Kingston Welcomes Korea


The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames is well known for its riverside establishment and venues such as The Rose Theatre. Less familiar might be the fact that the borough is also home to the largest Korean population in the UK, but that said, it is no surprise that Kingston is now home to a festival celebrating their vast culture and heritage. The borough joined forces with Arts Interlink and the Rose Theatre to curate a stunning array of Korean music, comedy, dance, trade and design, all held in the mere 10 days between the 30th of July to 8th of September.

The audience witnessed exquisite performance by an outstanding ensemble of young musicians, including pianist Yoo- seok Shin and violinist Grace Yeo, both of whom drew a large crowd. This popularity did not, however, detract from the success of the more traditional performances- Kim Hee- sun and Lee Ji- jung’s exquisite display on the gayageum being particularly delightful as well as Huh Yun- jeong (geomungo), Lee Tai- baek (ajaeng), Lee Seok- ju’s (piri) performances.

The real treat of the festival, however, was a performance of pan’sori, the musical story telling style peculiar to Korea. One of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This pansori performance was presented by Kim Seong- a and Im Hyeon-bin as the tale of of a man’s struggle with everyday life.The delivery of the narrative through song and the punctuation of the drummer’s accompaniment transformed, what would otherwise be, a familiar tale of life and woe into epic experience, highlighting how much interest in a story in a product of its delivery.

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Mrs In Nam Soon

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Mrs In Nam Soon (Picture curtesy of the photographer)

Dance has always been an important part of Korean cultural heritage. The festival’s tribute to this importance was in the form of several splendid performances by nine of the ladies from The Institute of Traditional Korean Culture, including, most notably, director and performer In Nam Soo. I myself was unable to attend the performance, but met later with a friend who is both a writer and a dancer, and who freely lauded the show as the most engaging he’d seen in months. The show consisted of four performances of Sogochum, a dance form centered around the inclusion and beat of a small hand drum, and which bears a striking resemblance to more contemporary forms of dance.

There is, of course, more to Korean arts and culture than just the traditional, and festival attendees had a virtual cornucopia of more modern options, least of which were Ongals in Babbling Comedy and nights dancing to music by DJ Seoul Train. Attendees also had the chance to go and see a modern adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, arranged and choreographed by Hyo-jin Kim. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the show myself, and chose not to read about the performance beforehand so I could go in without knowing what to expect. At the end of it all, one thing was undeniable. Alice in Wonderland had amazed me. Despite having seen more than a few modern adaptations of Alice and her adventures, this was my first experience of the story transcending any verbal or written form. Dance was this performance’s medium of narration, Hyo-jin’s complex and spectacular choreography the only dialogue between performers. It is safe to say that there’s never been a tribute to Alice quite like it.

After the show, I had a brief conversation with Hyo-jin about the production process. I was surprised to find out that although it took a year to prepare the show, the choreography and visual images took only four months for the dancers and technicians to master. To Kim it was a personal production: “I got interested in Alice in Wonderland purely because Alice is an icon of an imagination and creativity. As a parent myself, I wanted, through this piece, to deliver that creativity and imagination to my own child. However, while I was producing the show, I realised that there are two perspectives in it, one of an adult one and the other one of a child. The gap between the adult and the child was big. I wanted to overcome this issue through my work. I hope I managed to do that.”  

Showing Alice in Wonderland was, without a doubt, a great end to the fantastic 10 day festival. I would like to express my gratitude towards Mrs Hye- jung Joen for her involvement in promoting the Korean culture in the UK. Without her, we wouldn’t have had the London Korean Film Festival as well as other events promoting the country’s culture.


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Ongels (Picture courtesy of the photographer)

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Alice in Wonderland (Picture courtesy of Cha Joon Hyuck)

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Alice in Wonderland (Picture courtesy of Cha Joon Hyuck)


Alice in Wonderland (Picture courtesy of Cha Joon Hyuck)


Alice in Wonderland (Picture courtesy of Cha Joon Hyuck)

Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Manoshi Quayes

MCM Comic Con 2015: Hidetaka Tenjin Interview

Originally posted on Mainichi Entertainment:

© Roxy Simons

Hidetaka Tenjin stands by the window of the Novotel Hotel in Custom House watching airplanes on their approach back down to earth, London City Airport only a mile away. There is a look of childlike wonder gracing his face, the likes of which are seldom seen in an adult. As one of Japan’s top mechanical artists, it is endearing to see him so fascinated by the products he illustrates on a regular basis for anime franchises such as Macross and Gundam. It is only a brief respite for him, though, before he settles down to discuss his life and career in the world of mechanical animation.

