If you asked a passerby who S.Gantogoo was a few months ago, most people would probably have replied “I don’t know” or recognized him as the Mongolian singer in a South Korean band. He might not have had much of a fandom in his home country back then, but now, he’s rapidly gaining fans as he continues to impress viewers with his excellent impressions of world stars on the second season of the Mongolian adaptation of “Your Face Sounds Familiar” talent show.
S.Gantogoo has been active as a singer since his debut in 2012 with a multicultural transnational chorus called Montant, which consists of 20 members from nine different nations. He first went to South Korea 10 years ago with the sole objective to earn tuition for his younger sibling. He never dreamed that he would become a singer abroad or even appear in the famous South Korean television show “Star King” in May 2013. S.Gantogoo also appeared on the Mongolian television program “Mongolian Songs in the World” in 2015.
The young rising star gave an interview about “Your Face Sounds Familiar”, his interests, and future plans.
You’re rapidly gaining popularity among Mongolians through “Your Face Sounds Familiar”. Did you expect the Mongolian public to support you this much when you first received an invitation to participate in the show?
I was awestruck when I first received the invitation for the show. I asked the production team who the other participants were but they didn’t tell me. I doubt that there’s a person who doesn’t know or heard about “Your Face Sounds Familiar”. I told about the invitation to my manager and he gave his consent immediately. Members of Montant are given time to rest during the first half of the year but the schedule becomes packed in the second half. So time-wise, it was a really good offer for me. After accepting the invitation, I looked through the list of participants and became overwhelmed. I won’t hide it – I regretted my decision. I’m sure anyone would feel intimidated if they had to compete against the artists they looked up to since they were a kid.
No one knows me in Mongolia. At most, they would recognize me as the Mongolian guy who appeared on “Star King” television show. Apart from that, they probably knew nothing about me. I feared what kind of image I would give to the viewers and their reaction. But unlike my expectation, the viewers were very kind and supportive and it made me extremely happy. I can’t fully describe my feelings with just words.
…My next two-year plan doesn’t involve starting a family. Instead, I want to dedicate everything to producing good music while I’m passionate about music and have the opportunity to do it…
Compared to other contestants, don’t you think that you’ve been getting really hard celebrities to impersonate?
Other contestants are also doing their best to impersonate the celebrities they got randomly. People would laugh at me if I said that I’ve been getting hard roles. Personally, I don’t like getting depressed whenever I stumble across a challenge. I try to maintain a positive attitude and try my best to overcome it. Once I start something, I have to see the end. The celebrities I picked randomly really made me grit my teeth, including Ylvis, who sang “The Fox” (What Does The Fox Say?), Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. I worked at a factory for five years in South Korea, but rehearsing and transforming into these celebrities was so much harder than working at a factory.
So far, you’ve impersonated Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Rita Oberoi. Have you ever worn women’s clothes before the show?
Never. I never imagined that I would wear women’s clothes in my entire life. Now I understand why women are always late for dates. When I had to transform into Lady Gaga, my manicure alone took two hours to finish. All I could think about while performing as Lady Gaga on the stage was to somehow finish the performance safely. It was so hard to just walk on heels but I had to dance on them.
You appeared on “Star King” when you were in South Korea, right? In total, how many talent shows have you participated in so far?
I finished Middle School No.3 in Murun soum of Khuvsgul Province. At the time, I took part in countless competitions, including school talent shows and regional and state competitions. I enjoyed singing so I never skipped on singing competitions. When I was in university, I signed up for “Oddiin Ereld” (Star Quest) singing competition and made it to the finals. Main vocalist of Motive group T.Ganbaatar, singer of the State Philharmonic Orchestra L.Nasanbuyan, N.Erdenebat, and I made the Top 4 contestants.
Didn’t you graduate as a teacher? How did your family react when you told them that you were going to debut as a singer?
