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YOUNA: A melodic journey from South Korea to Dubai and beyond

Hailing from South Korea and sharpened in Dubai, YOUNA’s musical journey is an intriguing tale of passion and discovery.

Photo credit: YOUNA – Official

In a region where house music isn’t commonplace, she’s carved a unique sound that fuses emotive melodies with vibrant beats, earning a dedicated following.

YOUNA aims beyond Dubai, targeting a global audience with her event brand, SOS: Sound of Sand. She produces tracks that echo her feelings, catching the attention of her audience. Her debut single ‘Self-Doubt’ made an impact in the progressive house scene, ranking 14th on Beatport and 4th on the hype chart.

Her latest offering, ‘Escape The Reality’ EP, showcases her flair for melodic techno, combining crisp beats, solid bass, and mesmerizing vocals. The fluid melodies and deep synths create a trance-like effect.

EG had the opportunity to delve into YOUNA’s creative process, her recent release ‘Escape The Reality’, and her future plans. In this interview, we get a glimpse into her ambitious vision for SOS: Sound of Sand, her experiences performing in Korea, and her views on AI’s role in music.

EG: Hi, Youna! Welcome to EG. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How have you been? How did you kickstart your year? What have you been up to?

YOUNA (KR): Hi EG! It’s great to meet you too. I’m doing well, thank you. I successfully released my first EP, which was also my first release of the year. Also, I’ve been continuing to focus on producing and DJing work.

EG: So, congratulations on the release of your new ‘Escape The Reality’ EP, which is out now via Exx Muzik! You must be psyched to share this one with everybody. What has the initial reception been like so far? Do you remember the first time you played these live? 

YOUNA (KR): Thank you! The initial reception and promo campaign went quite well. Many artists such as Fideles, Anii, Alfa Romero, Monophase, and Don Diablo downloaded my tracks, and I received a lot of support before the release, which makes me very happy.

Yes, of course, I played it for the first time at my event SOS in December last year. Actually, until then, this track was just one of many demos I had, and I didn’t have a clear plan for its release. But after posting the video from that event, I received a release proposal from Andrey Exx, the owner of Exx Muzik label.

EG: What can fans of YOUNA expect to find on ‘Escape The Reality’? What sets this release apart from the rest of your previous work? Is there a concept or emotional trigger driving these cuts?

YOUNA (KR): Compared to the two tracks I released previously, I consider this track to be focused on an aggressive bassline and pluck sounds resembling horns, creating a listening experience centered around those elements. The concept, as the title suggests, is “Escaping Reality,” aiming to stimulate the senses with the horn-like sounds and to evoke a sense of liberation from suppressed emotions through the powerful drop part.

Furthermore, I filmed an official music video, and while contemplating a concept that effectively showcases the essence of this song, I came up with the idea of a “Runaway Bride” concept. Quite literally, it serves as a clear example of escaping reality, haha. I hope you all enjoy watching the music video as much as I enjoyed creating it.

EG: ‘Escape The Reality’ also features a remix courtesy of Argentine producer Octavio Gimenez. Were you involved in the selection process with Exx Muzik? Where does your mind go when listening back to a remix of a track of yours for the first time?

YOUNA (KR): Octavio Gimenez is a talented producer friend of mine. After listening to some of his promo tracks last year, I had the thought of collaborating with him someday. Then, as the release of my EP approached, I decided to personally propose a remix. He graciously accepted, and as always, created an impressive tune. After Exx Muzik had listened to the remix, they suggested releasing it together, and eventually, we ended up releasing it jointly.

“My first yacht party was meant to celebrate my birthday with about 10 close friends, but suddenly, around 90 people showed up”

EG: By the way, you’re also behind Sound Of Sand DXB, right? Can you share with our readers the concept behind SOS DXB? How was this idea born? What can we expect from SOS DXB in 2024?

YOUNA (KR): Yes, SOS is my event brand. To be honest, it all started just for fun. My first yacht party was meant to celebrate my birthday with about 10 close friends, but suddenly, around 90 people showed up. I went ahead with my plan to play my music and music that I like, and everyone loved it.

Word about our parties spread in Dubai, and people kept asking about the next one, so I decided to make it bigger and organize it properly in the desert.

The brand name ‘SOS’ means ‘Sound of Sand’ and also came from the aggressive warning sound that I’m into, as you can also find in my track ‘Escape The Reality’. Dubai is the starting point of my musical journey, so I branded it with “Sand” to evoke the desert in Dubai.

