Riya Choudhary (Delhi) and Aanchal Tekriwal (Godda, Jharkhand)
With cross-cultural eloquence, one can see how a language can make a person both grotesquely global and charmingly local. Meet 40KAHANI, aka Charlie, a budding creator and YouTuber who captured the hearts of every Indian by speaking Hindi with a convincing flawless Bihari accent. He’s a South Korean by nationality, although he spent his entire childhood in India as his parents shifted here in the early 2000s for work purposes. One of his parents is also faculty at King Sejong Institute Patna (KSI). He finished his schooling in Patna, moved to Iowa City, USA, for further study, and is currently relocating to South Korea. After graduating from college, he decided to make YouTube videos, and now his ambition is to become a full-time content creator. Lee Ye-chan, better known as Charlie, has achieved internet fame because of his extraordinary aptitude for creating engaging content. Now his fans fondly refer to him as Bihari Korean. At Hallyuism, we had the opportunity to interact with Charlie to discuss more about his life experiences in India as a South Korean.
Please introduce yourself to our viewers like where are you from, your hometown, and when did you start living in India. How do you maintain a connection with your home country while also embracing your life in India & USA?
My name is Charlie and I’m a content creator on YouTube. I run a channel called 40KAHANI where I share my life’s journey to becoming a professional musician. That’s the goal of the channel. And yeah, that’s what I primarily do. I was born in the United States, but when I was one year old, my parents went to India. I lived in India with my parents for about 20 years. So, growing up there, I learned to speak Hindi and because I grew up in Patna, Bihar, that’s why I have that Bihari accent as well. Occasionally, I would go visit Korea with my parents to meet my grandparents and relatives but not very often. Maybe like once in two or three years. And after going to college in 2015, I think I visited Korea and India once a year, alternating between both countries. So yeah, that’s how I kind of maintain the connection among all those three countries.
Your YouTube channel, 40KAHANI, has gained a significant following as it recently crossed 45K subscribers. What motivated you to start this channel, and what kind of content do you focus on?
When I was about to graduate college in 2021, I was thinking a lot about what I wanted to do with my life in the future, and just for your knowledge, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. And I did not find a specific passion or vision with that major. I couldn’t envision myself doing something in that field. Since I was a kid, I remember that I used to imitate a singer’s song a lot after just like when I would go to a movie, I’d come back and re-enact and react to those superhero movies. So that was all always like a hobby that I had in mind. But on the verge of graduation, I thought I need to do something that I’m passionate about, I need to do something that I can see myself in the future. So, that was music and that was YouTube.
A Youtuber called Casey Neistat who is a filmmaker vlogger on YouTube, was the one who motivated me to start YouTube although I had music in mind but YouTube specifically that guy, I loved what he did. I loved how he managed to show his personal life and storytelling that life in a short video form. So, I applied that to my own life. And I thought let’s why not make my life in a video form so people can watch, enjoy, and get inspired. That’s how I got started, I focus on my life as becoming a professional singer. I don’t have a professional musical background and I don’t have any professional experience. I always had that as a hobby. So, to switch from a hobby to a profession first, I wanted to see if I can give it a shot if I actually have what it takes and then I wanted to prove to the world that a common man can learn and become a professional.
Basically, I make content around my life growing as a professional musician. So, I put out cover songs of me. Especially singing Hindi songs, because I got a lot of love from Indian people and because I speak Hindi, that’s kind of where my value shines. One thing, I may cover songs right now. I do hope that I would eventually make my original songs, which I’m looking forward to. Another thing, I make vlogs – video logs, documenting my life, and becoming a professional musician. So those two are the main things that you would find on my channel.
What’s the best part about being a full-time Youtuber and having such an outbursting acknowledgement in India? Did you anticipate this amount of popularity when you first began?
It’s hard for me to say that I’m a full-time YouTuber yet because I don’t fully rely on YouTube to sustain my living, but I do want to become a full-time YouTuber. I mean, that’s my goal. But I do appreciate the love and support that I’m getting right now from the Indian audience because that’s the primary, that’s where I started. I started thinking and understood that speaking Hindi as a Korean was a unique strength or gift that I was given. So, when I started, I honestly thought that if I continue making good videos in Hindi being a Korean would be pretty interesting and I knew people would love those kinds of videos, but I didn’t expect it to blow up this fast. I guess, I didn’t expect people to recognize me this soon which I am extremely grateful and thankful for.
