Benjamim Taubkin, Music curator of Mercado Cultural da Bahia, talks about Sonagi Project and Chae So

Benjamim Taubkin, Music curator of Mercado Cultural da Bahia,
he talks about
Sonagi Project and Chae Soo Jung Performance Company.

My first real contact with Korean Music came from this moving documentary, Intangible Asset 82- a production on a journey of an Australian musician , through the world of Korean Traditional Music. It blew me away. I was reminded, just as I so often am when coming across far-flung foreign cultures, of how little I know about the other side of the world.

But in the special case of the Korean Music, the question that got up was: how can such a different culture have so much in common with the Brazilian rhythms in many aspects, even being so different in others? Then, I met at Womex the really nice team from KAMS, where we started to plan a program, which could put Brazilian audience in contact with this deep and beautiful music.

I ended up inviting both Sonagi and Chae Soo Jong to perform in Bahia. And also to play at the special edition of “Mercado Cultural” in Sao Paulo. Both were marvelous concerts. Even having different codes, the music grabbed the audience, among them, specially in São Paulo, many musicians. The first evening they spent in São Paulo became really a surprise to us. Latin American used to be the happiest ones. But right after 30 hours flying from Korea they still had energy to go to samba, a gafieira bar, to dance with enough of enthusiasm and good rhythm. The whole experience became a joyful one.

Every year, the Festival in Salvador takes place at Castro Alves Theatre, a venue for 1500 people. Around 900 to 1000 were there for each concert. Both were brilliant.  In Mercado Cultural, we managed after ten years of adventurous programme, to attract an audience that goes to the concerts with ears and hearts opened to listen something they absolutely don’t know. But on the other hand, this audience can be sometimes very critical, expecting from us a really good and exciting programme.

Both groups from Korea fulfilled their expectations - bringing a music that probably most of them have never heard before, but had ended up to open new gates to a different country, even, continent. It was music presented in a very high level and totally honest and profoundly linked to their own traditions and culture. What impressed me most is that both projects - Chae Je Song, Pansori music, and Sonagi, a percussion group, beside being traditional music - sounded contemporary and fresh music.  Connected to their current realities. They shared their knowledge in workshops, but also in informal talks, that happen during the Festival, as most of the artists stays during the 5 days of the event in Salvador.

Sonagi also took part of the third part of the event: a tour to the countryside of Bahia, 300km from Salvador. This was the first attempt to take the festival to a special location: an ecological and cultural preserved site, full of local traditional groups willing to share their knowledge and music. The Koreans musicians went also totally open during this journey and left a strong impression in all those who took part on this trip, both local inhabitants, musicians, and the production crew.  They joined in many activities, they danced together with the local population, and they shared in the best way possible, their artistry.

One special note for the people from KAMS: they where easy to work with, and supportive in the whole process. I hope we''ll continue working together and be able to create new ways for collaboration between our cultures and artists.

Mercado Cultural da Bahia ->


Brazilian music has been the playing field for this instrumentalist, arranger, composer, and producer. As a musician he has participated in several formations, ranging from solo work to symphonic orchestras – presented in Brazil and abroad. Some of the most recent projects he’s participated in as musician and arranger include: Jobim Sinfônico, Samwad – Rua do Encontro, Milágrimas, Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica, Paulo Moura and Monica Salmaso. His current projects as musician and director include: the Latin american collective America Contemporanea, the Orquestra Popular de Camara  the choro ensemble Moderna Tradição , his work with the traditional Nucleus Abaçaí  and his jazz project Trio +1 ( his solo career he is about to release his second CD, which was recorded in New York and will be released first in the US by Adventure Music and then in Brasil by Núcleo Contemporâneo. The first one A Terra e o Espaço Aberto was very well received by the press, critics and audience. He is present as a musician or producer on more than 130 discs.

He  started to produce and organize  concerts already in his teens - coordinating music programs in the Culture State Department of Sao Paulo. He coordinated among others:

1-  the Music Department of Instituto Itaú Cultural- one of the biggest Cultural Institutes in Brazil- from 1999 to 2001
2- He was part of Brazilian Memory Project that mapped some of the most important Brazilian Musicians trough a a program  that presented their work by  a series of
3- Appear as a musical producer and musician- in around 150 records. He also directs the label Nucleo Contemporaneo-
4- since 2001- is the musical curator of mercado cultural da Bahia - one of the most important platforms  of music in South America.
5- Participated in more than 50 seminars in Brazil and around the world.
6- Is a  music curator  for a lot of different venues, institutions , and festivals. 
7-Member of the EFWMF - this last two years as a board member.
8- He''s been working also as a writer and researcher  , collaborating with different media .

He has coordinated projects for institutions like Itaú Cultural, and the São Paulo State Secretary of Culture. He has developed programs for SESC, CPFL, and CCBB. He is the musical curator for the Mercado Cultural da Bahia and is a member of the European Forum for World Music Festivals.


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