India finally has its own Korean-Pop (K-Pop) star. Sriya Lenka, an 18-year-old from Jharsuguda, Odisha, was earlier this week announced as the latest member of the all-girl K-Pop group Blackswan, alongside Gabi Dalcin from Brazil. This announcement came after Sriya and Gabi spent a month training under DR Music, the group’s music label.
(Images above courtesy Instagram/Sriya Lenka)
Following the departure of one of their members, Hyeme, back in November 2020, the K-Pop group organised virtual global auditions to find a new member. Sriya and Gabi were chosen among more than 4,000 applicants. After qualifying, they were sent to Seoul, where they underwent a rigorous training programme and participated in multiple challenges which were aired on YouTube.
Whether they made it into the group or not would depend on their performances and after spending several months competing, DR Music made the announcement on 26 May that both Sriya and Gabi will be the latest members of Blackswan. Ever since Sriya was officially selected as a trainee back in 2021, many Indian fans have been rooting for her. Like in many countries across the world, K-Pop has become an undeniable cultural phenomenon in India too.
What’s intriguing about Blackswan is its multinational and multi-ethnic lineup which includes leader Youngheun from Korea, Belgium-based Senegalese rapper Fatou, Korean singer Judy and Brazilian-Japanese singer Leia. Before Blackswan, the group first performed as Raina in 2011 and then rebranded themselves to BP Raina five years later following multiple changes. They rebranded themselves as Blackswan in 2020 following their album, Goodbye Raina.
Before Sriya, we have seen Indian singers like Priyanka Majumder and Siddhant Arora train in South Korea and debut with international pop acts like the Z-Girls and Z-Boys, respectively. But Sriya is the only one who has broken through.
Here are eight things about Sriya Lenka that you probably didn’t know:
1) Dancing since kindergarten, Sriya learnt the Indian classical dance form Odissi for a year and a half but had to quit because her family couldn’t afford it. Besides Odissi, however, she has also picked up different dance styles like freestyle, hip-hop, and contemporary, thanks to her work with choreographers like Mendo Barla and Madan Mohan Purty.
2) She had to drop a year of school after her class 10 examinations in 2020 as the pandemic caused financial instability at home. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop her from dreaming big. To prepare for her K-Pop auditions online, she practised dancing on the roof of her family home, opened a YouTube channel and learnt how to shoot and edit videos.
3) Coming from a family of yoga enthusiasts, she said in an interview with Talk Talk Korea that doing yoga every morning has improved her “body language and flexibility”.
4) One of her friends had suggested to Sriya that she apply for K-Pop auditions being held online back in 2020 when the COVID-19 was in full effect. Once she began auditioning for Blackswan, she learnt Korean online. She also watches many Korean dramas to learn the language and culture and says her favourite actors are Lee Jong-suk and Song Joong-ki.
5) She fell in love with K-Pop when a friend introduced her to Exo’s ‘Growl’ to her. “It was so unique that I started copying their moves. Then, I researched and came to know about PSY, Rania (I love ‘Dr Feel Good’), BTS, Blackpink, and I dreamed of performing like them,” she said.
6) While auditioning for Blackswan, her grandmother helped her find a vocal coach to improve her singing. While she began training under a classical Hindustani music teacher, she also watched “tutorial videos online and started self-learning” to sing western songs as well.
7) To shoot her first K-Pop audition, she had to take special permission from a studio where her aunt taught Yoga. Also, it was her Classical Hindustani music vocal teacher who helped her find the right song she would send to DR Music for her final auditions to become a trainee.
8) None of this would have been possible without a supportive family behind her. “Being from a small town with fewer resources, facing difficulties is a part of my life, but I am determined to create a mark in the creative field,” she said.
Lenka’s father Avinash, who works in a private company in Jharsuguda, told the Hindustan Times, “Though I had faith in her hard work, I never expected that Sriya would make it. Despite all my misgivings about her future, I encouraged her to follow her passion for dancing as she always wanted to be a dancer and participated in several dance competitions.”
1) ‘Sriya Lenka, an Indian finalist in K-pop group Black Swan’s global auditions’ by Preeti Rawat courtesy Talk Talk Korea, Published on 6 September 2021.
2) ‘Sriya Lenka Becomes First Indian K-pop Star’ by Riddhi Chakraborty courtesy Rolling Stone India, Published on 27 May 2022
3) ’18-year-old Odisha girl Sriya Lenka becomes first K-pop star from India’ by Debabrata Mohanty courtesy Hindustan Times, Published on 26 May 2022
4) Instagram/Sreya Lenka
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)