Japan’s newest idol group, KBG84, hails from Okinawa, has an average age of 84


RocketNews 24:

Japan’s idol world is quite…expansive, for lack of a better word. Even with the wide variety of groups running around, it can be hard to really tell them apart–though we have to say there was no mistaking Osaka’s Obachaaan for any other group. In fact, the “old lady” idol group is still going strong–perhaps thanks in part to the dearth of elderly competition. But it looks like Obachaaa and AKB48 are about to face some new rivals: KBG84, Okinawa’s own geriatric idol group!

KBG84, the newest idol group making headlines, is commonly described as “Japan’s idol group closest to heaven,” which seems like a cruel way to say they’re all super-old. Though we like to imagine that it’s actually a reference to the fact that they live on an island paradise!

View image on Twitter

That said, the group’s members certainly aren’t young–in fact, you apparently have to be 80 years old or older to join and the average age is 84! And if you think that’s nuts, the central figures of the group are Miki Hanashiro, who is a mere 90 years old, and Tomi Menaka, who is 91. Say what you will about idol groups, but if we make it to 90, you can believe we’d rather be in an idol group than sitting around watching daytime TV. If you’re champing at the bit to get into the group, though, they will let people in their 70s or younger in as trainees, but you’ll likely face some competition: the group already has roughly 40 members!

As for the group’s name, the “K” is for Kohamajima, the “B” is for oBachan (old ladies), and the “G” is for “Gasshodan,” or “choir.” And, of course, the 84 is for their average age. We’re not sure if that means they’ll be adjusting the name of the group every year or not, but it’s good enough for now!

▼Kohamajima, part of the Yaeyama Islands


And, yes, this is an active idol group–in fact, they’re a “dance and vocal” unit, though we somewhat suspect that their dancing isn’t quite as energetic as some other idol groups. They recently recorded their first track, titled “Come and Dance Kohamajima,” and it has a planned release date for sometime around June. The group has also apparently filmed a music video which featured Menaka standing and dancing–which in most other contexts might not seem impressive, but definitely is here! There are even plans for KBG84 to come to Tokyo where they will perform a show at Shinagawa Prince Hotel’s Club eX towards the end of June.

K-Pop Idol Megan Lee to star in Nickelodeon’s new show ‘Make It Pop’

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Audrey Magazine (by Amber Chen)

Record producer Nick Cannon first pitched the K-Pop-inspired show Make It Pop to Nickelodeon about a year ago, and after months of speculation, Nickelodeon finally announced the series would be picked up for 20 episodes in the upcoming 2015-2016 season.

Similar to Korean drama Dream High and Nickelodeon’s Victorious, each episode of Make It Pop will have its own original soundtrack and performances. Luckily for us, this means new content every week to keep the audience wanting more.

Nickelodeon recently released the official synopsis:

Randomly selected to room together at boarding school, bookish Corki, fashion-forward Jodi and social media maven Sun Hi meet and bond over music. With the help of fellow boarding school classmate and DJ hopeful, Caleb, the girls grow from roommates to bandmates as they become a school-wide sensation and compete for a place in the upcoming school musical.

Young K-Pop Idol Megan Lee plays the role of the “social media loving pop divaSun Hi, while her onscreen roommates Corki and Jordi will be played by actresses Erika Tham and Louriza Tronco. Having dabbled in the acting industry before her musical debut, the 19-year-old starlet will likely have no trouble immersing into her role. In fact, Lee’s professional career began at the young age of 10. She has been in a number of television shows such as Kidz BopNickelodeon’s iCarly and the popular South Korean show MBC Star Audition – The Great Birth.

The show is set to premiere in April 2015.

Hollywood Reporter: Jackie Chan touts success of ‘Dragon Blade,’ declares his patriotism

The Hollywood Reporter:

Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan celebrated the success of his latest historical action movie Dragon Blade, which this week passed the $80 million threshold in China, and responded to accusations of nationalism by saying he was a proud patriot.

Chan stars as the commander of the Protectorate of the Western Regions who teams up with Lucius to protect China’s borders and sovereignty, which has prompted accusations that Chan is playing the patriotic card in the hunt for box-office success.

I have always been a patriot. Is it wrong? If people are cursed for being a patriot, please curse me,” Chan told M1905, the official web site of state broadcaster CCTV’s movie channel CCTV6.”Seven years ago, I wanted to do this film. I didn’t make the film because the government policy wants to protect the Silk Road. I am ahead of them. I hope chairman Xi (Jinping) gets to watch this film.”

Dragon Blade was the big winner of the Lunar New Year holiday to welcome the Year of the Goat, taking $72 million in its first six days in the country.

Starring Chan, Cusack and Brody and directed by Daniel Lee, Dragon Blade is based on a story about a missing legion of Roman soldiers that traveled into China in 48 BC. The cast also includes South Korea‘s Choi Si-won, member of the K-pop band Super Junior, who previously appeared in Battle of Wits.

