To really understand a culture, you have to speak the language. Well, this 22-year-old native Louisianian living in Seoul can not only speak Korean fluently, but sing in it professionally.
Tall, blond, athletic and in possession of a guitar, Shay Bailiff shines on Korean stages with his amazingly powerful voice and constant smart fun interaction with his crowd, in fluent Korean. Shay told me -- we got to meet :) -- that a good Korean friend of his back in Louisiana taught him Korean language. And I'm actually guessing that was the same friend who, 2 or 3 years ago, suggested he sang a Korean cover song and put it on the internet, which, according to one of his interviews, was how it all began. I don't know when he started learning Korean, but he's been living here for over 9 months now.
Shay's unique talent has recently been spotted by major Korean television networks SBS and Mnet (the "Korean MTV"), and out in the public eye. His very first appearance on Korean television seems to have been this of a casual solo street performance in a busy university district of Seoul, which aired on an SBS news show just last month. "A westerner singing (unknown songs*) in Korean? And this well? Wow!", I believe those were some of the thoughts that made dozens of Koreans stop to watch him at this street performance. Some even sat on the ground, delighted. Click right here and see for yourself. -- Just don't mind all the Korean. ;)
Seoul being the metropolitan capital it is, you wouldn't think people would look that amazed by his performance -- as shown in the SBS video above (link). But the thing is that this young talented singer is a pioneer, given the fact that no other foreigner in this country is doing what he is.
His most recent appearance on Korean television took place Sept. 26th on SBS's Star King. A mostly comic show Koreans watch religiously. Here's a bit of what happened when he was on the show. You gotta check this out:
*About the unknown songs I mentioned earlier, well, Shay's producer writes the Korean songs, while Shay writes their English versions, beautifully. Together with his producer - and guitarist in his band - 'KooPD' (his pseudonym), Shay released his first Korean single 'Odyssey (항해)' July last year. A beautiful song, with beautiful meaningful lyrics which I'll try and put up here later -- its English translation, as well, of course. ;)
Check out the 'KooPD with Shay' Odyssey video clip:
-- Oh, I almost forgot, KooPD owns the independent record label Digipop.
Now, in this touching casual acoustic live performance somewhere in Korea, Shay combined the two versions (Korean and English) of his single Odyssey, for the audience's delight.
Check it out:
-- I truly encourage you to watch it till the very end.
And guess what, the latest news on this young singer's career is pretty huge. Just last Thursday, the 8th, he announced on his twitter page that his Korean debut album 'Dreaming' had just been released all over Korea (at this site: click here). And just today, another huge announcement: they freaking got the album releasing around the world (at this site: click here)! The album features 5 songs in Korean and 1 in English.
And here's also the Mnet page for his album:
Also, you've gotta check out the official video clip of his Korean single Dreaming:
-- Another beautiful song -- awesome melody and lyrics.
What Shay has been doing is inspiring, exotic, daring, never done before such way. It is, I'd risk saying, groundbreaking, especially in such a particular country like South Korea that has "just" begun to open up more with the launch of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding agency in Seoul, January this year. At this present time, more than ever, Korea wants and needs foreigners for various reasons, and Shay has beautifully managed to make just the perfect connection between language and people/culture, through outstanding music with his kick-ass Korean band.
I leave you with more pictures I took of his live performance last Thursday (the 8th) at the Rolling Hall (http://www.rollinghall.co.kr/), in Seoul. -- The guitarist on his left-hand side is his producer KooPD. The band is known as Shay Band (셰이밴드).
PS1. The Rolling Hall (just out of Sangsu subway station's exit 1) is an awesome place to go, if what you're looking for (and I truly think you might be) is a smart alternative to Korean pop, if you know what I mean. :)
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Shayliff7
Shay Band website: http://www.myspace.com/shaybandasia
Korean Fan Cafe: http://cafe.daum.net/loveshay
Follow Shay on twitter: http://twitter.com/Shayliff
PS2. Shay, of course, does remarkable covers, and so to wrap this all up in style, here's his cover of Sting's 'Shape of my heart' I personally love. :) Enjoy: