As the K-pop market is enjoying its heyday, with record sales reaching an all-time high in the first half of this year, the composition of idol groups targeting the global market is also becoming diverse.
In the past, it is true that the countries from which foreign members came were mainly China, Japan, the United States, and Thailand.
However, as K-pop groups have recently expanded their overseas market and their range of activities has expanded from East Asia to the other places in the world, idols’ nationalities have diversified.
Korean media outlet Yonhap News recently interviewed Chanty of Lapillus, the first “Filipino and Argentine” idol in the history of K-pop, and Shreya Lenka of Black Swan, the first K-pop girl group member from India.
Lapillus’s Chanty “I wanted to become a K-pop idol after watching 2NE1”
Chanty, who has Filipino and Argentine nationalities, is a member of MOMOLAND‘s junior group Lapillus, which MLD Entertainment introduced last month. The girl is busy working on her debut song “HIT YA!” in which Lee Seung-chul, a senior singer in the music industry, participated in vocal directing.
Chanty, who we met before a rehearsal for a music program, said with a big smile, “I didn’t know if I could become a K-pop singer, it’s still unbelievable and dreamlike to debut as a singer in Korea.”
She first worked in the Philippines’ showbiz, and after about nine months of training, Chanty achieved her dream of making a debut as a K-pop girl group member.
“The first K-pop song I heard was 2NE1’s ‘Fire,'” Chanty said. “At that time, 2NE1 was so famous in the Philippines that I heard the lyrics of ‘Fire,’ which sounded like ‘eh-eh-eh-eh,’ wherever I went.”
“It was so amazing that (K-pop singers) danced and sang at the same time, and I didn’t understand the lyrics but I liked the beat and melody,” she said adding, “I knew I wanted to sing and dance while watching the performances of 2NE1, and I became interested in K-pop.”
Chanty said, “I think the most important elements of K-pop are the details of the choreography and hard practice,” adding, “While the flow of emotions is important for other countries’ songs, K-pop is more tightly structured and the details are made alive.” It was amazing how they could practice for several years to perform like this,” she pointed out.
“So I continued to make efforts steadily, even though I was half-suspicious about whether I could succeed,” she said. “I’m still young, but I had a dream to inspire myself and the world.”
The idol also said, “I’ve been longing for K-pop, so it’s a great honor to be a Lapillus member,” adding, “I want to be a ‘Power Booster’, which gives hope to people in my home country that they can do it too.”
Of course, there are many difficulties for her. It is true that the Korean skills that she learned living alone in a strange land across the sea are still poor.
“My Korean has improved a lot, but I still have a lot to learn,” Chanty said. “There are times when it is not easy to explain my thoughts in Korean. At first, I couldn’t speak Korean at all, so I only knew the words ‘water’ and ‘cold’.”
She also said, “I learned my own culture from watching Korean dramas, but I didn’t have a chance to experience it in real life before,” and added, “I thought I was listening to her seriously while leaning on my foot but I was pointed out by the choreography teacher that it was not polite.”
“My parents were very worried at first that I had started my career step by step in the Philippines and started from the bottom in Korea,” she said, adding, “But I persuaded them that I could do well, and they finally allowed me to go to Korea.”
“I’m not a great dancer, and I’m not very talented. All I had was a dream. I want to show that courage to challenge yourself is important even if you’re not perfect.”
Shreya “My mom didn’t know until I came to Korea…””My dream is to have a world tour”
Shreya, who recently joined Black Swan as a new member, is also the first Indian member in the history of K-pop girl groups. We met Shreya sweating in the practice room of DR Music, an agency somewhere in Seoul.
“K-pop is very popular among the younger generation in India, too,” Shreya said. “When I went to India for a while last month, I already met many fans and heard them congratulate me (on joining Black Swan).”
Regarding the secret to K-pop’s popularity, she said, “Not only is the music good, but it also has a message in the lyrics and motivates young people. It instills hope, she said. “Even if you don’t understand Korean, there are many elements that interest you when you look up the lyrics.”
The 19-year-old fell in love with K-pop after listening to EXO‘s hit song “Growl” a few years ago. Since then, she has nurtured her dream by watching YouTube and covering the choreography on her own, and after going to auditions of various companies held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has achieved her dream.
On the news that the first Indian K-pop girl group member debuted, Shreya was so famous that she had a local TV news interview.
Shreya said, “It was hard to understand because I was not familiar with Korean, but it was exciting and fun to listen to the song,” adding, “I was confident that this was what I wanted to do in the future while dancing along to K-pop.”
However, she also said that the process of coming alone to Korea, thousands of kilometers from India, was not easy.
Shreya said, “My mother did not want to let me go to Korea alone,” but added, “My father secretly allowed me to go to achieve my dream because he knew this (admission pass) was a very important opportunity.” So I told my mother about it only after I arrived in Korea,” she said.
“When I was notified of my admission, I was at my cousin’s house. I was so happy to hear the news that I jumped on my sister’s bed,” she recalled.
Shreya, who arrived in Korea in December last year and lived in Seoul for about eight months, has significantly improved her Korean to the extent that she can have a decent conversation. Black Swan, where she belongs, is a girl group from all over the world, including Belgium, Germany, and Brazil, so she sometimes cooks curry for the members.
Shreya said, “I think the most important factor in K-pop is to stay with the members as a group and set up a great stage,” adding, “I feel like I’m not alone and I’m always happy because I’m with the members.” It’s really important to understand each other,” she said maturely.
Regarding K-pop, the idol pointed out, “Indian music uses a lot of traditional instruments (local) while K-pop seems to be a big difference in that it is close to (global) pop.”
Shreya chose year-end award ceremonies and further world tours as her future goals.
Shreya said, “My goal is to inspire and motivate many young generations with my music,” adding, “I want to be on big stages such as the year-end awards ceremony like MAMA (Mnet Asian Music Awards).” If possible, I want to go to the Grammy Awards,” she said.
Shreya added, “I hope I can become a good artist 10 years later and go on a world tour with many fans.” I hope we release a lot of hit songs,” she said with a smile.
“Black Swan is different from other K-pop girl groups. Each member has a different nationality and skin color. I think this originality is the uniqueness that brings K-pop fans together.”