Edinburgh Fringe, Tago Korean Drum, Interview: “Our music is very sexy, intense, and sophisticated!”
TAGO return to The Fringe 2017 with a new show which follows their enormously popular and successful Fringe debut last year.
‘FYI’ TAGO means ‘lighting up the world by beating drums’ and this young ensemble achieves it with a spectacular mixture of Korean traditional instruments – from gigantic drums to small percussion instruments – spiced up with extravagant martial arts movement. TAGO’s performances are a masterful display of thrilling percussion and precisely choreographed movement that has wide audience appeal.
TAGO – KOREAN DRUM II is one of a collection of Korean shows at the 70th Edinburgh Festival Fringe supported by Korean Arts Management Service (KAMS), an affiliate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea. The collection, which consists of MEDEA on media, Behind the Mirror, TAGO: Korean Drum, Mind Goblin and SNAP is part of Korea/UK 2017-18 presented by the Korean Cultural Centre UK, a year-long cultural exchange in partnership with leading British cultural institutions, set to bring the best of Korean art to the UK.
I thought it would be nice to talk to TAGO master drummer Kim Si-Won. I was right. It was quite nice.
Here is what happened.
Hi! Can you describe TAGO KOREAN DRUM?
TAGO master drummer Kim Si-Won: Our music is very sexy, intense, and sophisticated! Korean drums play an important part in traditional Korean music; it’s an art that has been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years. In TAGO we harness our traditional music with a more modern touch combining traditional Korean instruments – from gigantic drums to small percussion – with some exciting martial arts moves! And we wanted to break the assumption that all drums are round so we’ve built a square drum and put strings and a wooden keyboard on it so it takes four of us to play it!
Performers are always busy rehearsing, preparing or performing; how do you relax?
That’s a good question Mr Carl! We actually practise for 3-4 hours a day because you have to constantly develop strength and technique to play the drums…but we love to find new places to eat, drink and relax. Edinburgh has some great bars and we’re looking forward to trying out some malt whiskies.
You recently took part in the London Korean Festival. How did audiences respond?
It was absolutely amazing! We performed a 30 minute set against a colourful backdrop and the audience were dancing and cheering. The Kensington Olympia venue is gigantic and the sound of our drums was perfect for the big acoustics. They also had lots of Korean food stands so we felt right at home. We signed lots of autographs too and did many selfies with audience members.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Performing abroad, definitely!
How would you like this show to be remembered?
As a big, exciting and sexy show! Also we would like people to enjoy the sounds of the different drums and percussion instruments, some of which you can only see if you come to Korea.
What do you like most about the city of Edinburgh?
The people are so friendly and the beer is great! When we performed for the first time in 2016, we didn’t realise there were so many shows on – some of our Korean friends are here with their own shows – magic, illusion, dance, music – and we’re hoping to go and support some of them. Last year we had to buy umbrellas…
With the costs of putting on a show – what would be your advice for other international companies that want to bring work to Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Don’t pack too much! We send our biggest drums in advance and we take the smaller items on the plane with our luggage. We could easily bring more then end up not playing them all – so, rather than have a big choice of instruments, we perform a specially designed international show that we know we can deliver. If you try to pack everything, you can easily run out of money.
What is the Korean Arts scene like?
Really vibrant and diverse. The art of drumming has been around for centuries and you have to be very dedicated to train for many years before you can perform professionally. Drummers usually started training intensely from the age of 10. The K-Pop scene is huge now – Korean pop music – and young audiences are moving away from traditional art forms which is why our show is a combination of old and new. Also the phenomenon of magic and illusion shows is very new to Korea and very popular and the Korean National Ballet (since 1993) is also very cool with people who like ballet.
What do you think audiences enjoy most about your work?
I think people really dig the huge sound of the drums – the sound really fills any performance space and it’s exciting to experience. I think they also like our combination of drumming and martial arts moves – it’s a really hard thing to learn but very satisfying when you hear the audience cheering!
Are there any shows you are looking forward to seeing?
We are hoping to check out some comedy shows – we didn’t have chance last year – so we’re going to try and see Kwame Asante who we hear is a doctor as well as a comedian and our friends in the Korean magic show Snap which is also very funny.
What is the most rewarding part of being a performer?
Being up there onstage with my friends is the best – we all met at university and set up Tago nearly 15 years ago.