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BENJI is celebrating his 29th birthday today. We wish him a happy birthday by writing this article to let you know more about him.
BENJI, BAE JAE WOOK by his Korean name, was born in Indianapolis in the US on May 3rd, 1992. His parents quickly transmitted him a passion for music, and he started learning violin at 4 years old.
BENJI‘s childhood is one of the most documented in k-pop history thanks to his dad who is often sharing exclusive videos of BENJI when he was a child. Through those pictures and videos, we learned that BENJI was fascinated by violin, guitar, singing, and dancing since he was a kid. He was also a member of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.
He entered the prestigious Julliard Art School in 2010 but after a while, he realized that he was not interested in classical music anymore. His love for k-pop made him consider a career in the industry. He left Juilliard and came to South Korea to become a trainee.
2014: BENJI makes his debut
In June, GH Entertainment announced the debut of their first boy group, B.I.G (BOYS IN GROOVE). They released several video teasers and people were amazed by BENJI’s skill in violin.
On July 9th, 2014, B.I.G officially made its debut with « Hello » immediately praised by the critics. The song was made to support the South Korean soccer team during FIFA 2014. The lyrics praising the Korean culture and the moment when GUNMIN is holding the taegeukgi (the name of the South Korean flag) were stuck in people’s minds.
A few years later, BENJI explained that he was supposed to be a rapper, but the company decided to make him the main vocalist thinking that his vocal skill would be valuable for the group.
BENJI, TV host and radio DJ
In 2015, BENJI became a co-host for « After School Club » and « Tour Versus Tour » on Arirang TV.
« After School Club » is a show inviting artists every week. They interact live with their global fans, answer questions and play games. BENJI joined the show for three episodes as a guest and four as a special host.
« Tour Versus Tour » was a program to visit South Korea with expatriates. In each episode, BENJI and TINA (former BLADY member) were visiting the country with a different candidate every time, and the public had to vote for their favorite visit.
The same year, BENJI also became a DJ on « Music Access » on Arirang Radio. Thanks to the show, he was able to connect with more fans around the world by reading their questions and answering their messages.
He left the show one year later but he came back in 2018 as a guest, and a couple of months later as the main DJ. He left « Music Access » for good in March 2020.
2019: Increasing popularity with SuperBand and covers in Arabic
At the beginning of the year, BENJI and the other members of B.I.G did an interview for KBS World Arabic. They covered the song « La Bezzaf » of THE5 in Arabic. They also published a video singing this song on their Youtube channel and the video reached 1 million views in less than a week.
They quickly became popular in Arab countries. Thanks to this popularity, they got to meet President Moon Jae In at the Blue House to perform in front of the prince of Saudi Arabia and his delegation.
At the same period of time, BENJI was participating in « SuperBand ». It was a JTBC TV survival program to create a global rock band. BENJI passed the audition after seducing the jury with his cover of « Shape of you » by ED SHEERAN at the violin and his performance with « Telephone », a song that he made himself.
Thanks to his talent, his authenticity, and his cheerful personality, he became one of the finalists. He was one of the members of the temporary group MONÉ with ZAIRO, HONG ISAAC, WOO SUNG from THE ROSE, and HWANG MINJAE. His nickname quickly became 아무거나벤지 (amugeona BENJI), meaning that he was able to do anything in the group: making the crowd cheer, singing, composing, learning to play the bass in less than a week, playing the keyboard, dancing, and even creating choreography. He was the one who made the iconic choreography for « Wooing » and « IDC ».
MONÉ was also the only band to compose all their songs. They ranked 4th and never had the opportunity to make their official debut.
But thanks to « SuperBand », BENJI built strong and long-lasting relationships. He is still in touch with many participants, and he invited them sometimes on his Twitch and Youtube channels. He also participated in all the SuperBand concerts, making the fans live the time of their life.
On February 21st, 2021, HWANG MINJAE, the drummer of MONÉ, said during an IG live that the group would be back soon. Their fans are looking forward to listening to their new songs.
BENJI focusing on his solo career
In February 2020, BENJI was invited to the « Omaya Kpop Con » in Sweden.
In April, he also held his first solo concert at the Rollin Hall in Seoul. He sang original songs on stage as well as covers and MONÉ‘s songs. ZAIRO and HWANG MIN JAE were surprise guests and joined him on stage to perform the songs they made together for « SuperBand ».
Close to his bandmates, he was involved in many projects with them like the 22nd Seoul Drum Festival with HWANG MIN JAE or the Open concert on KBS with ZAIRO.
He also worked with HONG ISAAC on « Music Access ».
In October, BENJI announced that his contract with GH Entertainment had ended. Therefore he left B.I.G and became an independent artist. He created a Youtube channel and published his own songs on it, like « Going on », a song he made after leaving his company.
On January 1st, 2021, BENJI left South Korea for Los Angeles where he lives now. He is currently making music. He would like to upload it on official platforms like Spotify and iTunes which is taking time. That’s why he asked his fans to wait for him a bit. Meanwhile, he often meets them on his Twitch channel to stream video games and chat.
Sources: BENJI SNS, GH Entertainement, Arirang Radio
This post is also available in: Français (French)