The 41-year-old is charming and friendly, making jokes and often alternating between English slang and Japanese during the conversation. Here a day ahead of his appearance at MCM Comic Con as the anime guest of honour, he is flattered to be part of…

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Festival Asia Review


Could you imagine me dancing to the Bollywood music or jumping like a Masai along to the sound of Taiko Collective Drumming Group? I couldn’t either until I did it at the Festival Asia over a week ago. A friend of mine, Monica, who was View of the Arts and the festival’s official photographer, was also heating up the floor with her fabulous dancing skills.

On May 15th, 16th and 17th at Tobacco Docks in London, a new, unique and exciting event was held for a few thousand people. Festival Asia included cultures throughout Asia – from India and China, followed by South Korea and Japan traversing the continent all the way to Indonesia. Over the course of three days the audience was spoiled for choice when it came to attractions such as music, arts and dance as well as Martial Arts originating from India, South Korea, Japan and many more.

However, before travelling to the festival, Monica and I made a list of things we wanted to do and artists we were interested to see. We ended up with a very long list believing that it would be possible to see everything and everyone mentioned on it. We started off with exploring the venue, Tobacco Docks. Honestly speaking, I was slightly overwhelmed by the size of the place. I questioned myself if this venue was the right one for such a festival. At first, I thought it was a good location, however, I changed my mind when I arrived. Tobacco Dock wasn’t perfect. Too far away from central London. Shadwell has only DLR and overground, no tube, which definitely made it harder to get there on the weekend. Nevertheless, we made it and we survived it. After investigating the place, we moved to the main stage where we waited for the tremendously talented group of drummers called Taiko Collective. The group consisted of 5 people: James, Masami, Ting- Chi, DongDong and, the youngest member, 19 year old Meg Ashley. Taiko in general is often used to mean the relatively modern art of Japanese drum performances (kumi-daiko), but the word actually refers to the taiko drums themselves. Literally, taiko means “big/fat drum,” although there are many shapes and sizes of taiko. People are sometimes confused by the frequent usage of the word “daiko”, which is a suffix used to indicate a type of drum, a taiko group, or a style of taiko playing in a compound word. “Although traditionally, taiko have been used in very specific ways and in certain combinations of instruments, modern kumi-daiko groups do not suffer such restrictions. Taiko selection is based on the style of taiko music you are playing as well as personal style.” I must admit that Taiko Collective has their own style. Their powerful performance was filled with energy and passion. It was, without a doubt, a stellar show. The musicians performed 12 times over the three days. I can’t believe that I watched them 12 times. Each show was like a little spectacle. Taiko Collective also ran a drumming workshop at the festival, which turned out to be one of the most popular things to do at the event. I spoke to a few people about the artists and this is what one of the participants had to say: “Taiko Collective were superb. I loved the workshop the most. I have never thought that playing drums would be so enjoyable yet hard. I would definitely see the guys again if they performed in London.”


Taiko Collective (Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone)


Taiko Collective (Picture courtesy of Monica Sasblone) 

Apart from Taiko Collective’s show, we also saw a Japanese duo: Hibiki Ichikawa, the Shamisen player, and Enka singer Akari Mochizuki. They didn’t disappoint either. Their beautiful and subtle performance caused serious goosebumps. Hibiki was dressed in the Japanese traditional clothing and Akari wore a stunning evening dress. She also wore a conventional Kimono, given by her mother on the day that she left Japan. The Kimono looked impressive; “I needed my friend’s help to put it on, it wasn’t easy” laughed Akari.

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Hibiki and Akari ( Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone)

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Akari in her gorgeous Kimono (Picture courtesy of Akari) 

Monica and I stayed by the main stage for a while, before exploring other parts of Tobacco Docks. We both enjoyed Kaya’s performance, a South Korean duo. The pair consists of Ji- eun Jung, a traditional harp player and guitarist Sung Min-jeon. They have been performing together since 2002 in Korea and since 2005 in Europe after they settled in London. I sincerely enjoyed their little 15 minute concert.

After their performance we decided to go and visit the festival’s exhibitors to see what they have to offer. What caught my attention was the huge Indonesia Pavilion, where you could experience everything with relation to the country. Food, amazing coffees, fashion as well as tourism. It seemed like the pavilion was popular amongst the visitors. It was interesting to learn that the Indonesian Embassy invited selected participants from the country and the UK to take part in the festival. I was overwhelmed by its culture, colourful clothing, crafts and mostly the best coffee I have had in years; I would recommend the Java one. Indonesian acts in the programme included 10 artists; a dance group Lila Bhawa, Sasanado’s Djitron and Mia; Djitron played on a traditional harp while Mia sang and played violin. I was blown away by her incredibly strong vocals and beautifully executed notes.

