18-year-old Odisha girl Sriya Lenka becomes first K-pop star from India

BHUBANESWAR: K-pop or Korean pop, an immensely popular music genre in the world owing to its craze among youngsters, got its first-ever Indian star after 18-year-old singer from Odisha, Sriya Lenka was chosen to be one of the new group members of the K-pop group, Blackswan on Thursday along with a Brazilian girl.

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

Though DR Music was supposed to pick just one member for Blackswan, they announced the names of Lenka and Gabriela to be the 5th and 6th member of the K-pop group. “With their debut, we will be back with Blackswan,” said the group in a post on Instagram. Both Lenka and Gabriela will be in Seoul for next few months for practice so that the group brings out their next album. In the last 5 months, the two were put to intense training process which included standard vocal, rap, dance lessons to personal training, language, and musical instruments.

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

Lenka, who has learnt Odissi classical dance as well as freestyle, hip-hop and contemporary dance since the age of 12, got hooked to K-pop like millions of Indian teenagers. Her K-pop dream got a fillip when she she watched Exo’s Growl MV and tried to copy the members’ moves. During Covid in 2020 she had to practice on the roof of her house and learn how to make audition videos from YouTube. When she started auditioning, she learnt Korean online and watched a lot of Korean dramas to learn both the language and 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 to be a K-pop star. “Though I had faith on her hard work, I never expected that Sriya would make it. Despite all my misgivings about her future, I encouraged her to follow her passion for dancing as she always wanted to be a dancer and participated in several dance competitions,” said Lenka.

K-pop or Korean pop started out in South Korea in 1990s that included different musical genres such as rock, hip hop and electronic music. As the East Asian country experienced an economic boom in the 90s bringing bigger purchasing power among the country’s youngsters, they gained easier access to American popular culture and artists. According to moonROK, a K-pop news portal, the foundation of K-pop was laid in 1992 with an electric hip-hop TV performance by Seo Taiji and Boys. Soon K-pop began spreading in non Asian countries like USA and some European countries.

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