to emerge, thereby perpetuating the history of Pansori.

Sanjo, which means a disordered rhythm, is an instrumental solo music form known for its improvisation. It originated from gayageum (a traditional Korean instrument with 12 strings) performances and later evolved to include various musical ensembles played on traditional string and wind instruments such as geomungo, daegeum, haegeum, ajaeng, tongso, danso, and piri. It begins with a slow rhythm and gradually speeds up.

2. Namwon City Traditional Art Troupe “Mut and Sinmeong: Elegance and the Divine Spirit” (Korean traditional performances)

Time: Friday, October 27, 7.40pmIn the southern part of Korea, where the city of Namwon is located, three traditional performances stand out: ‘Heungtaryeong’, which portrays the melancholic aspects of life, love, and separation among ordinary people with mournful lyrics; ‘Taepyeongmu’, which conveys a wish for peace in the country; and ‘Samul nori’, (link to Friday article) the embodiment of village festivals where the entire community excitedly comes together. The Namwon City Traditional Art Troupe will showcase these traditional performances, reinterpreted with a more modern expression, to audiences in the UAE. Through these performances, they aim to convey the message of peace and prosperity, which has traditionally been embedded in these art forms.

3. K-pop band Dios Performance

Time: Friday, October 27, 8.50pmDios, a new K-pop boy band, is set to hold its UAE debut. The band, whose name means ‘creator’ in Spanish, has four members – Loki, Jay, Woojung, and Hyun.They will present their signature song ‘Whistle’, and have live performances of BTS songs, cover dances, and more.

4. Sound of Natural Garak ‘K-Music, Soul’, by Chungbuk Cultural Foundation (Folk music ensemble combining Korean traditional and Western instruments)

Time: Saturday, October 28, 6pmKorean traditional instruments such as gayageum, taepyeongso, haegeum, piri, and the mouth organ (Korean harmonica), along with Western instruments like the cello and piano, will be used in the performance. Familiar Korean folk songs, such as ‘Chunhyangga and Heungbuga’ (The Story of Chunhyang and Heungbu), will be reinterpreted and performed in Western classical music and jazz styles, delivering a unique and mysterious tone to the audience, setting the perfect mood for a mid-autumn night.

5. ‘On the K: Taekwon’ screening

Time: Saturday, October 28, 7.30pmA captivating online performance that provides an exciting experience to the audience by merging two essential elements of Korean culture: K-pop and the traditional martial art, Taekwondo. The show promises to deliver a unique delight as audiences immerse themselves in the collaborative spectacle of K-pop and Taekwondo, captured from all angles by 360-degree cameras.

6. Kite: K-Pop in the Emirates (K-Pop Concert)

Time: Saturday, October 28, 8pmThis upcoming K-pop concert is jointly organised by the Korea Creative Content Agency and the Korean Cultural Center. It will feature a collaboration between K-pop bands MustB and Dios.MustB, with members Sihoo, Taegeon, Soohyun, Doha, and Wooyeon, burst onto the K-pop scene with their debut single, ‘I Want U’, in 2019.

7. Korean Culture Experience Zone: Tourism, beauty, hanbok, and traditional crafts workshops

Time: Saturday and Sunday, October 27 and 28, 4 to 10pm

8. The 11th UAE Korean Speech Contest

Time: Sunday, October 29th, 4pmVenue: Korean Cultural Center, Yas IslandEmirati Korean language enthusiasts have an exciting opportunity to showcase their language skills. This unique competition invites Emirati nationals to deliver a speech on the theme, ‘A challenging time you have faced and how you have overcome it.’

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