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Kaya (Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone) 

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Kaya (Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone) 

While Monica disappeared in the crowds, or maybe in the middle of food stalls, I went to see how other exhibitors were doing. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many stands as I expected. I felt like the festival organiser could have put many more promoters in the area. A few exhibitors complained about it: “The space was too big and not enough people came to see us. We feel like there was no proper organization when it came to exhibitors. We really felt left behind. We do hope it wouldn’t happen again. It would be a pity if we had to give up on coming to the festival next year.” I hope so too. It would be nice to see Festival Asia returning in 2016.

After having delicious Korean and Indonesian food, we were both back to see the fabulous Bollywood dancers Sunny Singh Group. There is only one word to describe the guys’ performance: SPECTACULAR. The place was filled up with excited spectators. With its complex avocations of faraway culture and catchy music they were a big hit. They performed 9 times during the festival with glee and an array of costumes so admirably vivid that even the audience members exclaimed about them. All the music was taped. Bollywood dance is the genre that this suits best. (It’s hard to imagine it danced to live music anyway.) I enjoyed every single minute of their performance.

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Sunny Singh Dance Group (Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone) 


Sunny Singh Dance Group (Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone) 

Apart from the artists mentioned above, there were many more performing at the Festival Asia. Such as Fluer Estelle, an irresistible belly dancer, Jonathan Mayer – Indian Duo Sitar and Tabla, Guan Yin Lion – Chinese Double Lion Dance; which, unfortunately, I found a bit boring. Cheng Yu, a Chinese Pipa Player and Eunsley Park, a South Korean violinist, grabbed my attention pretty fast. Also the Nomadic Tunes, a Mongolian act, was interesting and worth listening to. I was also curious about the Martial Arts stage, which was on the other side of Tobacco Docks. There were over a dozen warriors and fighters showing off their skills. From Karate Shinboku Kai followed by Battodo Fudokan, demonstration of Japanese swordsmanship and School of Korean Martial Arts finishing with superb BDS Gatka Group UK whose style was distinguished by the characteristic fighting techniques. Their incredible precision while blindfolded and using swords was striking. I was left breathless after their outstanding performance on stage.

Festival Asia not only offered music, dance and Martial Arts but also invited the visitors to a cultural room where the public could learn more about Asian cultures such as Korean, Indonesian, and Chinese (by learning the calligraphy) as well as Mongolian and Japanese. The most interesting thing for me, while exploring the cultural room, was a presentation of a short film by the Mongolian Ambassador H.E. Mr Tulga Narkhuu. ‘Three Kilts in Mongolia’, directed by the MacDonald brothers from Scotland, is a 45 minute documentary which follows “three middle aged dads from Scotland as they embark on the journey of a lifetime (…) The guys will share their highs and lows and come away with a love and respect for the beautiful country of Mongolia that will last a lifetime.” The short was great, I cannot wait for the guys to be done with postproduction so the film could be screened to the public.

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Mia (Indonesia; Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone)

After spending three days at the Festival Asia I honestly must say that there were a few issues with the event when it came to organisation. First of all the venue wasn’t well marked. The visitors couldn’t easily find food stalls or even a coffee stands. A small amount of exhibitors was another issue. Lack of promotion outside of the venue was a problem too. Unfortunately the number of volunteers wasn’t enough either. Nevertheless, even with these organisational mistakes I found the festival entertaining, enlightening and engaging. As press I was treated very well, offered a quiet place to conduct interviews as well as free and delicious Chinese food. I must say this rarely happens at the events. I would like to say a big thank you to Li Li and Corrado for inviting me to the event. I am sure that next year will be even better.

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Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Jess Murray

Pictures courtesy of Monica Sablone 

Festival Asia: In Conversation with the Japanese shamisen player Hibiki Ichikawa and Enka singer Akari Mochizuki


Picture courtesy of the photographer

What is the shamisen? I didn’t know much about it until I came across Hibiki Ichikawa, a Japanese shamisen player. “The shamisen is a three- stringed musical instrument originated from the Chinese instrument sanxian. It was introduced in 16th century and later developed into Okinawan instrument sanshin from which the shamisen ultimately derives”.

Hibiki was born in Kanazawa where, at the age of 20, he started playing standard shamisen. A year later, he moved to the tsugaru shamisen and trained under Master Akihiro Ichikawa. In 2005 Hibiki played with the Japanese indie rock band called Cazicazi. The group’s melody merged “traditional Japanese flute and Shamisen with Western bass and drum rhythm section.” The collaboration came to an end when Hibiki moved to the United Kingdom, where he currently teaches the shamisen to international students and performs across the country and Europe.

