Contributed By: Sherron Shabazz
Electronic pop artist CIFIKA is a singer, songwriter, and producer. The South Korean virtuoso amassed a following via SoundCloud that resulted in the release of her 2016 debut EP, “INTELLIGENTSIA.”
CIFIKA recently released a collaboration with Korean indie rock star Hyuk Oh called “MOMOM” (Body & Soul). The single serves as an appetizer prior to her soon to be released sophomore EP titled, “PRISM.”
In celebration of PRISM CIFIKA is preparing to set out on the largest North American tour for a Korean artist in history. The PRISM tour will make stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Austin, Texas for SXSW among other cities.
CIFIKA chatted with The Feature Story about her upcoming U.S. tour, the beginnings of her musical journey, and her upcoming EP, PRISM.
Sherron: What’s the meaning behind the name “CIFIKA”?
CIFIKA: I used to drive by a street called PACIFIKA AVE around San Jose area and at that time I was really into Arca. I wanted my name to end with ‘CA’ but couldn’t come up with anything. So I just took out the “PA” from PACIFIKA and made my name CIFIKA. CIFIKA itself is not an existing word.
S: When did you come to America?
C: I first came to the States when I was 15 years old. My parents really wanted me to experience new culture as a kid, so I was like, “Fuck yeah! No parent’s life!” but after moving to the States without speaking any English it was a nightmare and I moved back approximately two years ago to pursue my career as a musician.
S: Did you get into a lot of trouble being alone? How did you learn English?
C: I struggled, made a lot of mistakes in high school. My host family, who was totally American, like regular American family, they cared for me so much, like a real daughter and they taught me everything from table manners, and attitudes toward others. I learned English from high school taking classes, and living with my American host family really helped me to actually speak English. School was more of a listening and writing practice.
S: How did you initially get into music?
C: It was always my hobby to sing. Since I was a little kid, I got so many compliments when I sang. Somehow I decided to paint and eventually applied to art schools around the States and ended up graduating with Bachelor’s in graphic design. And one day I was having a fun jam, producing session with my friend while working as an art director and he said, “You should seriously think about being a singer,” and I told him I wanted to but thought it was too late. I was 25. But Jimmy kept telling me, it doesn’t matter how late you start, what matters is how good you are. And I started producing my own music on Ableton, and posted it on SoundCloud and gained listeners and followers little by little. When I hit about 700 followers I think I decided to move back to Korea to start my musician life.
S: Why was it important to move back to Korea to start your music career?
C: First of all I couldn’t work in the States. I was under a student visa. Secondly I wrote in Korean and English. I thought it would be faster to grab the attention of a Korean audience than an American audience.
S: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
C: Hard one. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Bjork, Mark Pritchard, Thom York, James Blake, Chopin, Bicep. They are my inspirations as a musician. I get inspired by pretty much everything around me.
S: What does your production workstation consist of?
C: 27″ iMac, midi keyboard, Ableton Push2, audio card, speaker monitors, and SM58 for recording.
S: How would you describe the CIFIKA sound?
C: Tequila shot. You start with one shot but at the end of the day you’re conquered by Tequila.
S: [Laughs] Okay, how did you end up collaborating with Hyuk Oh for “MOMON”?
C: My label asked me to name a Korean musician I wanted to work with and I named Hyuk Oh. They called his label and it happened instantly.
S: You’re also working with a Korean Hip-Hop artist soon, too, correct?
C: Yeah, Won-jae Woo.
S: When can we expect to hear that creation?
C: We are in the process of refining, so probably the end of this month.
S: Why do you think so many American’s have gravitated toward K-pop?
C: It’s like fantasy characters come alive. K-pop is not different from American pop. It’s just a different cultural background. Same mechanism I guess.
S: How have you grown musically since the INTELLIGENTSIA EP?
C: Musically and mentally. Felt many different emotions and learned how to embrace it.
S: What can we expect to hear on the upcoming PRISM EP?
C: Everything came in more real. My message has become clearer and crisper then my previous EP. It has different colors to each song so I named it “Prism.”
S: What do you have in-store for fans on the CIFIKA U.S. tour?
C: My new tracks plus unreleased tracks. Working on a visual so that I can perform with visuals too.
Listen to “OHHYUK” by CIFIKA featuring MOMOM here. US tour dates listed below and begin in March!
CIFIKA PRISM TOUR DATES
Sun, 3/4 Seattle, WA – Barboza
Mon, 3/5 Portland, OR – The Analog
Wed, 3/7 San Francisco, CA – Brick & Mortar Music Hall
Fri, 3/9 Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
Tue, 3/13 El Paso, TX – Neon Rose
Fri, 3/16 Austin, TX (SXSW) – The Belmont
Mon, 3/19, Dallas, TX – RBC
Wed, 3/21 Kansas City, MO – miniBar
Thu, 3/22 Columbia, MO – Cafe Berlin
Fri, 3/23 Chicago, IL – Virgin Hotel
Sun, 3/25 Grand Rapids, MI – Founders
Mon, 3/26 Cincinnati, OH – MOTR PUB
Fri, 3/30 Nashville, TN – Analog @ Hutton
Sat, 3/31 Atlanta, GA – Drunken Unicorn
Wed, 4/4 Washington DC – Songbyrd
Thu, 4/5 Philadelphia, PA – Creep Records
Fri, 4/6 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
Sat, 4/7 Boston – Middle East Upstairs
More dates TBA