GOING SOLOArriving at a recording studio one recent afternoon, Camilla Ghedini apologizes for being late as she quickly readies for a photo shoot. In the recording booth, her manager announces that there are problems with the sound system.
"That's O.K.," she replies, "I can sing without backup." And so she does. In a soft, subtle voice, Ms. Ghedini begins to sing "Good-bye," the lead single from her new album.
The daughter of pop singer Patti Kim, who has legendary status in Korea, and the Italian businessman Armando Ghedini, Ms. Ghedini, 25, is now embarking on her own singing career.
Her debut solo album "Introspect" is set to be released next month and she is gearing up for a whirl of publicity that surrounds such an event. "I'm very happy with my album," says Ms. Ghedini. "I gave it my best."
One of her producers, Yoo Jeong-yon says, "The quality of her voice is superb. Maybe it's because she has lived abroad for so long or that she's biracial, but her voice tone is different to that of other Korean pop singers. It's deeper and more original. Her sound is unlike any other."
Ms. Ghedini's album encompasses many genres: R&B, pop ballad, folk rock and bossa nova. Among the 16 tracks, two are sung in English while a couple of others are a combination of Korean and English. "My mom loves it, she listens to it all the time now," says Ms. Ghedini. Energetic and enthusiastic, Ms. Ghedini is animated and giddy as she speaks, at times nudging her manager and joking with him when he dozes during an interview.
"The kind of music I was into during college was folk rock, but it doesn't do well in Korea so I had to compromise when making the album," says Ms. Ghedini, who speaks Korean with an American accent.
However, that did not mean that she was going to be one of those dance group members or singers in their teens or early 20s that seem to dominate today's pop music industry. "I'm too old to be dancing around," she says. Pop idols in Korea these days are mostly manufactured entities, and their singing qualities are deemed less relevant as opposed to their value as entertainment commodity. Ms. Ghedini says she's hoping to change that. "I want to make music that has substance, for more people our age. I mean, I want music that will really give goosebumps to people through the lyrics and melodic feel."
When making the album, Ms. Ghedini admitted that it was difficult to express some of the sentiments of the Korean lyrics in some of the songs. "I am not a native speaker of Korean so the nuances did not come easily to me and I found it hard to emote at times." She worked especially hard on her pronunciation so that the songs would not sound awkward.
Being the daughter of a famous singer has not put Ms. Ghedini in awe of Patti Kim, the an icon of the 1970s and '80s pop era in Korea. What helped keep Ms. Ghedini's feet on the ground was that she grew up meeting other big names in Korean show business, such as Lee Mee-ja, Cho Young-nam and Insunyi. "She was just my mom to me," Ms. Ghedini says with a laugh. "I mean, I knew she was famous and different. But she's such a goofball at home, always dancing to Michael Jackson songs."
When Patti Kim went on tour it was hard on her daughters. "It would kill her to be separated from us," Ms. Ghedini says. "But I never had to go to daycare and we got to visit her backstage at her concerts and stuff."
Her father, who she describes as a "traditional, family-oriented Italian," was involved in her childhood, so she felt no estrangement as the daughter of a megastar.
Born in New York City, Ms. Ghedini spent most of her early childhood in San Francisco. "I had a very cosmopolitan childhood; my father's family lives in Florence, Italy, so every summer we would visit Italy and we traveled quite a lot besides that," says Ms. Ghedini. Life was not been all breezy for a biracial girl living in a upper class white neighborhood in the Bay Area. "I was one of maybe three Asian families in my town," she says. "At times, I had a hard time figuring out which culture I fit into, but I feel completely comfortable where I am now." She did not mesh very well with her sister, Joung-ah, who is eight years older and the daughter of Patti Kim's first husband, the composer Gil Ok-yun. "What 16-year-old wants to hang out with an 8- year-old sibling? But now, she's absolutely my best friend in the world," says Ms. Ghedini.
She moved to Korea in 1988 with her mother while Joung-ah went off to college and her father stayed in the United States for business reasons. At the time, Patti Kim had a lot of work in Korea and she wanted her youngest daughter to learn about her Korean heritage. "We grew very close, especially when we lived in Korea," Ms. Ghedini says. "For a Korean woman, my mother is very modern and open-minded. I mean, she married a Western man, didn't she? I have no secrets with her." Ms. Ghedini enrolled in Seoul International School here and stayed until the end of high school.
Surprisingly, Ms. Ghedini didn't sit around during her teen years listening to her mother's golden oldies such as "Farewell" and "Love That Autumn Has Left Behind." "I was into Madonna and Bananarama," says Ms. Ghedini laughing again. Ms. Ghedini remembers her mother as being stricter than most mothers and, during high school, she faced a 10 p.m. curfew. Even in college, she had to work part-time at a coffee shop and a Cheesecake Factory to earn pocket money.
In her youth, Ms. Ghedini wanted to become a novelist because it wasa creative effort and something she could do on the side. When she went off to the University of California, Los Angeles, she ended up becoming a performer. Majoring in theater and then switching to music, she performed in musicals throughout college while singing lead vocals for a rock band called B-Team.
When she graduated from college last summer, her mother was embarking on a eight-city tour in Korea titled "Mothers and Daughters." She invited her daughter to perform a duet in one of her concerts. The event marked a key turning point for the aspiring performer as music producers approached Ms. Ghedini for a potential album deal. Says Ms. Ghedini, "Mom was never against me becoming a singer. I mean, she cautioned me about how difficult it would be and how fickle the industry is, but her management company handles me so she doesn't worry all that much." Unfortunately, Mr. Ghedini was not at all pleased when Ms. Ghedini announced that she wanted to become a singer.
"One singer in a family is enough," he said, but later relented and now supports his daughter.
Patti Kim, 62, made her singing debut in 1959 and has produced nearly 500 albums with 2,000 songs since. She still performs regularly. Celebrated for her powerful and seductive voice, Patti Kim, who took her name from the American pop star of the 1950s, Patti Page, has a voice that resembles Anne Murray's: throaty, provocative. Ms. Kim is also a social activist, heading the Korea Women's Association and an AIDS prevention campaign in Korea. Does it bother Ms. Ghedini that she may always be compared to her mother? "I'd love to be compared to my mom," she says. "It's an honor. But right now, I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm a professional singer. Not until I see my album on the record store shelves will I be able to think more about this."
The offspring of well-known singers who have decided to follow in the footsteps of their mothers have not typically found success. Jeong Jae-eun, the daughter of the songstress Lee Mee-ja (a contemporary to Patti Kim), did not produce a single hit album during her decade-long career, and was overshadowed by her famous mother all her life.
Ms. Ghedini's producer Mr. Yoo is confident that Ms. Ghedini will find her own audience. "I wish people would stop packaging her as Patti Kim's daughter," he says. "She has enough talent to stand on her own but because of the constant imaging-making around her mother, I'm afraid that it will become a minus to Ms. Ghedini."
Ms. Ghedini says, "It' daunting to be compared to my mom. But you know what? I'm just gonna have to outdo her."
by Choi Jie-ho