Tell us about your exemplary friendship with Andrew Hicks? How do you know each other? And your content creation experience like KACHA AAM Podcast, CHOTI KAHANI, and your new content HUM SABKI KAHANI together?
Andrew has been my childhood friend. I think I met him when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Around that time, his parents and my parents were friends. So, they met in India. And also, we got to hang out with each other. Andrew lived in Darbhanga, and I lived in Patna. So sometimes he would come along to hang out. Once he stayed at my home for a couple of months to study math and science with my tuition teacher. So that’s when we kind of got closer. That’s where our friendship started. After I think about 10 years, right when I was going to start YouTube, around Feb-Mar. I was going through my old footage from 2020 to 2022. I started uploading YouTube videos in February 2022, and to make videos, I often revisited the old footage that I had where I found myself and Andrew doing arm wrestling. Until then, I kind of forgot about his existence but that video reminded me of him, and I was curious how he was doing now.
So, I went to Facebook. I was glad that I was friends with him on Facebook. I sent him a message and he replied to me after 2-3 weeks. He told me that he never sees Facebook messages, but he just so happened to see it and we got connected. He told me that he was also interested in these types of content creation and everything. Just as a joke, I told him it would be really exciting if we just put out ourselves like talking in Hindi as a podcast and people would probably enjoy it too. Foreigners talking in Hindi like, in Bihari style, that would be interesting. Initially, I didn’t know Andrew would also be interested in that idea, but he said, yeah, that sounds great. So that’s how we got started. And that’s how I kind of pulled him into this YouTube world and he started doing YouTube content and he’s doing great right now. So, I’m glad for his success as well.
Your very first song cover was uploaded on SoundCloud almost eight years ago. How has this musical journey been to you? What do you think about your development as an artist progressed?
Yes, my very first cover song was uploaded on Soundcloud. I didn’t know it was eight years ago but thank you. It’s been a long time and I have definitely improved in singing skills. First, I started as a hobby but just singing, consistently singing in Church. And all of those experiences did help me develop vocal skills. And for the recent two years, I’ve intentionally learned, studied, and researched how other singers sing and view lessons online. And try to ask other people if they can give me singing tips and that actually helped me a lot in becoming a better singer. So yeah, I’d say I improved a lot.
You have been a big fan of Indian Singers such as Arijit Singh, Anuv Jain and Armaan Malik. We got to know that it’s your dream to sing with Armaan Malik one day. In 2021, he released Echo with Korean-American artist Eric Nam and Indian-American producer DJ KSHMR. It was the first Korean-Indian collaboration so how was your reaction to it? Did you enjoy listening to it?
I did not know that DJ KSHMR was an Indian-American producer, that’s exciting! And yes, I was actually extremely excited because I knew Armaan Malik since I was a child, I knew Eric Nam and I love both artists. I don’t know much about KSHMR, but he makes great music right! I was not expecting such collaboration between an Indian and a Korean artist so that was an eye-opener for me. And that actually was the initial point that made me think that I could actually have a chance in this industry because I’m Korean and I speak Hindi as well and it gave me a goal. I guess it gave me a call that I want to sing with Armaan Malik as well. Like I want to make music but also have that kind of opportunity where I can mix two cultures. Even if it’s not Armaan Malik, it’s okay. But I want to have those kinds of opportunities. I listened to the song; I loved it.
Recently his brother, composer and music producer – Amaal Mallik noticed your Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon Cover. How did you feel when you noticed it? What if they approach you in the near future, what will be your reaction to that?
Honestly, I don’t know if you saw my Instagram story, but my heart started pounding and I was like, I didn’t know how to react. I was extremely excited and happy and yeah, it was a great experience. I was happy to get noticed. I thought about a scenario where they would approach me. But currently, I don’t think I’m at that level and capable of singing with those singers. I know I’m improving but even though my goal is to sing with Armaan Malik, I don’t want that to happen so fast. I want it to be a gradual progression and I want to improve my skills during that time, so that when I get to perform with Armaan Malik or Amaal Mallik, I am pretty confident about my singing skills, my vocal expression and all of that. So, if I get a chance right now, I’d probably reject it. I want to improve a little bit more and I want to take this time to build my audience. And then I want to collaborate with them taking some time.
You have always lived in Bihar. Can you share an experience that highlights the unique aspects of your life as a foreigner in India? Is there a place in India that you want to explore and why?