I earned my bachelor’s degree in teaching methodology for geography and environmental assessment from the Mongolian State University of Education. My father was a military officer and my mother’s a teacher. My father and mother are like fire and water. They raised me and my siblings very well. However, they were strongly against my decision to become an artist. I actually auditioned to join the singing course of the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture right after finishing high school but I wasn’t accepted.
My father told me that my singing made him happy and that because no one can steal away my talent, I should keep on improving. He recommended that I enhance my knowledge by majoring in a different profession because this way, I can kill two birds with one stone. Now that I think about it, he was right. My profession is useful in every step I take in life. Besides performing, Montant holds workshops for middle school students. I don’t find this hard since I’ve been trained as a teacher. Other members even get advice on ways to interact and teach children from me.
… I worked at a factory for five years in South Korea, but rehearsing and transforming into these celebrities was so much harder than working at a factory…
Do your parents support you as an artist now?
Yes, of course they do. Unfortunately, my father died two years ago due to cancer. I found out about his condition after joining Montant. I prayed that the doctors had misdiagnosed but we got the same results in South Korea. But I’m happy that I was able to bring my father to our concert and show him around South Korea before he passed away. While walking around a park, he apologized for trying to stop me from becoming an artist and told me that he was proud of me for following my heart. His words give me a lot of strength even now.
Earlier you mentioned that Montant takes a break in the first half of the year. What do you usually do during this period?
I go to the gym to workout. I don’t train like an athlete but exercise enough to stay fit and healthy. I enjoy watching films too. I sometimes go to the cinema to watch films with my siblings. I also enjoy listening to music. By the way, I discovered that I have a knack for dancing while participating in “Your Face Sounds Familiar”, so I plan to take dance lessons to improve my skills even more in the future.
Besides dancing, acting and singing, what other talents do you have?
I don’t know if its talent or skill but I like composing songs. I’m quite good at table tennis too.
What about sports?
I prefer watching sports more than playing it myself. Football is my favorite sport.
Is it true that a Korean director is making a documentary film about your life?
There’s a center called Seoul Global Cultural Center in Seoul for global cultural exchange between residents and visitors. The director of the center is making a documentary entitled “Ganaa’s Life”. It’s been five or six months since they began shooting the film. Filming in Korea has finished and we’re planning to continue shooting in Khuvsgul Province in June. From what I heard, it will be released in South Korea in August and sent to international film festivals from September.
There are over two million foreign contract workers in South Korea. The film hopes to send the message that anyone can achieve their dreams even if they’re contract workers in a foreign country.
Is it difficult to release albums in Mongolia? Has anyone asked to collaborate with you?
It will be challenging to simultaneously work in both Mongolia and South Korea. I have to return and continue my band activities in South Korea. I’ll have to manage my schedule really well. I’m sure the Mongolian public has noticed that I’m trying hard to enter the local music industry. An unbelievable opportunity for me to do so has opened up for me so I should put it to good use. However, I haven’t been able to reach a collaboration agreement with any organization.
Do you have a girlfriend? What’s your ideal type?
I don’t have a girlfriend but I’m attracted to modest women with a good sense of humor. But I noticed that most people fall in love and marry people who are completely different from their ideal type. I guess life doesn’t go as planned.
Do you have plans to start a family anytime soon?
I take this matter very seriously and responsibly. It’s not like playing house. My next two-year plan doesn’t involve starting a family. Instead, I want to dedicate everything to producing good music while I’m passionate about music and have the opportunity to do it.
Will you be staying for the National Naadam Festival this year?
Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’m sure I’ll make my mind up when I get used to my surrounding and meet new people. It’s been 10 years since I last enjoyed the National Naadam Festival in my home country. I’ve toured around almost every city and district in South Korea, and yet I still haven’t traveled around Mongolia’s beautiful land. That’s why I want to travel after “Your Face Sounds Familiar” is over. My first destination will be the Chinggis Khaan Equestrian Statue and then, my home land, Khuvsgul Province. There are so many places I want to visit.