Interview: Q&A with Camilla George & Soojin Suh – Jazz as a Universal Language (November 2021)

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– Soojin Suh

How did the collaboration come about and what was your reaction when they proposed it to you?

Soojin Suh: It is an honor to be able to collaborate this year with Camilla George, following last year’s collaboration with Kit Downs and Ruth Goller. I’m really looking forward to this as it’s a live show and I am happy to have this experience of working with some of the UK’s most dynamic and finest musicians. 

When did you first hear of Camilla George and what was your idea of her music before the project?I usually enjoy listening to British jazz musicians. I found Camilla’s unique style, that combines African and Western music, to be beautifully made and interesting.ᅠ

How was it to work and create something together also considering these Covid-times? And what are you looking forward to about your show on the 17th of November?

I am very thankful that I am able to come to London to meet U.K. audiences for a live show in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Moreover, being able to perform with a British musician makes me realize that the whole world is, and has always been, connected through music.

Is the collaboration a one-off project or are you already thinking about and planning a second chapter?

There were a lot of disappointments as a lot of things went online because of the Covid pandemic, but we have also found a lot of potential in it. Starting with this collaboration, we hope that we will be able to share other fun ideas.ᅠ

Is there any element that particularly intrigues you about Camilla George’s music? And what would you “borrow” from her musicianship and music vision?

As mentioned earlier, I’m fascinated by the way Camilla blends African and Western music. I myself am always working to harmonize the elements of Korean traditional music with Western music, so I think there are a lot of overlapping points, methodologically speaking.

You come from and grew up listening to music traditions and repertoires that are worlds apart. Could you find any common ground between your cultural backgrounds?

I think the biggest common ground is that we both listened to and studied jazz for a long time. As we had completely different cultural backgrounds, I am excited to see how our unique ways of interpreting jazz music can be harmonized.

What was your relationship with the UK jazz scene before “meeting” each other? Is there any musician/band you’re passionate about?

I’ve been a longtime fan of Kit Downs, who I played online with last year and also became a fan of Ruth Goller, whom I was introduced to through Kit. I’m really impressed with Ruth’s new album, Skylla which was released this year. Since last year’s collaboration, Kit and I have been exchanging new music via email and recording at home. I don’t know if it will be released as an album yet, but it opens the door for us to collaborate together in new ways. I would like to continue to meet more UK artists and form more longstanding partnerships.

I know that you have already played in the UK more than once. What was your reaction when you first played here, and can you spot any main differences between the response of the Seoul and London audience to your music?

I still vividly remember the show when I first came to the UK as the Near East Quartet. It’s hard to explain in detail, but while sitting and playing on the drums, I could feel how the audience was listening to and enjoying our music with an open mind.

To different extents and in different ways, you both employ jazz in your music. Do you see the genre as a universal musical language able to connect and eventually bond musicians from all over the world?

I think jazz is already a universal language and I think the biggest reason for that is its ability to absorb other cultures. The main reason I decided to study jazz was because I found the ever-changing possibilities of the genre in adapting the music of various cultures a great attraction. I believe that jazz can be used as a bridge to connect various music and musicians from all over the world.

Besides your K-Music Festival show… What are your projects for the near future?

I will be recording a new album with my project group Coloris Trio which is due to be released early next year. Due to Covid, many tours have been canceled or conducted online, so we are preparing and hoping to meet a more global audience with new music in 2022.

How would you introduce your K-Music Festival event and what would you say to invite people to join you?

The music of COLORIS Trio is music that contains jazz, Korean traditional music, classical music and the cultural changes I have experienced over the past 30 years. As the times change so quickly, I think the identity of my music is to capture those changes. It will become a great tool in improvisation and in capturing it. I am looking forward to creating a beautiful and memorable show with the UK audience.

 

- Soojin Suh and Camilla George collaborative performance will go on stage at Southbank Centre's Purcell Room on Friday the 17th of November. 

Tickets available HERE -

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