Sriya Lenka, 18, Odisha, becomes India’s first K-pop star

BHUBANESWAR: K-pop or Korean pop, a music genre immensely popular around the world due to its craze among young people, got its first-ever Indian star after 18-year-old singer from Odisha, Sriya Lenka was cast as to be one of the new group members of K-pop group, Blackswan on Thursday with a Brazilian girl.

In December last year, Lenka, a lanky girl from the city of Rourkela, was selected for the final stage of training in Seoul to become a member of Korean pop group Blackswan, after its eldest member Hyeme had left the band in November 2020. The band’s promoter, DR Music in May last year announced global auditions to replace her, after which 19-year-old Lenka and Gabriela Dalcin from Brazil were chosen from 4,000 applicants via a YouTube audition program.

Although DR Music was supposed to choose just one member for Blackswan, they announced the names of Lenka and Gabriela to be the 5th and 6th members of the K-pop group. “With their debut, we’ll be back with Blackswan,” the band said in an Instagram post. Lenka and Gabriela will be in Seoul for the next few months to practice for the band to release their next album. Over the past 5 months, the two have been through an intense training process that included standard lessons in singing, rapping, dancing, personal training, language, and musical instruments.

Blackswan was launched by the company as Rania in 2011. It later became BP Rania before taking its current name in October 2020. It is currently a 4-member K-pop girl group consisting of its Korean leader and singer Go Young Heun (Youngheun), Belgium-based Senegalese singer-rapper-model Fatou Samba (Fatou), Korean singer-dancer Kim Da Hye (Judy) and Brazilian-Japanese singer maknae Larissa Ayumi Cartes Sakata (Leia). The group debuted in 2020 with a full album Goodbye Rania, followed by their debut single album Close to Me in 2021.

Lenka, who has been learning classical Odissi dance as well as freestyle, hip-hop and contemporary dance since the age of 12, has become addicted to K-pop like millions of Indian teenagers. Her K-pop dream got a boost when she watched Exo’s MV Growl and tried to copy the members’ moves. During Covid in 2020, she had to train on the roof of her house and learn how to make audition videos from YouTube. When she started auditioning, she learned Korean online and watched many Korean dramas to learn both the language and the culture.

Lenka’s father, Avinash Lenka, who works in a private company in Jharsuguda, said he was overjoyed after hearing that his daughter would be the first Indian woman to be a K-pop star. “Even though I had faith in his hard work, I did not expect Sriya to succeed. Despite all my apprehensions about her future, I encouraged her to follow her passion for dancing because she always wanted to be a dancer and participated in several dance competitions,” said Lenka.

K-pop or Korean pop started in South Korea in the 1990s and included different musical genres such as rock, hip hop, and electronic music. As the East Asian country experienced an economic boom in the 1990s, bringing greater purchasing power to the country’s young people, they had easier access to American popular culture and artists. According to moonROK, a K-pop news portal, the foundations of K-pop were laid in 1992 with an electric hip-hop television performance by Seo Taiji and Boys. Soon, K-pop began to spread to non-Asian countries like the United States and some European countries.

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