SOS is simply a platform for me to share the music I love with people who love it too. I never really thought I’d be organizing events, but it turned out to be quite enjoyable.

Having been to other events as a performer, I’ve encountered many shortcomings, especially in terms of set timing according to genres, DJ care, and crowd control. Through these firsthand experiences, I’m glad to be able to create a better vibe and experiences for the DJs and audiences who support us.

EG: Last year, you had your first show in your home country of Korea. What was the experience like? Did you know what to expect?

YOUNA (KR): Though I’m Korean, I’ve only played in Korea once so far. That’s because not only did I start music in Dubai, but also Korea isn’t really familiar with the techno and house genres yet. So, I was quite nervous when I went there for the show. I worried if people wouldn’t like my music style or if they would leave in the middle of the set. Therefore, I structured the set with tracks that everyone could enjoy but still with my taste, and I was grateful that many friends came and enjoyed it more than I expected in the end.

I’ve heard that the techno and hard techno scene in Korea is gradually growing lately. I hope that soon, the melodic techno and progressive house music scene will also grow, and someday, I’ll be able to perform in Korea more often.

EG: Let’s rewind a bit…how did you first get started in this industry? What were your first contacts with electronic dance music like? Was there a show or album that pushed you down the rabbit hole?

YOUNA (KR): I’ve been fond of electronic dance music since my middle school days. I remember wearing my school uniform, playing electronic music with friends, and dancing wildly, haha. As time passed, I often thought about learning DJing or producing, but due to academic and work commitments, it wasn’t feasible.

During a particularly lonely and melancholic period in Dubai, while I worked in the office, I saw a DJ at a lounge who was so good at song selection that I couldn’t help but be amazed. At that moment, I completely forgot about all the realities and immersed myself in the music he played.

Being from Korea, I wasn’t familiar with techno or house genres at all. However, after listening to that DJ’s music, I started analyzing and studying various house genres in earnest. Ultimately, melodic techno and progressive house resonated with me the most. While I’ve always loved music, delving so deeply into a single genre was a first for me, and from then on, I made the decision to seriously pursue music by purchasing DJ equipment and learning production.

Since then, I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and live performances by various artists, but one that stands out the most is ‘Inellea Live – Distorted Youth World Live Tour (2022)’. I remember lying on my couch at home watching the video alone and feeling chills run down my spine. Innellea is one of my favorite artists, and I greatly admire how he incorporates his emotions and philosophy into his music, album concepts, and shows. Going beyond mere excitement to convey one’s own message to the audience is truly challenging, but he manages to do it so brilliantly. I also hope to become such an artist someday.

“I’ve been fond of electronic dance music since my middle school days. I remember wearing my school uniform, playing electronic music with friends, and dancing wildly”

EG: Now, stepping outside of the studio for a bit…the use of AI in music has become quite common after its initial introduction, which raised many eyebrows. What’s your stance on this? Have you contemplated its possibilities?

YOUNA (KR): These days, I see a lot of videos on Instagram introducing new AI technologies. I’m quite fond of AI myself. Besides music, I use AI like ChatGPT and Midjourney dozens of times a day. It’s incredibly useful and saves a lot of time. In music production, I’ve also tried vocal generators several times. Typically, when using samples, there’s a high chance of overlap with other artists’ tracks, but being able to easily create my own vocals is convenient and beneficial. In fact, I’ve tried other programs, but so far, none have the sound quality good enough to use in my tracks.

Some people worry that as AI advances, there will be fewer jobs for humans, but I don’t think so. No matter how advanced AI becomes, in creative fields, ultimately, humans will still need to direct. In that sense, being adept at handling AI in not just music but all areas can be a significant advantage.

EG: Finally, can you provide some insights into what’s next for YOUNA (KR)? Where can your fans catch you next? Can we expect to see you on tour?

YOUNA (KR): I’m currently working on various projects with different artists. I’m working on tracks with beautiful melodies, infusing traditional Korean sounds, and crafting aggressive tunes that evoke excitement. I plan to release a diverse range of songs this year and am also planning a tour. My first international show of the year will be in the Maldives this March. I look forward to meeting more of you in different countries soon!

EG: Thank you so much for your time, Youna! We wish you all the best for the future. Take care!

YOUNA (KR): It was a very enjoyable conversation, and I appreciated being able to discuss my thoughts and music. Thanks for having me!

Youna’s ‘Escape The Reality’ EP is out now via Exx Muzik. Stream and download here.

Follow Youna: Spotify | Soundcloud | Instagram

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