Hibiki frequently works in partnership with another talented artist, Akari Mochizuki, who is an active Japanese Enka singer in the UK. Enka is a popular Japanese music genre considerate to resemble traditional Japanese music stylistically. As Akari said “Enka suggests a traditional, idealized, or romanticized aspect of Japanese culture and attitudes. Most of the time Enka singers are accompanied by the shamisen or shakuhachi players. Sometimes, however, electronic instruments are used, such as synthesizers and electric lead guitar.


Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone

I was delighted when I was able to meet Hibiki and Akari in person. They were both incredibly accommodating, amiable yet shy when I decided to have a chat with them in their private quarters. They made me feel welcomed, which turned the interview into a friendly chitchat rather than a formal conversation. Without any delay I commenced by looking into Hibiki’s discovery of the shamisen.

It all started when Hibiki began playing the guitar. However, one day he found out about the three- stringed instrument and, at the age of 20, he signed up for the shamisen lesson in Japan “I was curious about the instrument, and when I heard the shamisen sound I was really moved.” Has learning and playing the instrument changed him in any ways? Hibiki paused for a second, then without hesitation and a great passion in his voice he said that “The shamisen allows me to express myself better, I don’t know why but it does.” The artist shares his love for shamisen with his students here in the UK. What attracted his pupils to play it? “My students are interested in Japanese culture, and I think, through learning the country’s way of life they found the shamisen appealing. Perhaps they have seen me playing at Hyper Japan and simply wanted to learn how to play the instrument.”

Hibiki was timid. Whenever I asked him about his career and experiences he was rather reserved about it. I guess it wasn’t because of his knowledge of English language but because he was just a humble individual who doesn’t boast about his talent. However, I was very eager to hear all about it. To my surprise, Akari jumped to the rescue and decided to tell us about Hibiki’s experiences. It was endearing to see how excited Akari was while talking about the artist. They met back in 2011 when Hibiki arrived in the UK; “We had mutual friends which made it easier to get to know each other. I wasn’t aware of him playing the tsugaru shamisen. However, when I heard him playing the instrument for the first time, I was pleasantly shocked by its sound.”


Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone

Akari continued with the insightful story about Hibiki’s journey in becoming a professional shamisen player. I didn’t expected to hear that the 2011 earthquake in Japan had an impact on Hibiki’s career. This was the time when he was invited to the affected area and played for a big audience in support for the victims of the earthquake. Hibiki slowly started to climb up the music ladder and became a skilled shamisen musician; “There was a lot of interest surrounding Hibiki. From that point he started to travel outside of Japan and has become widely recognized, not only in his homeland but also in Europe. Now, he is here in London, performing and teaching the tsugaru shamisen to approximately 20 students.”

Why did he decide to come to the UK? “For obvious reason, I wanted to improve my English language skills and I love Muse and Radiohead. That was a good excuse for me. I also think that these two bands might have influenced my sound too. I never really expected to be teaching shamisen to so many people. I am glad that I can share my love of the shamisen with anyone who is interested in it.”

With the huge popularity of pop culture in Asia and around the world, I was wondering if traditional instruments would have its place in 20 or 30 years’ time. In Hibiki’s opinion it will have its place as long as people are interested in it. It is also matter of promoting it and encouraging youngsters to play it; “The shamisen is a special and beautiful instrument. Surprisingly, it is slowly becoming more popular, particularly amongst younger audience”. All of a sudden Hibiki stood up and presented to me and Monica, a photographer, his 5 amazing looking shamisen instruments. I must admit that they were heavy. After his 5 minutes presentation, he decided to perform two songs, including one with Akari. I have never thought that the sound of the shamisen would cause goosebumps. I realised that as a solo instrument, pieces for tsugaru shamisen require very high technique for speedy playing, refined sense of dynamic and creativity for improvisation, like jazz music. Tsugaru shamisen and its music gave me an impression of the strength of human as well as tenderness. The second song that he performed with Akari was equally beautiful. I immersed myself in their short performance. While Monica and Hibiki talked about the shamisen, I carried on chatting with Akari.


Picture courtesy of Monica Sablone

Akari started to sing Enka at the age of 3; “My father loves Enka. He used to sing to my mum’s belly when she was carrying me inside. My father is my greatest inspiration. Having said that, there are a few Enka singers who influenced me and my singing, such as Yoko Nagayama and Harumi Miyako. These two are the significant to mention.” When Akari worked for Cross Media Ltd, a Japanese publisher company in London, her employer recommended to her to try singing at Cocoro restaurant in Bond Street; “Since the restaurant owner liked my performance, he has allowed me to sing at Cocoro. The restaurant is a popular place among very important individuals. Because of that, my name and reputation spread around London and surrounding areas.” Enka singers require a lot of hard work and vocal training, it seems that there is no training limit for Akari when it comes to hers; “I am still training and I can’t see an end to it.” According to the artist, if you want to become a good and confident singer, it is important to take as many opportunities as possible to sing in front of an audience. As mentioned before, Akari and Hibiki have been collaborating for a few years now. They performed together at Hyper Japan, Japan Matsuri and Festival Asia.

