The fifth edition of Zandari Festa, South Korea’s largest indie showcase festival, kicks off this weekend, and I’m fucking mad I’m not going.
This year, from September 30 through October 3, Seoul’s Hongdae area will be flooded with more than 160 acts playing in a dozen different venues, representing the following places: the US, the UK, France, Estonia, Denmark, Poland, Russia, Mongolia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, and Madagascar.
Additionally, delegates from a number of Western and Asian music festivals and music companies will be attending Zandari Festa to check out the showcases. Because for many, this is the optimal time to establish long-lasting connections and get their music heard by the right people.
For the uninitiated, I had the opportunity to pull back the curtain for you in a quick little interview with Patrick Connor, the overseas coordinator for Zandari Festa, and mastermind behind DO INDIE, one of the best resources to find information about the indie music scene in South Korea.
Learn all about Zandari Festa from an insider’s perspective below. And if you’ll be there, I hate you.
Asian Junkie: For someone unfamiliar with the festival, what would you say sets Zandari Festa apart from other festivals across South Korea?
Patrick Connor: I think the fact that it is a showcase festival sets it apart from most other festivals in the country, and because we focus so much more on the independent side of the music scene, that sets us apart from other local showcase festivals like Mu:Con. As well, there is a really friendly and welcoming vibe at the festival. The overseas delegates always have a great time and get really involved in everything we do during the event making it easy for bands and music fans to meet and get to know them.
AJ: This year, Zandari Festa will feature two special showcase events — the “Sound City Takeover At Zandari Festa” British Night and the “Esprit Français” French Night. What does it mean for South Korea to see the festival grow such an international audience?
PC: It is fantastic to have such wonderful partners bringing over such amazing acts for us all to enjoy. The quality of bands coming over each year just seems to keep getting better and better. This year we’ve got bands coming from 18 different countries and the acts are all amazing. Our partnership with Sound City has been going for a few years now, and it is great not to just have so many great bands coming over this way, but also that so many Korean bands get to go over to the UK as well to play at the Liverpool Sound City music fest.
An increasing number of international acts coming over for Zandari Festa each year has so many great benefits for our festival and the local scene. I hope that it invigorates everything and encourages bands here to strive to achieve their dreams.
AJ: What goes into the selection process of the bands you decide to feature each year at Zandari Festa?
PC: A lot of effort goes into selecting the bands. Honestly, it is a really hard thing to be involved in. Firstly, the bands have to meet certain criteria in order to apply to play at the festival. Once those criteria have been confirmed, then we would look at the quality of their application. With so many bands to go through, I found that you have to be quite strict with this. We would look at the quality of the videos and photos in their press pack. You would be surprised at the lack of effort some bands put in when selecting videos and pictures to send with their applications. That made it easy to weed out some of the applications. After that, we were still left with a list of bands that was way too big and so the bands went through several different rounds of voting among the Zandari team. We all spent many hours reviewing application forms and live videos of the bands who applied. I guess ultimately it was a case of choosing hard working and professional bands who we thought could kill it live. A big part of our focus was how well the bands played their music live. A lot of really good bands sadly did not make the lineup. It was really hard to leave some bands out.
AJ: While the showcases are the big focus of the festival, what can wristband holders expect from the conferences this year?
PC: As well as the usual speed meeting-type opportunities for musicians to meet delegates from around the world, we have a couple of conferences at the festival this year. On Friday, September 30 from 2-4 PM we have a conference called “How To Make Good Use Of Zandari Festa.” It is basically an A–Z guide on how to make the most out of the opportunities that being part of Zandari provides. They will cover everything from exchanging business cards to securing touring opportunities abroad. Speaking as part of that conference will be Annie Ko from Love X Stereo and Geonhyeok Go from BGBG Records. On Monday, October 3 there will be a two-part conference. The first part is entitled “Opportunities Beyond Asia” and it will focus on European festivals, shows, and distribution, and the second part is called “Opportunities In Asia” and focuses on Asian festivals, shows, and distribution. Speakers will include Mary Keiser from Turbo Booking, Stephen King from Believe Digital, Andy Jones from Focus Wales, Orbis Bo from The Wall Music, John Willame from Smallfish. and Zandari Festa director and founder Yoonyoung Kong, who many people may know as Dalse.
AJ: Any parting words for readers and potential concert goers?
PC: Thanks for reading about Zandari Festa. If you’re in Korea, we hope you can come and discover some fantastic new music and have a whole bunch of fun with us this weekend. If you’re not in Korea, I hope you can join us in the future. If you’re music lover, you’ll have a blast!
And I have one piece of advice for fest-goers coming to Zandari Festa this weekend: go see some bands you’re not familiar with yet. The best thing about festivals like this in my opinion is seeing something you have never seen before. You might just stumble upon your new favorite artist.