[Next Wave] Getting the language and music right

By Korea Herald

Indie singer OOHYO chooses between Korean and English for the impact she desires

  • Published : Jun 5, 2017 - 18:09
  • Updated : Jun 5, 2017 - 18:09

The Korea Herald is introducing Korean singers, musicians and actors poised to join the next wave of top stars in a twice monthly series. -- Ed.

Fans of OOHYO have something to be excited about this year as the singer, who remains a mysterious figure in the Korean indie scene, is expected to finish up her studies in England this summer and return to Korea to focus on music.


“(M)y goal this year is to put together a new album, write lots of new, better sounding songs and to really get more serious about music,” the artist told The Korea Herald in an email interview.

“All the songs I’ve released after the debut album are songs I’ve had to write in such short time in between studying, and I can’t say I was in the most ideal environment to write them either.”

OOHYO released her debut album, a compilation of songs that she had written throughout high school, just before moving to England to attend college, with no expectation of receiving so much attention for her music.

“I have a small crowd now but three years ago, no one in my family believed I could make a career out of doing music,” the artist said.

“What’s funny is that the day my debut album was released was the same day (my family) had all our stuff shipped to Spain. I left Korea feeling quite happy about having released my first album, but was so surprised when the album started to get attention a few months later.”


She has featured on many tracks and released several singles since the debut album, including “Dandelion,” which was released May 30.

In addition to her family living in Spain and her current studies in England, OOHYO also lived in California, Arizona, and New Jersey during her childhood, which helped shape her music.

“Moving around a lot has motivated me to constantly think about values that are consistent regardless of time and space,” the artist said.

She moves freely from Korean to English lyrics in her music, determining which language will better convey certain emotions or fit the purpose of a song.

“Personally, I feel more comfortable using English when I want to form a clear narrative in a song, when it’s about giving a precise story or (a) record of an event. English is also useful when I’m trying to talk about something in a more neutral, restrained, or less emotional way,” the artist said.

“But depending on how direct or assertive I want the lyrics to sound, either language can be more suited to different kinds of songs. For example, some Korean words and phrases have connotative qualities that you cannot find an equivalent for in the English language.

“So when I want to say little but show a lot of passion using every word, I tend to go for Korean.”

The two versions of the track “Vineyard” show how OOHYO uses the two languages to convey different emotions.

Aside from focusing on her music, OOHYO has a long list of things she wants to do when she moves back to Korea.

“I want to take cooking classes, get a driver’s license, set up my own space, go to all the new hot restaurants in Seoul -- I’m especially craving some good jibbab (homemade) style food they sell in those little restaurants that only insiders know -- meet old friends and family, and visit some bookstores and cafes that used to be my favorite hideout.”

By Jenny Suh (suhjenny2@gmail.com)