Hailing from Seoul, South Korea, CIFIKA is currently on tour, which just so happens to be the biggest North American tour from a Korean artist, ever. The 20-plus show run is in support of her sophomore EP, PRISM, and for those in Austin make sure to catch her tonight (March 16). Tonight’s show is part of the Korean showcase at the festival and this will mark CIFIKA’s first SXSW, which she says are like her Olympics.

PRISM is the followup to 2016’s INTELLIGENTSIA, and comes close behind her big time collaboration with Hyuk Oh, one of the most well-known artists in Korea.

“Hyuk Oh is such an icon in Korean music industry and the collaboration definitely helped me in spreading my name,” CIFIKA told Sidewalk Hustle. “Hyuk Oh is someone I respect as a musician. He knew our collaboration wasn’t anything of monetary value, but still did it to try new things which is really brave for him to do as an artist who already made it big.”

The concept behind the song involves the notion of  “death as a human” and the pair “wanted to give people an idea of being dead physically and spiritually.”

You’ll notice a similar theme on the EP, that primal focus on the relapse and renewal of the human condition. Songs about being a gatekeeper to one’s life and growing as a human being (“Prosper”) or being in love with someone and finding out “you’re no longer the only love to someone” (“Water“) come with brooding, industrial-laden production snips toggled in. Then there’s “Best of You,” which rings with lyrics like “you see I give you all my good things in me…you see I bury all my darkness in me” in somewhat of a plea to a partner to do just the same: accept love and learn together. “Pieta” and “Mal” (the latter meaning “say” in English) are club-ready, running a Chvrches-meets-Grimes vibe, and “Good Luck From Her” extracts elements from all. The six songs spin on an axel that’s greased well. It will be interesting to see how all this translates on stage.

CIFIKA (real name Yousun Cho) was formerly an art director at Davis Elen in Los Angeles, which seems fitting given the nature of her videos and Instagram. She’s also into cyberpunk and the below photos were created as a “visual meme to represent the cyberpunk world.”

She’s also a big fan of Elon Musk’s Space X and regularly frequents spaceex.com for inspiration.

Following the PyeongChang Olympic Games, we were curious to see how CIFIKA felt the music portion of the event was represented. While she was making music during the time and didn’t really catch much of it, CIFIKA says she was a bit disappointed.

“I do think that it is unfortunate that they invited artists outside of Korea especially because it was a national event. I think that they should have invited all Korean artists to represent Korean music.”

Here’s more of what we learned about the talented vocalist-producer.

On the misconception of Korean artists:

“The misconception about Korean artists is that every Korean artist is K-pop. I think my music does fit into the category of pop, but not K-pop. I hope my music does become a part of K-pop eventually.”

On touring and singing in both Korean and English:

“I sing in both languages. Some of the songs include more English, some more Korean. I’m very proud to sing in my native language. Korean is a beautifully structured language.”

On her detail and conceptualizing art in her work:

“I think my music gets stronger when the visuals and fashion is done right. It’s a whole package. I have an eye for all things related to art and fashion and visual is something that can never be separated from my music. I want to create art.”

Favourite performers/artists?

Arca. Bicep. Björk. Dusky.

Materials that inspire? 

“Sci-fi films are my biggest inspirations. Just recently, Blade Runner made me think a lot about the future of human race. I’ve written some lyrics that were inspired by Blade Runner 2049.”

On what really matters:

“Earth matters to me the most. As a human race, we need to inherit good things for the next generations to come and I want to inherit good spirit as a musician. I think being diverse is really important for the human race. Being free from all stereotypes.”

While there are currently no Canadian dates, CIFIKA isn’t counting it out. In fact, the 27-year-old spent her kindergarten years in the country, and she “loves Grimes and Justin Bieber” so there’s that.

As for the one thing she’s stoked to eat again now being back in the U.S.?

“Greedy American style burgers, definitely.”


Tour dates below.

CIFIKA uses Abelton live with Kyungsun Park (mixing) and Dave Kutch (mastering) assisting on post-production.

Photos credit: Jin Oh
Fri, 3/16 Austin, TX (SXSW) – The Belmont -Korean Spotlight Stage
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
Sat, 3/24 Detroit, MI -Detroit – Leland City Club
Sun, 3/25 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
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 – Ortlieb’s Lounge
Fri, 4/6 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
Sat, 4/7 Boston – Middle East Upstairs