Pop icon surfs into Seoul on Japanese culture wave

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Pop icon surfs into Seoul on Japanese culture wave

The “goddess of Japanese pop,” Namie Amuro, will descend on Seoul next week for what’s billed as the largest concert ever given in Korea by a Japanese singer. The 27-year-old kicks off a three-night run on Thursday at Gymnastics Hall in Jamsil Olympic Park, in southeast Seoul.
A combination of musical talent, dance skill, charisma and stage presence have turned Ms. Amuro into one of Japan’s most celebrated singers in recent years ― perhaps the most successful ever.
With a fan base spanning the globe, Ms. Amuro has sold 20 million albums, becoming the youngest Japanese singer to scale such commercial heights. Her first album, “Sweet 19 Blues,” sold more than 4 million copies, and Ms. Amuro has since released 26 singles off eight studio albums.
Her songs are a fusion of pop, dance and jazz, composed of soft beats and instrumental melodies, with a dose of electronica.
The Seoul performances are part of an Asian tour that began last Saturday in Taiwan. With 50 Japanese and 100 Korean staff and an estimated 2 billion won ($1.7 million) in production costs, the Seoul concerts are expected to draw the largest crowds to date for a Japanese star.
“We expect turnout of about 7,000 to 8,000 per concert,” said Kim Se-hee, with concert organizers Jayline Entertainment. “The concerts will be a fresh sensation for the Korean audience, because of the strength of Japanese concert techniques.”
At her recent show in Taipei, Ms. Amuro sang 22 songs including “Alarm,” her latest single. A similar setlist is expected in Seoul. Almost certain to appear are the hits “Can You Celebrate” and “Never End,” and at least one song in Korean.
A native of Okinawa, Ms. Amuro is biracial; she is one quarter Italian. In 1992, she teamed up with four classmates from acting school to form a group called Supermonkeys. A few of their Eurobeat songs gained the attention of a prominent Japanese producer named Tetsuya Komuro. Under his tutelage, Ms. Amuro released her first single, “Body Feels Exit,” which became an instant hit. Since the late 1990s, Ms. Amuro has been a pop culture icon in Japan, her fashion and hairstyle imitated by many young Japanese women.
On a recent tour of Japan, she established another record by selling 300,000 tickets in 30 minutes.
The concerts in Korea are a result of the Korean government’s fourth round of opening to Japanese culture, in which restrictions on Japanese pop music and films were loosened on Jan. 1. The import of Japanese cultural materials, including many live performances, had been barred, a legacy of Japan’s 35-year occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

by Limb Jae-un

For the Saturday concert, Ms. Amuro will be joined by Rain, a male Korean singer known locally as Bi. Tickets cost from 50,000 won ($43) to 120,000 won. For more information, go to www.jayline.co.kr or call (02) 511-2070.
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