Cusack plays Lucius, a Roman general who led a legion of 1,000 soldiers into Han Dynasty China. Brody plays Tiberius, who after assassinating Rome’s Consul Crassus chases after Lucius with a force of 100,000 soldiers.

Chan was speaking at an event in Beijing to celebrate Dragon Blade passing the 500 million yuan ($80 million) mark. Chan went on to say that he doesn’t care about box office or online promotion. “I don’t understand e-commerce. After I finish shooting, it’s finished,” he said.

Chan recently welcomed his son Jaycee home from jail by giving him a haircut. Jaycee Chan‘s long locks seemed to have survived his six months in jail after being convicted of drugs charges, having been caught up in the government’s aggressive anti-narcotics campaign.


A behind-the-scenes look at becoming a K-Pop star

South Korea’s outlaw tattoo artists starting to find a mainstream niche

Tattoo artist Jang Jun-hyuk works on customer Suh Hyun-woong at his parlor in Seoul.

Japan Times:

When Suh Hyun-woong showed his mother his first tattoo, she burst into tears.

She couldn’t understand why I would want to do that to myself,” Suh laughed. “But now she’s pretty much accepted it.”

Which is probably just as well given that the 19-year-old student’s body is a growing, monochrome canvas of fantasy designs.

Once associated almost exclusively with organized crime members, tattoos are going mainstream in South Korea, championed by sporting heroes, K-pop stars and other celebrities with passionate fan bases.

But the law has failed to keep pace, leaving the growing number of Korean tattoo artists vulnerable to prosecution on the whim of local authorities.

Tattooing itself is not illegal in South Korea, but the law states that it can only be carried out by a licensed medical doctor.

So if you want to get a tattoo, you’re supposed to go to a hospital? It’s just absurd,” said Jang Jun-hyuk, the owner of Tattooism, a tattoo parlor in central Seoul.

Officials say the law as it stands is justified by health considerations, including the risk of hepatitis or HIV infection from improperly sterilized needles.

It’s invasive. The skin is punctured and it bleeds. That’s why we look at it as a medical procedure,” said Korea Medical Association spokeswoman Ahn So-young.

Nevertheless, the government does appear to be considering change and commissioned a study in October on the possibility of permitting legal tattoo parlors.

In the meantime, tattoo artists continue to inhabit a professional world not dissimilar to sex workers; technically illegal but largely ignored by the authorities as long as they stay under the radar.

Most Korean parlors, like Jang’s Tattooism, are literally “underground” — basement studios with unmarked doors whose locations are spread by word-of-mouth.

Jang, 42, was a 20-year-old student at a fashion college in Seoul when he saw his first tattoo sported by a friend and decided then and there where his future lay.

The friend had got his tattoo in Mexico and, given the lack of options at home, that’s where Jang went to train.

In Korea at that time, nobody was using a tattoo machine. It was really just criminals using needles on themselves, and the results were pretty ugly,” he said.

The organized crime stigma was so great that, until recently, having a large tattoo would result in a rare exemption from South Korea’s mandatory military service.

After several years in Mexico, Jang returned and set up his first illicit tattoo studio in a nondescript office building in Seoul.

There was no sign, and with advertising not an option, he tried to drum up customers by posting pictures of his work on the Internet, along with a mobile phone number.

In the first three months, I probably got about 10 customers,” he recalled.

But it was a good time. There were only about 10 parlors in Seoul, and we all knew each other and encouraged each other,” he said. “It’s all a bit competitive now.”

There’s no real consensus on when attitudes began to change, but a pivotal moment in 2003 involved soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan, a national hero following the South Korean team’s heroics at the World Cup a year before.

After scoring in a match against Japan, Ahn peeled off his shirt to reveal a shoulder tattoo declaring his love for his wife.

He was a big name and that started things off,” Jung said. “Suddenly there were all these other sportsmen, as well as movie stars and K-pop singers getting tattoos as well.”

Business picked up, and the number of tattoo parlors mushroomed, but the legal issue remained.

Five years ago, Jung’s parlor was targeted in a random raid and he ended up in court, where he was fined $3,000 and given a one-year suspended sentence for violating public health codes.

Despite sporadic crackdowns, the number of studios has continued to grow and some, like Maverick in the expat-friendly district of Itaewon, have grown bold enough to put up neon signs.

It’s a form of passive resistance,” said Maverick owner Lee Sung-je. “It’s my way of saying ‘I’m here, doing my work.’ “

Lee claims customers across the social spectrum, including a smattering of civil servants, and executives working at straight-laced conglomerates like Samsung.

Though they do tend to go for tattoos that can be covered up easily,” he said.

