This is part of a series featuring new hallyu stars. ― Ed.
There was an obvious reason why Shayne Orok, then an 18-year-old music student from Canada, made it all the way to the top-three in MBC’s talent show “Star Audition: The Great Birth” last year.
It was not just his personal story of overcoming cancer in his left eye and of him being a foreigner who couldn’t speak a word of Korean. There was something else that deeply touched many TV viewers in Korea: his unique, sweet and pure voice.
Shayne, one of the mentees coached by Shin Seung-hun, Korea’s legendary singer-songwriter, amazed people here with his new interpretation of Sim Su-bong’s trot song “Geuddae Geu Saram (The Man From Back Then)“ from the late ‘70s.
“I saw people saying ‘Wow, a foreigner is doing trot, I never thought it would be possible!’ I thought first that my sad story was good for the audition program and that is how I made it the top three,” said Shayne in an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday.
“But not only my sad story, but (I found out) my vocal tone is kind of very rare in Korea. Now I see people still supporting me, and they know my YouTube videos I uploaded even before I came to Korea,” he said.
Three months after making himself known through the show, the singer signed a contract with Sony Music Entertainment Korea and debuted as a K-pop singer in December with his single “Last Christmas.”
Now with his new mini album titled “Shayne’s World,” the singer attempts to show more of his musical talents by rapping in clear Korean in his title song “I See You.”
|Shayne. (Sony Music Entertainment Korea)|
“I never expected to do anything close to rapping, especially in Korean. But it is important to show growth from your first album, at least something new. For me, (it was) better pronunciation or new rapping,” said the singer who attends a Korean language institute at least three times a week to overcome the language barrier.
“So far, I’ve done the first album with more of a ballad base and this album with up tempo, acoustic kind of songs. I definitely want to show more of a jazz style and I’d like to show R&B as well,” he said.
Asked whether he considers himself an idol, he said he would like to follow the path his great mentor Shin took.
“I don’t think I could dance. That is how I think of idols ― good looking, and they can dance well. I could dance but I don’t consider myself good looking. But I would like to consider myself more as a musician. That is the image I want to go for,” he said.
The singer’s sweet but sad voice shines in a ballad, “Summer Love,” which he composed and wrote lyrics for in Korean by himself. The song was featured in Korean film “Love Fiction” starring Ha Jeong-woo and Gong Hyo-jin.
He also sings an English version of “Summer Love,” which could help him appeal to fans outside of Korea.
Taking advantage of the Korean Wave spreading all over the world and his contract with a global company, Sony Music, the singer said he would like to go abroad some day.
“I’d like to think it is possible. Right now I am focusing on Korea and learning Korean and want to become really fluent fast. I’m really working hard to build a bigger fan base here in Korea because this is the country that gave me the opportunity,” he said.
“I know there are so many doors opening for me I wouldn’t have had somewhere else. I think I can take advantage of this, especially being able to perform on TV music shows here. Having that experience and exposure will open a lot of doors for me,” said Shayne who is a half-Filipino.
Born in 1992 in Canada, Shayne went through a series of hardships. He was born with eye cancer and had to replace it with an artificial eye. Despite his “sad story,” Shayne grew up as a positive person and said the music was always there for him.
After spending a semester at a music college in Toronto, he randomly saw an ad for “The Great Birth” on the Internet while he was uploading a video on YouTube. And it changed his life.
“I had never thought of becoming a singer especially in Korea, but it was (my) dream and I honestly didn’t have expectations of going far at the contest,” he said.
“Through the program, I learned about Korean ballads that I never knew about. I grew so much as a singer but also as a person as well. I began to love Korea very much.”
The audition star who has lots of “noona fans,” meaning older female fans in Korean, is also making a debut as a radio DJ. He is the new DJ for a TBS’s eFM (101.3Mhz) radio show titled, ”Shayne’s Music Magic.“ With the English-language radio program, Shayne hopes to become less shy and tell more about himself for fans who have supported him so far.
“It was really comfortable doing it. It is really fun. I’m really excited because this radio DJ can really help me break out of my shell a lot.”
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)