Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cheong Alive, Jeonju Kicking

Last week, we had a fantastic time in a Jeonju blessed with a perfect weather... 


Autumn in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do - 20141010
twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520443719456026625
... and a perfect alibi for returning to that lovely city: the 2014 Jeonju International Sori Festival (see links below).


Official poster of the 2014 JISF (Oct. 8-12) - sorifestival.com
I was specially looking forward to watching 'Cheong Alive', the opening concert:


Cheong Alive (淸 ALIVE), the inaugural concert
I knew that PARK Jechun and Miyeon would give their best, not only for Jeonju and Korea, but also for the country's younger generations and for the future, particularly in the wake of the Sewol tragedy. They delivered such an incredibly powerful creation that we came back the following night to watch it again, this time with 600 Korean kids in the audience.

'Cheong' is the SIM Cheong of Simcheongga, a great pansori classic that had already been adapted and updated in countless ways (some of which quite stimulating, like in "Bitter, Sweet Seoul"). In the story, the daughter of SIM sacrificed herself for her father, but comes back from the depths of the sea to become an Empress.

It took guts to cast only young pansori singers for the opening ceremony of such a prestigious festival, but the young talents were up to the task, and 'Cheong Alive' follows on from a long tradition, without forgetting to honoring pansori greats. Master KIM Cheong-man, the janggu player in that amazing 'Yeourak' Super Session (see "In the zone with Miyeon and Park Je chun"), even chaperons the younger generation during a multisensorial experience that's much more than a concert, an opera, and a musical wrapped in one. Bridging generations and lifting pansori to new territories, Miyeon's music claims you from the first to the last second, and keeps haunting you long afterwards.


'Cheong Alive', an amazing pansori musical for the Sori Festival opening ceremony in Jeonju. Bravo Park Jechun and Miyeon!
20141008 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/519813170731315201
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Mind you, I also crave for more traditional pansori, and loved KIM Yeon's take at another one of the five surviving great stories of pansori, Heungbuga, where humor plays a much larger role.




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But the Sori Festival is not just Korea's best festival for traditional music, and if Songlines lists it among the 25 best in the world, that's also because it is truly international, and proposes very high quality music that don't often reach Korean shores (that's all about heralding cultural diversity, remember?*). I'm sure Jechun loved the incredible percussionists in these Iranian and Armenian groups:


From Iran, Sialk Ensemble - 20141010 twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520444186571460608


Duduk music from Armenia - 20141010 twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520592506069594113
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The beauty of having festival venues, cultural assets, and great eateries scattered across the hanok village is that you can always find quiet or busy spots, depending on your mood:
Visitors and characters from all horizons roaming Jeonju hanok village. Sori Festival full throttle - 20101009
twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520057631625314304
Aaah Jeonju... special mention for the doenjang (with the zucchini leaves, bottom left) - #koreanfood - 20141010 twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520373873405988864

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Of course, beyond the festival and the hanok maeul, there's a lot to see in Jeonju. 


The Nambu market deserves a triple visit for its outdoor street along Jeonjucheon, its covered section, and its trendier upper floor.




Jeonju Nambu Market - 20141010 twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520480117097644033
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On the other side of the river, Dongseohak-dong is evolving into a arty neighborhood full of new cultural hotspots, but like in many other parts of the city, original vintage shop signs are preserved, and sometimes old trades, such as this time-capsulesque cushion puffing place:
One of Korea's few surviving cushion puffing services, in Jeonju - 20141011 twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/520717462656937988
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We went on to an amazing trip across Southern Korea, but more about that later.

I'm very glad I could enjoy Jeonju with old and new friends, and wish Chip were there as well, to taste the makgeolli we prepared together last July for the festival inauguration:

Preparing makgeolli with friends last July (see "Soriju seems to be the sweetest word")


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See all posts related to Jeonju and to the Sori Festival, including:

Seoul Village 2014
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* talking about waves and shores, see "Heralding cultural diversity - a stronger and more sustainable Korean wave (Part I)", Part II, Part III

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