As part of a renewed effort to reinvigorate Fringe goers this year, we have seen the governing bodies involved in the festival pull out all the stops to put on one hell of a show, calling upon all sorts of acts from all over the world, resulting in one of the most bustling summers Edinburgh has seen. As part of this drive we have the Korean Showcase element, which aims to put a spotlight on a branch of international performers that many in Scotland may not have had the pleasure of enjoying before. The musical segment of this showcase was a 50-minute rendition of 6 compositions or stories by a collective called WeMu. Utilising traditional instruments alongside some more contemporary structures, WeMu seemed to be rather a success, judging by the reactions from the enlivened audience.
Each performer was undoubtedly talented – the lead vocalist and violinists were especially impressive – with all 4 of them employing unique time signatures and chord progressions that were unlike anything else you’ve heard. The tracks veered from their traditional, more discordant roots into majestic, soaring symphonies effortlessly, giving moments for quiet consideration and energetic enjoyment equally. Traditional Korean instruments were used, and I admit that I still haven’t been able to figure out exactly what they were called or how they worked. The scattershot drum beats played on a bit of apparatus on its side, alongside a sort of wooden kazoo with an incredible range, providing rich layered textures that worked surprisingly well with the more recognisable electronic keyboard.
The concept behind the tracks themselves, as the band explained, was to endow the listeners with well wishes and blessings, and this genuine sentiment was prevalent throughout the show: there was simply a lot of heart on display. The ethos behind translating these traditional art forms into modern contexts is an important one, for it shows how we can evolve these mediums for contemporary palettes whilst still maintaining the key principles at their heart. Judging by the enthusiastic crowd, this task was completed successfully – it was a wholly unique and enlightening night with 6 wonderful compositions flawlessly performed.
Some could say that the venue of the Symposium Hall perhaps let down the ornate symphonies that were being performed (in my experience it being better suited for theatrical endeavours), for while it is certainly not bare bones, it did feel a little too stale, and I couldn’t help but think these performers deserved something more – more time, more space, and more publicity maybe. On the other hand, the performance may have suffered if it had gone on much longer. 6 concise stories perfectly educated the audience on this likely unheard of style of music, without overstaying its welcome. The sparse background also allows you to focus more exclusively on the music, which is the point after all. It’s certainly important for western audiences to branch out their musical palettes, and you could tell that WeMu were incredibly happy to be sharing their art with the fresh-faced crowd. The world feels a little bigger the morning after having my horizons expanded by what WeMu and the team behind the Korean Showcase are doing – there really is plenty of room for everyone at the Fringe.
Six Stories- theSpace @ Symposium Hall, Aug 8th- 18th, 22:40,
Press Image courtesy of WeMu