2012/05/19 | 210 views | | Permalink
Korea is a world away from you hometown in Vancouver. What was it about Korea that attracted you to it in the first place and what has been the biggest difference in your daily life since you've been here?
Vancouver has a pretty sizeable Korean population, so growing up I'd heard nothing but great things about Korean culture. I was curious. So once I found out about the opportunity to teach in Korea, I jumped on it, and knew that I could also pursue my musical endeavors here. With regards to my lifestyle, the biggest difference has been my personal outlook on life. I try to make sure that in everything I do, I do it with Love. Positive energy. Good vibes. That sort of thing.
The music scene in Korea is probably more diverse that people might realise but K-pop seems to largely dominate the country's image to the music world. What are your thoughts on K-pop as well as Korea's music scene in general?
Haha, I could go on for days about this one. I think K-pop is catchy and can be enjoyable at times, but ultimately it lacks passion. And I mean that in the sense that, when an artist is groomed from an early age to act and look a certain way, you're essentially taking what's most tangible from an artist, and disposing of the unique, abstract ideas that the music exposes about a person. I think it's more to do with the way the Korean music industry operates more than anything else. Aside from K-pop, Korea has an amazing music scene that doesn't get nearly as much exposure as it should, both in Korea and abroad. Like, how many people have heard of Korean reggae acts "Rude Paper" or "Windy City"? They're sensational and, even more importantly, it's their own sound coming through the music. The Korean Hip Hop scene also has some really dope artists that I only heard about through word of mouth. You won't hear about them through mainstream media sources.
Korea is an interesting place to kick-start your music career. What were some of the factors than made you choose Korea as the first steppingstone and what, if any, challenges have you encountered here?
When I was in Canada, I always felt like I needed to be making music, but with school and part-time jobs, I simply couldn't find the time to focus on it. On the other hand, my daily schedule was more consistent in Korea, so I knew how much time I could realistically dedicate to making music. The biggest challenge I've faced so far is trying to cross over into the Korean market as a foreign artist. I've turned this into a positive situation though, as it has really taught me the importance of allowing people to know about who I am, not only as an artist, but also as a person living and doing every day things in Korea. Regardless of any language barriers, I feel like people need to connect with an image or idea before they can really support an artist. I'm studying Korean so I can better facilitate Korean people's understanding of who I am as a person. I have a story to tell, so now I'm working on how to best deliver this message.
How would you describe the type of music you produce and what has the general feedback been from locals?
I create music that my friends would like. Haha. Of course I make music that I like, first and foremost, but it always makes me feel great when my friends (who are ruthlessly honest) enjoy my tunes as well. If it's good, we'll jam out to it for a few days before I release it, but if it's wack, they'll let me know. They're like the family that I never wanted. Feedback from the locals has been good. Koreans that have heard my mix tape, Louder Than Words, have really enjoyed the smooth, laid back vibe of the project. But my newer, Electro-Hip Hop music has been really well-received by locals. Every show that I perform at, I can always count on the local Korean crowd to be at the front, dancing the night away.
Where in Korea have you performed/visited and is there any particular city/town that hold the sweetest memories for you either personally or professionally?
I've performed all over Korea, and each city has had a special memory to me. But I gotta say Busan. That city shows me so much love every time I visit. The people are so laid back, the sashimi is amazing, the beaches are dope, and the women are beautiful. The icing on the cake is that the local scene supports indie artists, and that always motivates me to come back as often as possible. Actually, I'm in Busan right now doing this interview. Haha.
You recently travel to Ethiopia to get in touch with your roots and your family's origin. What did you learn from that and what were some of the biggest differences you noted between Ethiopia and Korea?
The 5 weeks I spent in Ethiopia has drastically changed the way I think and act. For the better. The people were so kind and courteous, and showed endless love during my time there. Ethiopia has made me a more loving person, and I've seen great things happen as a result of my positive vibes. I'm always smiling from cheek to cheek these days. I'd also love to visit Eritrea (formerly a part of Ethiopia), a country that lies directly north of Ethiopia, where my parents are technically from.
The biggest difference between Ethiopia and Korea is that Ethiopians seem more happy in everyday life. Whenever I walked the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, all I remember is people smiling and enjoying themselves. Seoul is really fast paced and very materialistic and I think people are generally more stressed out as a result of trying to keep up in the rat race.
Korea is one of the most homogeneous nations in the world and their rise on the world stage has brought about an increasing focus on multiculturalism and racial diversity within the country. What have you own personal and professional experiences been like in Korea as a foreigner?
My experiences in Korea as a foreigner has been great. I'm in love with Korean culture and I think Koreans have taken a liking to me as a result. Whether I'm teaching, performing, or even just buying groceries at the local supermarket, I always try to be friendly and respectful, and people seem to reciprocate these feelings. It's a good system.
You released your first mix tape last year and more recently your new single "Never Promised". What are you plans for the future of your music career, both immediate and far off?
With the release of "Never Promised", I've really felt like I've found my true sound. I'm a huge fan of the House genre, and I feel that creatively laying down raps over funky sounds can contribute to the dance scene in a positive way. With more up-tempo music on the way, I'd like to start performing abroad in places like Japan. Eventually I'd love to get signed by a major label. That's something that I've always dreamed of. But even as an Indie artist, if I could consistently tour different cities around the world that would also be amazing.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to come to Korea to get involved in the music scene? Where there any mistakes made or opportunities missed that you could point out?
It's nice to be important. But it's more important to be nice. Just be good to people. If you're friendly, people will want to associate themselves with you and the positive energy you embody.
If you left Korea today for whatever reason, what would be your greatest memory during your time here and would there be any regrets?
My greatest memory would be the road trip that my closest friends and I took from Seoul to Busan for a performance I had on May 12, 2012. I was really touched by the unwavering support that they had for me, and when I wasn't performing, we all bonded together and shared laughs. I'm a lucky to have such nice friends. No regrets at all!
Name: Sammy Clay
Occupation in Korea: ESL Teacher and Rapper
Home Town: Vancouver
City in Korea: Seoul
Time spent in Korea: 2.5 years
Best thing about Korea: Friendly people
Least favourite thing about Korea: Bad Traffic
-C.J Wheeler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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