Unfortunately, with a heavy heart, I had to end our conversation. It was a great pleasure meeting them both. 



Pictures courtesy of Monica Sablone

Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Jess Murray

Pictures courtesy of Monica Sablone

Festival Asia: Friday 15th May- Sunday 17th May

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When it comes to arts, music and films, London has always been in the centre of attention. There has never been a dull moment in the capital, whether it’s the middle of a week or a weekend. This year will be one of the most exciting one in the history of London. For the first time, on May 15, 16 and 17 Festival Asia will take over Tobacco Dock.

Constructed in 1811, Tobacco Dock served as a primary store for imported tobacco. Over a hundred years later, in 1990 the building was altered into a shopping centre. However, since mid-1990s the structure has been mostly unoccupied. In 2003, English Heritage placed it on the Building at Risk Register. From time to time, Tobacco Dock is used for large corporate events such as the Tattoo Convention, the Taste Food Festival, Hyper Japan and many more. It is, without question, an amazing venue to organise such a large festival like Festival Asia.

I was thrilled when the event’s organisers said that the festival “is set apart by any other event through encompassing all Asian cultures.” I thought, however, “Is it even possible to arrange such a thing?” I guess it is, because Festival Asia will host most Asian countries: “You will be entertained, moved and enlightened (…)”. You will definitely be able to find various interesting things at Tobacco Dock. It will be like “travelling the whole of Asia in a few hours.”

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Sunny Singh- Bollywood Dancer

In those three days the festival will present to us Asian food, fashion, art, traditional and modern music performances from countries such as South Korea, which will be represented by a very talented violinist Eunsley Park and Kaya, who will be playing Kayagum. Apart from South Korea, there will be artists from ChinaCheng Yu; internationally renowned pipa and guqin virtuoso and Amy Yuan, Erhu player. Hibiki Ichikawa – Tsugaru Shamiseu player and Akari Mochizaku – Enka singer will represent Japan. Djitron Pah, an Indonesian musician, will show off his talent whilst playing a harp and the PhilippinesLahing Kayumanggi dance group will show the audience how to move. It is worth mentioning that LK is a “Dance Company rooted in the folk culture and traditions of the Philippines.” I can assure you they are amazing performers who “demonstrates the rich and diverse culture of the Philippines.” I could keep on writing about all the performers, however, there are just too many to mention them all.

Apart from music and performances there will be various other things to experience such as a Cultural Room, where you will be able to find out more about Asian countries. There will be over 100 exhibitors including Japanese Kimono, Yoga Centers, Anime, Clothes, Food, Calligraphy, Games, Massage, Meditation, Traditional Swords, Paintings, Jewellery, Religious Temples and Meditation Centres, Art, Henna, Languages, Travel, Holidays and many more. I am very excited to see and experience Spiritual Room. As you may already know “Asia has traditionally given to the world an enormous wealth of spirituality which has in the last century more and more been penetrated by the west.” The Spiritual Room will introduce you to Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taosim, Jainism, Skikhism, Zoroastranism, Zen and Yoga.

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Kaya- South Korean Traditional Musician

I absolutely loved everything that I read about Festival Asia so far. I got so excited about it that I decided to have a chat with one of the Lilisan’s CEOs Corrado Canonici who was greatly thrilled to talk about the event.
It was one of those cold evenings in London when we decided to meet in a small café at Victoria Station. With a giant cup of green tea in my hand, I started our conversation by asking Corrado what was behind the project and how it came about. He was insightful, wryly funny and generously friendly “I was always passionate about Asia. It all started when I was very young, I read many books about it. I was truly fascinated by Asian philosophy and its culture. Years later, I started to work with the Chinese singer Li Li and, after a while, I asked her: why don’t we organise something together like an Asian Festival. I realised that there are events showcasing Asian culture, however, one or two countries. I really wanted to create an event that celebrates the entire Asian continent (…). At first I thought it was a crazy idea. It took us a year to do all the research, collect the data and build up a contact list. Bit by bit we started to plan properly. Look where we are now! The festival will have its debut in May”.

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Eunsley Park- South Korean Violin Player

LiLisan Ltd, in collaboration with Barley Arts International, has managed to team up with various people who are currently helping with the festival, especially LycaMobile, a huge mobile phone provider, which became the festival’s official sponsor. With great excitement, Corrado said that “the amount of things that will be showed at Festival Asia will definitely blow the audience’s mind.” As mentioned before, there will be over 100 exhibitors, various musicians and performers participating in the festival. For those who are endlessly hungry “there will be food that will make you lose control of your diet and give you the opportunity to taste the whole of Asia in one go.” I reckon it will be my favourite area at the festival; food is always good.

