Korea’s Zandari Festa

Poster courtesy of Zandari Festa
Poster courtesy of Zandari Festa

I love music festivals, all kinds of music festivals, and attended them for years before I started writing about them, including a few in Korea where I discovered some great Korean musicians and bands. You see, for me, that is the highlight of music festivals – getting to hear new-to-me bands. Of course, it’s always fun to see favourite bands too but music festivals bring all kinds of bands and musicians together so you’re bound to find someone new to love (or perhaps two or three). In fact, that’s how I’ve found many of my go-to bands over the years so even if I didn’t write about music, I’d still attend them.

That being said, one of the Korean music festivals that is on my “I really want to attend” list is the Zandari Festa. While they’ve been around since 2012, I first started paying attention to them last year and started dreaming of the day I could cover it (hopefully next year, I’m due for a trip to Korea). But enough about my love of music festivals, let’s talk about the Zandari Festa!

Demi Louise @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Demi Louise @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

About the Zandari Festa

One of the newer music festivals in Korea (it began in 2012), Zandari Festa is now the largest music showcase festival. I’m not going to lie, one of the big draws for me from the start is that it happens in Hongdae, my favourite area in Seoul for nightlife and music, in more than 20 venues. The three day festival happens each October and brings musicians from around the world with each year making it a more international event while still showcasing Korea’s established acts and exciting up-and-comers. Best of all, one wristband is all you need to get into the shows.

While there have been tons of great Korean bands that have performed at Zandari Festa, it’s an international music festival and since it’s 2012 inception, the festival has showcased musicians from: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States. Pretty cool, eh?

This year’s festival will happen October 2-4.

Mumiy Troll @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Mumiy Troll @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Curious who’s performed in the past?

I know I was and some of last year’s acts included Crying Nut, Galaxy Express, Idiotape, Loro’s, Moja (Japan), Mumiy Troll (Russia), Rebeka (Poland), Demi Louise (Australia), and The Bollands (New Zealand).

Are you a musician?

Zandari Festa is accepting applications from acts until July 31, 2015 for this year’s show. Interested in applying (or know someone who might be)? You can do so in English or Korean at www.zfesta.com.

Crayon Pop with LOD @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Crayon Pop with LOD @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

A quote from festival CEO and co-founder Dalse

Why did you create Zandari Festa?

I thought Korea needed a festival where artists can take the initiative and be in control of things. For Zandari Festa, artists choose to apply and artists are responsible for promoting themselves and their showcases. There are no headliners at Zandari – all bands are treated exactly the same. And we strive to create an event where everyone from musicians to audience members to music industry professionals has an amazing time.

Crowd @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Crowd @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Quotes from Ruth Minnikin about Zandari Festa

Ruth Minnikin is a Canadian musician who has been living in Jeju since October 2012. She played at Zandari Festa in 2013 and 2014. Check out Ruth on Facebook  and on her official website.

How were your experiences at the fest?

Seoul is a great city for food and music! Hongdae (the neighbourhood where the fest is held) is bursting with energy! The venues are all quite close together so it is easy to see many styles of bands at different venues in one night! As with any international showcase (which I have performed at oodles) you get out of it what you (or your team) puts into it! If as an artist you have goals (other than seeing fab music and experiencing Seoul) then you must put some strategy into marketing and hyping up your showcase to get your connections and fans out to the venue.

What did you like best about playing at Zandari Festa?

The staff treat the artists very kindly and the music throughout the entire weekend is quality and eclectic. A couple of the organizers even made a point of coming out to my concert and purchasing my CD! I was super flattered!

What do you have planned music-wise for the coming months?

In the upcoming months, I will continue to perform and write music. Recently I have composed some music to accompany a couple of poems written by a North Korean who escaped to South Korea. We are currently in the process of recording these pieces. Also, I am fascinated by the women divers (‘Haenyeo’) here on Jeju (as I am a scuba diver and photographer). I have been focusing my song writing on drawing parallels between their lives and the lives of Nova Scotians (where I’m from) and how both cultures have strong ancestral connections to the sea.

Used Cassettes @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Used Cassettes @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Quotes from Patrick Walsh about Zandari Festa

Patrick Walsh is a Canadian musician who plays drums in the Seoul rock band Used Cassettes. Used Cassettes have played at Zandari Festa in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Check out Used Cassettes on their Facebook page

How have your experiences at the fest been?

Our experiences have been great. The first year we organized a block party with the organizers and were able to play a venue with all our favorite bands. The staff at Zandari Festa always take good care of us!

What makes you guys want to keep playing at Zandari Festa each year?

We keep wanting to play because we keep getting invited back! But honestly, it’s just a cool environment. Tons of bands from Korea and abroad smashing together in Hongdae in every venue and on cool outdoor stages. It’s a ton of fun and you can see that they are getting better at putting it off every year.

What’s new with Used Cassettes?

We just had the Korean release for our second full-length record, Rock n Rills. It came out on Magic Strawberry Sound. The North American release will happen in the fall of 2015, so please look out for that.

Idiotape @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Idiotape @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Just the facts

Applications are now open!!

  • Who can apply? Bands from all over the world
  • Until when? July 31, 2015.
Goonam @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Goonam @ Zandari Festa 2013 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Final Thoughts

I’m a little sad that I won’t be attending this year’s Zandari Festa but as it’s definitely one of the things I’d like to plan my trip to Korea around next year, it’s hard for me to not recommend it. I spent a lot of time in clubs in Hongdae when I lived in Seoul so a music festival that happens there… sounds wonderful. Plus after looking at the full list of the bands that played last year… it must have been amazing. Definitely check it out if you’re in Seoul in October. And if you’re in a band, maybe you should head on over to their website and apply… applications are open until the 31st of July!

Victim Mentality @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa
Victim Mentality @ Zandari Festa 2014 | Photo courtesy of Zandari Festa

Editor’s note: thanks to Zandari Festa for the background info and quotes.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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