February 24, 2007 10:21
Yoon Mi-rae has returned with her third album after a four-year hiatus. Yoon draws on the difficulties she went through as a child of an Africa American father and a Korean mother. "I've sung many songs, but never sung about my life. So this time, I wanted to tell my fans who I am," she says.
Her father, who was a radio DJ when serving in the U.S. Forces in Korea, provides an English voiceover. "I listened to my father's music from when I was in my mother's womb," she says. "He is the one who awakened a sense of rhythm in me when I was a child. He had 30,000 LPs and threw a party almost every day. He was my music teacher, still is, and will be forever."
Yoon displays the full range of her talents on her new album, which covers genres from hip-hop to soul and R&B. The rap she performs in songs like "Black Diamond" and "Pay Day" is thrilling. "Rapping sends audiences wild when you’re on stage. It accompanies an exciting performance and really energizes people. Singing a tune is a bit boring, I think," she said. After all, she is the best female MC in Korea.
During her absence due to conflict with her agency, she toyed the idea of giving up. "It was so difficult to live as a musician that I often thought about giving up. But I couldn't live without music," she said. Being of mixed race, she is no stranger to difficulty. Yoon took a high school equivalence exam after she dropped out of school at the age of 15.
"When I came to Korea as a young girl, I had no friends and couldn't speak Korean, so I spent most of my time in a game arcade," she said. "The old lady who ran the arcade was my closest friend. Kids of my age only bullied me. They called me 'negro' and shouted 'Yangkee, go home' at me. They told me to go back to my country with a ticket they were going to buy for me. I went to an international school, but there were only two students of African American descent including me, and I was still treated badly."
Yoon confesses she always felt confused about her identity since she was considered neither American nor Korean nor African-American. "But to my amazement, after making my debut in the entertainment world, people treated me as just an entertainer," she said. "I was puzzled at first, but now I’m happy about it." When she started to work as a singer, she hid the fact that her father is an African American because her agency convinced her to do so, warning her of prejudice. "Tell them that your grandfather or grandmother was half African-American," they advised her. "When the success of half-Korean U.S. football player Hines Ward raised interest in mixed-race children in Korea last year, I was so furious," Yoon said. "Were there no mixed-race children in Korea before Hines Ward? And have things changed now? No, it's as if nothing has happened." She herself plans to help mixed-race children in one way or another.
Yoon wants to be a musician free from obsession about success, but it isn't easy because music is also her bread and butter. "I decided to be a musician because I love music, but as I get older there are times I have to play music for money. I want to make enough money by playing music to buy a house for my mother and treat those I love well. I hope to establish a firm reputation as a musician 10 years from now so that I can pursue music I really want to pursue without caring about the public response."
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