I noticed that Corrado is particularly excited about Martial Arts performances “We want people to be there to see Japanese Shorinji Kempo, Korean Hapkido, Taekwondo and Karate. I would like them to see as much as possible. Every half an hour we will have different Martial Arts’ performers on stage.” We both agreed that Festival Asia will be a big and an exciting event; Corrado admitted that “Loads of work went into it.” After looking for a proper place to organise the festival, the team agreed on doing it in Tobacco Dock, the place has “an incredible character. First of all, it is very central, it is near Tower Hill station and not too far from London Bridge. As a venue Tobacco Dock is simply amazing to hold a big event such as our festival. There is enough space to do everything. It’s a perfect place for us.”

With big smiles on our faces, Corrado and I ended the conversation. I must admit I am very excited about the festival. Do not forget to get your tickets to the event. Festival Asia will be held 15th- 17th May 2015 at Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF. Tickets are priced at; Adults £12.50 in advance £15 on door. Children £8 in advance £10 on door. For more information about the event please visit You can follow Festival Asia on social media for latest announcements and news: Facebook- FestivalAsia and Twitter @FestivalAsiaUK.

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Li Li- Chinese Opera Singer

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Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Jess Murray

Pictures courtesy of Festival Asia and the photographer

Seoul Fashion Week: Fall/ Winter Collection 2015- In Conversation with the Korean model Heynam Sin


 For the past few years, the fashion in South Korea has greatly matured, due to inspiration from the West. “Factors that have influenced the changes in the country’s fashion are culture, wealth, and (social) media, its developing economy has also had a profound effect on fashion.”

Currently, South Korea maintains a unique fashion style that has become an acknowledged influence in worldwide trends.  Korean style has become more expressive and, most of the time, reflects a sense of individuality. When I was in Korea I realized one thing that the country’s fashion has slowly started to affect the world’s fashion. Korean celebrities are starting to have a real influence in fashion such as G- Dragon and TaeYang. Both pop stars have recently made appearances at the Paris Fashion Week, where they mingled with the most prestigious fashion designers such as Kenzo and Karl Lagerfeld, a German fashion designer who is based in Paris. Karl is also a head designer and creative director of the fashion house Chanel and the Italian house Fendi.

The most popular fashion event in South Korea is, without a doubt, Seoul Fashion Week which take place twice a year in the Spring/ Summer and Fall/ Winter seasons. It is sponsored by Seoul Metropolitan Government and organized by Seoul Design Foundation. The fashion shows are held in March and October followed by New York, Paris and London Fashion Week.


Photos courtesy of Lee Sung Hoon

Seoul Fashion Week is split into three parts: The Seoul Collection, which was represented by 55 fashion designers. One of those designers was  SANG BONG LEE, whose brand concept is “based on artistic sentiment, pursuing beautiful and new pattern, cutting and structural silhouette reflecting lifestyle”, CHOI BOKO, whose brand’s idea is “based on artwork motif that started in painterly foundation of fine art and reproduces vintage with steric effect from couture’s perspective. It also presents a balanced silhouette using patchwork of various materials. The brand presents an ethnic fantasy using geometric pattern, which has strong and colorful contrast, changed shape and modernity” and KANG KIOK whose brand is based on classic and trendy design. Apart from Sang Bong Lee, Choi Boko and Kang Kiok , there were  fashion designers who displayed their work such as  Duyoung Jung (Brand: VanHart di Albazar), Kwak HyunJoo (Brand: Kwakhyunjoo collection) and many more. Generation Next is an upcoming fashion design program for Korean designers. The Generation Next was represented by 21 young fashion designers such as JINWON WOO (Brand: Rocket X Lunch ), DOYOUNG KIM (Brand: Pethidine in Pearl) plus many more. The Seoul Fashion Fair is an exhibition showcasing Korean fashion companies.


Pictures courtesy of Lee Sung Hoon

Seoul Fashion Week has always been aimed at an international audience, from an ordinary fashion goer to celebrities. This year you could have seen Jessica Alba, an American actress, at one of the fashion shows. I was lucky enough to be able to interview Heynam Sin, a South Korean model, who is represented by YGK Plus Agency. Sin was eager to answer a few questions about her career as a model, favourite designers and her preferred daily outfits.

I have been friends with Heynam for a year now and I must admit that she is a really hard working young lady who doesn’t give up easily. For as long as I have known her, she has always been driven by the fashion richness as well as music. It is worth mentioning that Heynam plays bass guitar and sings too. Sin has been working in the fashion industry for years. Apart from participating in Seoul Fashion Week, she has been taking part in commercial photo shoots for various magazines in South Korea and beyond. Sin spent a few months in Hong Kong as well as Milano, where she worked for different photographers and fashion designers.

