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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Gig review: Kim Hyelim + Alice Zawadzki

Kim Hyelim, Alice Zawadzki, Misha Mullov-Abbado and Rob Luft
L to R: Kim Hyelim, Alice Zawadzki, Misha Mullov-Abbado and Rob Luft (photo: KCCUK)

I have to confess: I was a little nervous as I set off for Dalston on a dark Monday evening. If I had a minor gripe with the opening gig of the K-music festival at the Union Chapel, billed as a collaboration between East and West, it was that there was not enough collaboration: Kathryn Tickell did her thing, Black String did their thing, and it was only for the final set that they came together to explore new territory. This has been the hallmark of the collaborations at Club Inégales too. So what I was expecting from this K-music concert was a repeat of the above formula: a set for daegeum; a set for fiddle and voice; and then all too short a section of the two musicians coming together.

So I was wrong-footed, and of course pleasantly surprised, when all four musicians came on stage together. And when Kim started with her trademark court music piece — Cheongseonggok for solo daegeum — it was not long before Zawadzki joined in on violin, followed by Rob Luft on guitar and Misha Mullov-Abbado on bass, at first tentatively and then gradually with more confidence. What we were about to get was a full set of collaboration between the musicians, a set of genuine interaction. Having been working together for a couple of months (rather longer than the couple of days available to Tickell and Black String) the musicians could plan a set based around a loose theme: that of seven colours.

Kim Hyelim during the second set (photo: KCCUK)
Kim Hyelim during the second set (photo: KCCUK)

The first set followed a sequence of autumnal gold (the court music piece); red; silver-grey; and blue, featuring music composed by various of the band members. I’m afraid that as it was getting late I had to skip the second set, but this was music I would unhesitatingly go to hear again. For a start, it was the first time I had heard Kim sing in public – her vocal line combining beautifully with that of Zawadski. Daegeum and violin blended well together too, but the extraordinarily versatile guitar playing of Rob Luft and the percussive bass playing of Misha Mullov-Abbado provided the glue that brought everything together perfectly.

After the concert
After the concert (photo: KCCUK)

This was the sort of music that you hope someone was recording so that you can listen to it again. Although it didn’t send you away with the feelgood warmth generated by some of the previous concerts in the series (maybe if I had the time to stay for the second set I would revise that comment), this was an incredibly satisfying and rewarding dialogue, and it was a delight experiencing these musicians exploring the possibilities offered by bringing together their different sounds and styles. A remarkable half-evening, and I wish I could have stayed for more.

Kim Hyelim and Alice Zawadzki played at the Vortex on  Monday 2 October 2017 as part of K-Music 2017

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