J-pop artist Crystal Kay explains how multicultural background shaped her life, music

J-pop artist Crystal Kay / Courtesy of Yulia Shur

Crystal Kay, a prominent figure in the Japanese R&B scene, stands out not just for her musical talent but also for her unique cultural background. Born to a Korean-Japanese mother and an African American father, Kay’s journey in the music industry has been shaped from the very onset by her multicultural heritage, unlike most other J-pop singers.Her strict grandparents did not accept what they described as their “rebellious” daughter, who started singing at clubs when she was only 16 after falling under the spell of Black and Western music. However, what mattered more to them was the fact that their daughter married a Black man and had a mixed-race baby.”My mother had a tough time trying to get accepted and I could feel that even as a child, because they were not very accepting of me as well,” Kay recalled during a recent Zoom interview with The Korea Times.”She made a lot of efforts to change their minds, visiting their house with me every Tuesday just to spend time with them. But from what I remember, my grandparents made us go home immediately after dinner.”It took several years for them to warm up to their daughter and granddaughter. The turning point came in 1993, the same year Kay’s mother secured a record deal as a singer, when they invited both of them to join a family New Year celebration for the first time.

“That’s when my grandparents started paying attention to my mom,” Kay said. “In the case of my grandfather, he began engaging in conversation with me when I entered my college, Sophia University in Tokyo. Maybe that made him feel proud of me.” Her grandparents became even more affectionate after Kay began her career as a singer at the age of 13 in 1999, following in her mother’s footsteps.After debuting with the single, “Eternal Memories,” Kay rolled out a string of smash-hit albums such as “Almost Seventeen” (2002) and “All Yours” (2007), becoming a marquee name in the Japanese R&B scene. “Almost Seventeen,” in particular, was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan after selling more than 400,000 copies.Asked whether her multicultural background has had a profound influence on her life, the 37-year-old nodded her head in agreement.”I would say I am pretty privileged to have experienced three different cultures,” she said, adding that her background has broadened her persepctive on music and life. “My mother was a singer and my father was also part of a band. So, as a child, I was always surrounded by music and it was very normal for me to get immersed in it.”Kay explained that she grew up listening to the music that her parents were fond of, such as soul, rock, R&B and pop. But that was not all — she was also mesmerized by the tunes on Japanese charts, especially those that were featured in TV shows or 카지노사이트킹 animated movies.”I had a culturally rich childhood,” the singer noted.

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