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Pictures courtesy of the photographer

I started the interview by asking Heynam about her favourite magazines, blogs and catalogues that she reads often. Heynam, without any hesitation answered: “I definitely go for Vogue Girl, Dazed and Confused and Streetper”. I have to admit that I love Dazed and Confused myself. Recently, the magazine went trough some crucial changes and now it’s called just Dazed. For those who don’t know, Dazed “is a monthly British style magazine founded in 1991. Its founding editors were Jefferson Hack and fashion photographer Rankin. It covers music, fashion, film, art, and literature”. Of course every model has to be asked about its favourite models and designers. Honestly, I expected Heynam to say that her preferred models are Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss, to my surprise, the answer was “Twiggy, I like Twiggy. She is still rocking and she is definitely great”. I have always thought that models from 1960s or 1970s aren’t popular, but Sin proved me wrong.

Heynm has a vast knowledge about fashion and its designers but nevertheless seems to appreciate Alexander McQueen and Valentino the most. Who doesn’t right?

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Pictures courtesy of the photographer

As mentioned before, Seoul fashion is dynamic, Heynam thinks that it’s because “People who love fashion and care about current trends use internet. Due to the development of the internet, people communicate better and fashion becomes more complex yet dynamic. It constantly evolving.”

When describing her style and what fashion means to her she said that “Fashion is a way of showing the freedom of expression, this is how I see fashion. My style? It is probably 1970s punk rock style.” As you probably know, modelling is a very hard work. Sleepless night, dozen catwalks a day and endless photo-shoots. How does Heynam feel about it? What’s rewarding about it and how has modelling changed her life? With a smile on her face she answered “When the money gets deposited into my account I am happy, making money is probably the fun part. Having said that, I also came to appreciate myself and learnt how not to be embarrassed about my height and learnt how to embrace my beauty too”.

She has been working not only as runway model, but also as a model for fashion magazines and various catalogues. I asked her about the main differences between runway and photographic modelling; “Runway modelling is about grabbing audience’s attention and see the response and gratification on their faces. Whilst photographic modelling is more about working with countless stuff and trying to get the perfect shot for a magazine/ catalogue. As a model I do prefer to work the runways as it is more fun.” Don’t you wonder what’s Heynam’s favourite outfit is ? “It’s gotta be classic motorcycle jacket and Ramones T-Shirt.”

Heynam Sin (1)

Picture courtesy of the photographer

Heynam Sin debuted in 2006. She said she lost count how many times she participated in fashion shows. When it comes to Seoul Fashion Week, season F/W 2015, she represented 11 designers. In the previous season, S/S 2015, she took part in 13 catwalks while the year before. F/W 2014, she rocked her socks off in 14 shows. Whose fashion show was the most interesting at this year’s Seoul Fashion Week: “Kaal E. Suktae, the fashion designer incorporated a famous and well known animated character DOOLRI. The outfits were modern with a touch of chic. This style stood out for me.” How does she get along with other models? Heynam said: “When I was starting as a model there was that issue of senior/ junior thing that I had to adhere. However, modelling environment is more relaxed nowadays. These days since I am doing my own projects, there is not a lot of competition from other models. I only gained confidence and precious experience when doing my job.” 

We do hope that the next season of Seoul Fashion Week will be even more exciting than this year’s one.

Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Jess Murray

In Conversation with EE

EE 1Hyun- joon Lee (Big E) & Yun- joung Lee (lil E)

EE are an imaginative, vigorous and “total art performance group”. The husband-and-wife duo, who hail from South Korea, have been rocking their audience’s socks off since 2008. Yun-Joung Lee and Hyun-Joon Lee effortlessly merge art, music and dance together and then formulate it into a one of a kind, high powered performance.

Yun-Joung is no newbie to the music business. She started her career almost two decades ago when, in the mid 1990s, she was a vocalist for Pippi Band – “a pioneering act in Korea’s alt- rock scene”. After a while she became a solo artist and released Evolution in 1997 followed by 2001’s Sixth Sense album. A few years later she met her husband Hyun-Joon, an installation artist and DJ/ Producer, and in 2008 they formed EE and released their first CD single Curiosity Kills. Their popularity grew rapidly and in 2009 the group played at the World DJ Festival in Seoul. They also presented to the audience their full-length debut album entitled Imperfect, I’mperfect which was positively received by the critics in both South Korea and abroad.

In September 2009 they played material from their debut album at the Global Gathering Festival. Two years later EE were invited to play at Coachella Festival in California. It is worth mentioning that, to date, the band remains the only Korean artists that have ever “earned an invite to play” at such a well- known festival. In 2012 they toured in the UK for the first time and we hope not the last time.