Francis Kim, a 31-year-old chef, said his tattoos still draw a mixed response.

I get a lot of compliments from younger people, but the older crowd tend to look at me as if I must be a gangster, or just a loser who doesn’t fit in,” Kim said.

Suh Hyun-woong, meanwhile, appears intent on pushing his mother’s tolerance to its limits, with an eclectic choice of tattoos that includes the baffling acronym WGUMCD emblazoned in large gothic script on his stomach.

What Goes Up Must Come Down,” he explained. “It’s my life motto.”

Japan Society’s 16th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia

How to say (c) Chang-Chih Chen
Beyond Chinatown:

Japan Society’s 16th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia, one of their many great performance programs this season, brings from astonishingly agile artists from Japan and Taiwan for two nights of performances Friday, January 9 and Saturday, January 10.

From Japan:

Nobuyuki Hanabusa’s group enra performs Newton, an out-of-this-world amalgamation of motion graphics and choreography.

Mikiko Kawamura’s street style solo Alphard is set to a bold soundscape with J-pop and classical music

In Kaori Seki’s quartet Marmont, bodies morph into nebulous creature-like positions.


From Taiwan:

I-Fen Tung’s (董怡芬) fresh duo How to Say grapples with communication through words and dance.

In Shang-Chi Sun’s (孫尚綺 / 孙尚绮) Traverse, graceful martial arts-like movements oscillate between combat speed and tranquility.

Here’s the preview trailer:

Taiwan music icon Jody Jiang Hui announces retirement

Channel News Asia:

Veteran Taiwanese singer Jody Jiang Hui announced Friday (Jan 2) at a media conference for her upcoming Taiwan concert tour that she has decided to retire from singing, reported Taiwan media.

I have been singing my whole life since I was 10. I thank heaven for blessing me with this gift and thank everyone for liking my singing. I can’t bear to go, but today, I want to announce that this concert tour will be my last,” said the 53-year-old singer tearfully.

After this, I’ll bid farewell to the stage and return to what life was like when I was 10, a time when there were no stage lights. Although I will not be a singer anymore, I still care for everyone and will do my bit to help the many who need help in society.”

Jiang is a music icon in Taiwan, and has released over 60 albums. She is best known for her songs like Wife and The Sound of Falling Rain.

The singer did not take any questions from reporters, but her manager re-iterated that Jiang decided to stop because she wanted to retire on a high note, and not because she is in ill health.

She is in very good health. That is why she decided to announce her retirement at this time. She wants to leave everyone with a beautiful impression of her,” said her manager. “She has been under enormous pressure preparing for her concert and has been losing sleep over it every day. Even I feel bad for her.”

BABYMETAL are on a mission to make Metal more… “Kawaii”!

Sure, metal’s alright – but do you ever look at all the beards and lank hair and inexplicable cargo pants and wish it was, you know, heaps cuter? If so, as usual, Japan (the global epicentre for all things adorable) has your answer.

Babymetal, a pre-teen fusion of metal and J-pop, burst onto the scene with the global mission of making the genre more kawaii. You might be wondering how two vastly different musical and cultural movements fit together. Well, Babymetal’s music carries elements of J-pop in that it is full of super-choreographed dance routines, puffy gothic Lolita-style costumes and chirpy vocals. But it is also metal, in that all the band’s members (Su-metal, 16; Moametal, 14; Yuimetal 14) have the word ‘metal‘ in their names.

Backed either by Babybone, a band of skeletons playing imaginary instruments, or the Kami Band, a group of musicians whose aesthetic is probably more familiar to fans of the genre, Babymetal kicked off their first world tour on July 1, which will see them play dates in the US, UK and Europe.


PSY – “HANGOVER” featuring Snoop Dogg (official music video)

South Korean pop artist PSY, who’s “Gangnam Style” recently surpassed 2 billion views on YouTube, has released the official music video for his newest single “Hangover” featuring none other than Snoop Dogg. The video went live on Sunday night after PSY and Snoop appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, since being uploaded Sunday night, the “Hangover” video has already been viewed more than 6.6 million times.

”Hangover” precedes another PSY single, “Daddy,” which is said to be coming later this summer.


Why are there so few mainstream Asian-American rappers?

Why are there so few mainstream Asian American rappers? Director Salima Koroma and producer Jaeki Cho are trying to find out in their new indy documentary “Bad Rap.”

The film features L.A.’s Dumfounded crew, Queens MC’s Awkwafina and Rekstizzy and Virginia’s Lyricks. Digging into the history of Asian Americans in hip-hop, Koroma and Cho travel through the heyday of Jin and Philly’s Mountain Brothers, then bring things forward to examine the recent success of Far East Movement and K-pop star PSY. They also spend a fair amount of time dissecting the roles that gender and racial politics play in the struggle these rappers face in their attempts to break through.