Yeah, it’s a unique experience for me living specifically in Bihar. Because other places in India may have other foreigners living there. But in Bihar, especially Patna during that period, the early 2000s, I was probably the only foreigner that you could find, like a white skin foreigner. A unique experience that I would have as I go out to the streets; people would just stare at me and be extremely curious. I’d say friendly, sometimes there were some notorious people, but occasionally there would be people who would come up to me and start taking interviews like Where are you from? What’s your name? Why are you here? What do your parents do? And all of that. So, just going out to the street almost feels like a celebrity. That’s probably a unique experience that one can have living as a foreigner in Bihar. I want to visit Mumbai because I’ve heard a lot about the place. Bollywood stars and a lot of rich foreigners are there in Mumbai as well. Because I make videos and also, I’m interested in music, I want to visit Mumbai and explore the place.
How has your presence in India influenced your understanding of Indian culture and its people? What aspects of Indian society, such as food, festivals, or social customs, do you particularly enjoy or find interesting?
Of course, I’d say if you want to learn a culture, you have to experience life there. You have to be immersed in that culture. It’s really hard to study the culture and try to understand what the place is all about unless you live there. It’s very hard to see the nitty-gritty of that country. And I think that living there, studying with Indian kids, going to school, CBSE class 1-12, all of that, and hanging out with Indian kids. It gave me an opportunity to see how they think. I try to understand what their thought process was, and how they act. And why do they act the way they act things like that? How do they behave? I was able to understand all of those cultural norms. I love Indian food. I like Biryani, Chicken Curry, and Naan. I like Eggroll, it’s one of my favourite street food in India. And there are lots of festivals which I loved because as a kid I don’t want to go to school. I mean there probably are some kids that want to go to school, but I did not want to go to school. I’d rather stay at home, but because there are a lot of festivals, those festivals help me to not go to school because school will be closed. So, I loved Indian festivals.
Could you describe some of the cultural differences you’ve encountered between Korea and India? How do these differences impact your daily life?
Especially now that I’ve lived in India and then I’m also experiencing life in Korea, life in America living with Korean people. A big difference is a major working cultural difference that I’m finding is India’s a lot slower paced and Korea is a lot more hurried like everything needs to be fast. And there are pros and cons to both cultures, and I’ve experienced the pros and cons of both cultures. I think I try to find a good balance between the two. Because I’m a content creator, I am able to blend those two cultures and I’d say, that if I worked in a conventional Korean workplace, I probably won’t have the freedom to choose to be more relaxed and show up. But because I’m a content creator, I do work part-time and other things as well. But I have the freedom to pace myself and that’s how it affects my daily life decisions, I can be a little more relaxed because I have experienced Indian working culture.
As an international content creator, are there any difficulties in pertaining Desi content to larger audiences? How do you balance staying faithful but also providing enough context for those outside of Indian culture to understand?
I’m not thinking about the larger audience right now. All I’m thinking is how to share my life story in the best way possible with the Indian audience because that’s where my value shines. That’s what I’m best at; talking and conveying my story in Hindi. And this is what I’m trying to do right now. I don’t focus on a larger audience in my current stage, that’s something that I would probably think about in the future but right now I am focused on making the best content in the best way to convey my life story in Hindi.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your channel and your life in India? Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve?
My future plans are I’m going to continue making content on my YouTube channel and also, I’ll be making song covers. I’ll be documenting my life growing as a professional singer. I have a specific goal. My near future goal is to sing with Armaan Malik and be able to work with him together, and potentially be on the same stage with him. As for life in India, I don’t have current plans to visit India anytime soon but because I’m getting so much support and love. I will definitely plan to visit India. I don’t have a plan right now, but I will plan to visit India.
What advice would you give to individuals who are considering moving to a foreign country and embracing a new culture, based on your own experiences in India?
I would advise people to just be relaxed and understand that they won’t get it the moment that they reach it. It’s going to take time to understand a new culture so you need to understand that it will take time and that you need to pace yourself. Don’t rush, you don’t need to be in a hurry or anything. Just try to listen and see the surroundings, watch people, watch how they behave, how they act, and how they react when they talk about things like that. Just listen and be a listener and that will help you understand the culture a lot more. If you just raid on pushing yourself in that culture and try to just fit yourself then somehow it will take more time and it won’t be as easy for you. I guess that’s one piece of advice I would like to give because for me, I mean my own experiences in India, I honestly would consider myself an Indian because honestly, I grew up since I was one year old. So basically, I’m an Indian who has two cultural experiences. But I was an introverted kid, so I am very used to listening, used to be quiet and just watching people and that helped. Now looking back, I think that nature of mine helped me a lot in understanding the culture and also moving forward when I came to the United States, I applied that in my own life. Every time I try to listen to what other people say, I listen more than I speak, and that helped me adjust well.
