Even after a very successful career of about 30 years, pop diva Insooni still fondly remembers her humble beginnings.
“I still sing at nightclubs about six or seven times a year,” Insooni told The Korea Herald Thursday after a press showing of the musical “Cats,” in which she stars as Grizabella.
“It’s where my career started. I was picked up by an agency after singing at those clubs in the ’70s. I still very often would like to go back to those days, where I’d arrive at the club at 6 p.m., if I am supposed to perform at 8 p.m., and just watch others sing, and imitate and imitate. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through those times.”
Born in 1957 to a Korean mother and an African-American father who served in the U.S. military in Korea, Insooni was brought up by her mother alone in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province. As a biracial child, she very often endured prejudice and discrimination while attending school.
|Singer Insooni. (Seol&Company)|
She made her debut in 1978 in a group called “Hee Sisters,” and has released a total of 19 albums since. Insooni is also known for her successful collaborative works with younger generation musicians, including Park Jin-young and Cho PD.
Her 2007 hit single, “Dream of a Goose,” was a remake of musicians Kim Dong-ryul and Lee Juck’s 1997 ballad of the same title. Filled with Lee Juck’s poetic and reflective lyrics, the song, which symbolized youth and ceaseless dreams in the late-’90s, once again attracted a wide range of people of different ages when expressed with Insooni’s signature hearty voice in 2007.
“It might be hard to believe, but people would ask me to sing ‘Dream of a Goose’ at nightclubs,” she said. “And once I burst into tears while I was singing that song at a club, because the piece reminded me of my days as a young woman, where I’d practice and practice and perform at such places.”
Her early passion continues today. The 54-year-old singer has been showing off an uncanny ability to multitask since last month, appearing on MBC TV’s “I Am a Singer” (better known as “Nagasu”), while preparing for her nation-wide solo concert tour and her second musical “Cats” ― her first was “Chicago” in 2009 ― both of which kicked off last week.
“I don’t want to be forgotten,” Insooni said. “I want my fans to be constantly reminded of me. And in order to do that, you always have to come up with something new to show. You can’t just do nothing and expect people to remember you. That’s why I go for the new challenges. That’s why I can say, ‘I’m going for ‘Nagasu,’ please watch.’ Or, ‘Here, I’m trying out for a musical. Come and see me.’”
And for every performance requested of her ― from a TV show to a musical to a nightclub ― Insooni said she does her very best to please the audience. “Some people have told me not to sing at nightclubs,” Insooni said.
“But I feel no shame because I perform my best there. The quality of my performance is the same regardless of where I am asked to sing. And I love meeting the ordinary people who come to see me at clubs. Those are the people who have helped me build my career as a musician.
“Nightclubs are strictly a commercial business,” the singer continued. “They wouldn’t ask someone to sing if they can’t make any profit out of it. So I’m rather proud that I’m still called in to perform for these places.”
The singer has another busy month ahead of her. On top of “Cats,” she will be performing for the 20th Anniversary of U.N. Admission New York Korea Festival in New York, on Oct. 9, and will sing for a special edition of “Nagasu” which will be shot in Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 12. The singer said she couldn’t manage to find a direct flight from New York to Melbourne, and is planning to stop over in Seoul and Sydney on her way to the Australian city.
“There is a very good chance of my being disqualified in Melbourne, please write that in your article,” Insooni said, laughing. “My voice might be completely gone by the time I arrive there, after all that extensive flying!”
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)