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Friday, June 09, 2017

Wellington Jazz Festival - SEOUL JAZZ: THE JAC & BLACK STRING

New Zealand & South Korea - Wellington meets world jazz in this exciting international premiere.

Opera House - Saturday 10 June - 4PM

Cheer on home-town jazz heroes The Jac as they’re joined by South Korea’s Black String in the culmination of a year-long collaboration. This powerful night of in-the-moment magic melds Black String’s electrifying and explosive play on Korean musical traditions with the cinematic sound of these award-winning New Zealand talents.

“Triumphant” (London Jazz News) in their own right, four-piece Black String are making waves on the world music scene for their fresh and fiery jazz sound.

Meanwhile, “spine tingling” (New Zealand Musician) eight-piece The Jac are a freight train of pure musical energy, featuring members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Troubles and the Richter City Rebels.

Be there as they forge a new Korean-Kiwi jazz genre.

The Jac: Lex French (trumpet), Jake Baxendale (alto saxophone), Chris Buckland (tenor saxophone), Matthew Allison (trombone), Callum Allardice (guitar), Nick Tipping (bass), Daniel Millward (piano) and Shaun Anderson (drums).

Black String: Yoon Jeung Heo (geomungo/Korean zither), Aram Lee (daegeum/bamboo flute), Jean Oh (electric guitar) and Min Wang Hwang (janggu/Korean drum).

Discover more: Five days in Seoul – The Jac member Jake Baxendale's South Korean diary takes us behind the scenes of an exciting international music project destined for the Wellington Jazz Festival.


South Korea’s Black String band formed as part of a cultural exchange when British and South Korean jazz festivals decided to engage young musicians from both nations in collaborative projects. Band founder Yoon-jeong Heo had already made a mark as leader of Tori Ensemble – a South Korean band that mixed traditional folk music with cello and clarinet and toured internationally under the Womad umbrella (playing Womad New Zealand in 2011).

Debuting in public in 2012 at the Jarasum International Jazz Festival in South Korea and then at the London Jazz Festival, Black String demonstrated exemplary technique alongside the ability to improvise. The band’s profile has continued to grow, with Black String being invited to perform an official showcase at Womex in 2017 and winning Best Jazz and Crossover Performance at the 2017 Korean Music Awards.

“Although South Korea is not a big country, we realised from different international relations that our music is the most beautiful among various music,” says Heo of the band’s success. “Also we met lots of talented musicians and created relations with them.”

At the heart of Black String’s sound is the geomungo, a Korean instrument whose origins can be traced back to the fourth century – and it is this instrument’s black strings that gave the band its name. The geomungo is a six-stringed zither and its prototype is found in the ancient murals of Goguryeo. It has six twisted silk strings, which are stretched over 16 fixed frets. The instrument is plucked with a short bamboo rod called a suldae (which Heo notes is crafted from bamboo that grows close to the sea) and produces majestic deep sounds.

Heo is a master of the geomungo and notes that the literati of the Joseon Dynasty particularly revered the instrument. The deep, beguiling tones that emerge from these completely natural materials could have been heard at any time since the seventh century, because Korean music has a continuous tradition far longer than Western music. The geomungo is the voice at the very heart of that tradition, with a role comparable to that of the piano in the West.

“The international audience, which has many experiences with different countries’ traditional music, was very interested in traditional Korean musical instruments and praised Black String’s powerful music and performance,” says Heo.

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