The group’s most recent offering entitled Weird People We R Da People was released in August 2014. On this particular 3 track EP they experimented with hip hop, adding it to an existing electronic sound. After listening to it I can easily say that Hyun-Joon and Yun-Joung display a high level of creativity and sophisticated understanding of the concepts of music as well as a personal style.

It seems like 2015 will be a productive year for the band starting with an exciting live appearance at South by South West (SXSW) in March. We do hope everything goes well for them. Here is the interview we conducted with EE; we hope you enjoy reading it.

VOTA: Hyun-joon Lee and Yun-joung Lee did you both grow up wanting to play music? How and when did the whole making music thing come about?

lil E: Growing up, I was exposed to lots of music by my brother and sister. They both listened to a lot of diverse genres and there were always lots of LPs and CDs in their rooms. I first started making music when I joined Pippi Band.

Big E: I’ve loved dancing since I was young. As I got older, I began choosing and editing music for dancing and performances. I officially started making music after I met lil E.

VOTA: When you first met, did you ever imagine yourself playing together as a married couple?

lil E: I don’t think we were thinking that far ahead. We were so busy and enthusiastic about making art together when we first met that we never thought about the future. We naturally stepped into each other’s lives, and then suddenly became husband and wife.

Big E: Maybe? I can’t remember if I imagined us playing together as a married couple or not. But I do remember asking her why we weren’t married. That happened not long after we started dating.

VOTA: Yun-joung you have been in the music business for almost two decades, is there a specific period of time that you are particularly proud of?

lil E: Hmm … I don’t know! But there have surely been moments when I think my energy has been stronger. Those were when I joined Pippi Band, made my first electronic album, and when we made EE’s “Curiosity Kills” EP.

EE 4

VOTA: You call yourselves a “total art performance group” why is that? How would you describe your music?

lil E: I always tell people the same thing – that the description isn’t as grand as it sounds! It’s just an easy way to try and explain what we do. With EE, it’s not just about making songs. It’s about how everything – sounds, lyrics, videos, art, costumes, performances, etc. – fits together. It’s about the total package.

VOTA: Who chose your band name? Why did you like the name “EE”?

lil E: “E” is the Korean pronunciation of our family name, it’s easy to remember, and can include many different meanings using words that start with “E.” So I thought using “EE” as our name would have lots of open possibilities.

Big E: I thought the name was something that I’d never get sick of. But I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing! And like lil E said, the letter “E” has many uses. But sometimes “EE” is a bit too common so it makes it a little challenging to search for us on the Internet.

VOTA: Your latest EP entitled Weird People We R Da People was released in 2014. After its release, the website Korean Indie wrote: “Rappers would kill for beats like these and that EE were the ones to create them shows a glimpse of this group’s genius”. What is so unique about your sound?

lil E: I don’t know. I think we’re not trying to be cool. But maybe we’re just naturally cool? Who knows? The important thing for us is just having the ability to create what we want.

VOTA: Which song truly represents you as a band?

lil E: “Curiosity Kills”

EE 5

VOTA: In what ways does the place you live, or places you have lived, affect the music you create or your taste in music?

Big E: We live in Seoul. Seoul has many people, many accidents, and moves very quickly. But I’m not sure if any of that affects us at all.

VOTA: In 2011 you performed at Coachella in California. To date, you are the only Korean band who was invited to play at such a well-known event which showcases popular and established musical artists, as well as emerging artists and reunited groups. How did you feel when you received the invite to the Coachella Festival?

lil E: We were really honored and felt happy. But I felt a little sorry because many Koreans don’t know about this great festival.

Big E: Playing at Coachella was a lot of fun. That was our first time to play overseas. I’m very thankful for the opportunity they gave us.

VOTA: In March you will be going to the US again for a live appearance at South by South West (SXSW). What do you expect from your performance at the SXSW?

lil E: I’m expecting to see people’s eyes open wide and for their jaws to drop. That’s what usually happens when people first see our performances!

Big E: We’re bringing some other performers with us and will have a drummer too. I think our shows are going to be a lot of fun to do. We’re excited about going to Texas for the festival.

VOTA: Have you got any new projects coming up?

lil E: We’re going to be releasing some new songs hopefully just before SXSW. They’ll be weird!

Big E: We have plenty of other things we want to do too. If we get lucky, we’ll be able to tell more about them soon.

Here’s the band’s schedule during SXSW:
March 18 Austin, Texas (11 pm) @ 405 Club
March 19 Austin, Texas (10:30 pm) @ Elysium (K-Pop Night Out)


Interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Jess Murray

Pictures courtesy of the artists