We got to know that you had your first solo fan meet in Iowa City. When an Indian fan reached out to meet you, how did that intrigue you personally? Speaking of fans, we’re all curious to know what you’d like the name of your fandom to be.
It was an exciting and interesting experience. Meeting an Indian fan, I always feel grateful and blessed that someone loves me and likes me and wants to meet me. But I also need to think that even though the other person probably knows me, has looked up on the Internet about me, and has watched me somewhere, I don’t have any information about that other person. So, while it is exciting but at the same time, I’m a little nervous and scared, because I don’t know what that interaction is going to be, how the other person looks or speaks like, so it’s both excitement as well as you know doubt. So, I don’t look at the vibe that the other person can face. If I feel good and safe, I’d probably be wanting to meet the person personally but otherwise, I probably will thank them but probably not meet them. Speaking of fans, fandom that’s I’ve never thought about this. I’ve never thought about naming my fandom, but it would be really helpful if you could probably you who are reading this article probably can suggest me a fandom name. That’ll be exciting.
Recently, there has been a significant increase in your popularity in India. What message do you wish to deliver to your viewers/fans in Hindi?
Thik hai to sabse pehle to hum bahut bahut dhanyawaad kehna chahte hai mujhe hamesha encourage karne ke liye. Mujhe love and support dene ke liye bahot bahot dhanyawaad. Main bas aise hi ek aam aadmi hoon. Aur bas is karan se ki humko hindi bolni aati hai, isi karan se aap log mujhe itna pyaar de rahe hai. Expect nahi kiye the ki itna jaldi aap log humko itna saara pyaar denge. To bahot bahot dhanyawaad kehna chahte hai. Aur lastly, ye message dena chahte hai ki mera YouTube start karne ka bahot bada ek karan ye hai ki hum believe karte hai ki duniya ke har koi, har kisi ke pas ek special gift hai, God-given gift hota har kisi ke paas. Mere pass bhi aisa gift hai is karan se hum apne gift ko leke batana chahte hai duniya ko ki koi bhi ek aam aadmi bhi apne gift ko utilize karke bada bada kaam kar sakta hai.
Logo ko inspire kar sakta hai, logo ko help kar sakta hai. To hum ye message dena chahte hai ki aap bhi agar mera channel dekhte hai, agar aap mere life ko follow karte hai to hope karte hai ki aapko mere life ke through inspiration mile ki aap apne dreams, apne chah ki, apne dil ki baaton ko sun kar duniya me badlav laaye. Duniya me kuch accha kare, logo ko madad de, logo ka madad kare haina or apne zindagi m kuch accha fun laye, fruitful, blessed life haina khushi bhariye zindagi. Ji to bas itna hi kehna chahte hai.
(Translated: Well, first of all I want to thank you so much for always encouraging me. Thank you so much for giving me all the love and support. I am just such a common man. And just because I know how to speak in Hindi, you guys are giving me so much love for that. I didn’t expect you all to give me so much love this fast, so I want to say sincerely thank you. And lastly, I want to give this message that one of the biggest reasons for starting my YouTube is that I believe that everyone in the world, every person has a special gift, everyone has a God-given gift. I too have that gift as well, and that’s why; using my gift I want to deliver this message that a common man can do great wonders utilising their gift. They can inspire and help people. If you also watch my channel, if you follow my life, then I hope that you get inspiration through my life and that you can change the world by listening to your dreams, your desires, and your heart. Do something good in the world, help people, and bring some good fun into your life, be fruitful, and live a happy blessed life. That’s all I want to say.) Thank you so much Hallyuism for having me and it was a great interview with you. Thank you. Bye.)
Once again, on behalf of our entire team at Hallyuism, we would like to thank 40 KAHANI (Charlie) for taking out his valuable time for this interview, and we are deeply honored. Wishing him the very best in all his future endeavours. We hope you all loved reading this interview as much as we loved conducting it. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!