Meet Japan’s Newest Singing Sensation!

June 3, 2008 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

Purity is big in Japan. Take sumo for example: When wrestlers step into the sacred ring they sprinkle down salt as a symbol of purification. Women aren’t even allowed into the ring because their monthly menstrual cycle deems them impure. In 2000, a mayor was banned from an opening ceremony just for being female. She didn’t go without a fight at least.

Ethnic pride is another idealization of purity. So much so that in the ’60s when the first Hawaiian wrestlers showed up, purists were slinging mud in their face, telling them to go home. Other Japanese pastimes – martial arts, kabuki and sushi-making among them – faced similar conflicts. But these days as the old guard dies out and the reality of a shrinking talent pool seeps in, people are warming up to new ideas.

Enter Jero, Japan’s first black enka (folk) singer. He has the voice of a songbird and it’s accent-free. You’d never know the 23-year-old flew in from Pittsburgh. Most enka singers are in their silver years and croon about unrequited love, forbidden trysts and falling snow. Jero sings about the same only he prefaces it with hip-hop.

Japanese audiences seem to like him; awe-struck by his voice and amused by his urbanization of ‘old-fogey’ music. Though just how ‘urban’ is he? That’s the question. He’s ¼ Japanese and grew up listening to enka with his Japanese grandmother. His mannerisms are very Japanese and he speaks nearly like a native. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his manager’s idea to outfit him in baggy jeans and a skull-cap just to raise sales.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Jero lasts because, in his case at least, true talent outweighs gimmick. The old school population just needs to stay open to new things. Then maybe, just like Hawaiian sumo wrestlers, he’ll push past the stares and snide remarks and take the helm as Japan’s newest grand champ.


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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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