5 voices, 1 group, 10 yearsThe Gospellers, a five-man vocal group based in Japan, is on its first Asian tour. For Korean audiences, the timing couldn’t be much more appropriate.
“Since Korea partially lifted the ban on the import of Japanese cultural material [a year ago], Japanese artists have expressed a lot of interest in visiting,” says Cho Si-young of Metiscom, one of the companies organizing the group’s Seoul concert.
The group just released its 10th album, a two-disc best-of titled “G-10.” The Asian tour brings them to Korea Sunday for a 6 p.m. concert at Jilryeo Hall in Daehakro, northeastern Seoul, following a date in Taiwan. They’ll move on to Shanghai next.
The Gospellers’ self-titled debut CD came out in 1995, paving the way for a cappella to become popular in Japan.
Last year, they won the VIP Award at the Channel V Thailand music Video Awards. At the ceremony, Gospellers sang one of their songs, “Shin Osaka,” and a cover of Joe Thomas’s “No One Else Comes Close.”
According to The Nation, an English-language newspaper based in Thailand, “the VIP award is given to an artist (or artists) for their experience and continuous development of sound and ability throughout their music career. The Gospellers fit that description perfectly.”
The group originally came together in 1991, composed of members of Street Corner Symphony, an a cappella club at Waseda University.
They released an EP, “Down to the Street,” on File Records in 1994. After some membership changes, they released a single, “Promise,” on Ki/oon Records, a division of Sony Music, and the lineup solidified; it’s now Tetsuya Murakami, Kaoru Kurosawa, Yuji Sakai, Youichi Kitayama and Yutaka Yasuoka.
Since then, they’ve released an album every year. While they are no longer purely an a cappella group, their strong harmonies are still front and center, and they often include a cappella tracks on their albums.
Career highlights include the 2000 single “Towani,” a collaboration with producer Bryan Michael Cox. Cox was then an up-and-coming producer who’d worked with Mariah Carey. He has since had a hand in production or songwriting for Alicia Keys, B2K and Mariah Carey; he received two Grammy nominations for his work with Usher.
“Towani” had heavy radio play in Japan, and was followed up by the album “Soul Serenade.” The album “Love Notes,” released in 2001 in Japan, was made available in Korea in March of 2004.
Sales of “Love Notes,” a compilation of love songs, reached 1.8 million with releases in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and China. It includes the hit single “Hitori,” which reached No. 3 on the Oricon chart, a first for an a cappella song.
With such experience, they’ve also been able to produce and compose for other artists, such as Tatsuya Ishii and Masayuki Suzuki.
About 300,000 fans were surveyed to decide “G-10’s” song selection. The album was released in Korea in December.
by Joe Yonghee
For more information, visit the Web site at www.metiscom.co.kr, or www.sonymusic.co.jp/eng/Gostudio/index.html. Tickets are standing room only and cost 38,500 won ($37).