Foreigners on the Red and White Song Battle

December 31, 2008

This year, Jero will be one of the featured performers on the annual Red and White Song Battle which is televised on NHK every New Year’s Eve. The show is considered a Japanese tradition (although ratings have been dropping in past years).

Jero is an American guy with a Japanese grandmother who grew up loving both hip hop music and Japanese traditional Enka music. He has become one of the biggest new Enka stars in Japan over the past year and a half or so.

I decided to check if there had ever been American singers on the show before and turned up some fun if not meaningless data, and another mystery to figure out.

It seems that 1990 and 1991 were very unique years in the history of the Singing Battle. They are the only two years in which American or British singers performed (other than Jero this year). 1990 brought us performances from Cindy Lauper and Paul Simon. 1991 featured performances by Andy Williams and England’s Sara Brightman.

1990 and 1991 are unique because there were also singers from the Philippines, Latvia, Taiwan, Korea, The Soviet Union, Brazil, and Mongolia featured. It was an incredibly international showing, Japan should be proud of those two years.

I’m still looking for someone who has the great Paul Simon performance, but here is when Cindy Lauper was on doing “I Drove All Night” live at the Red and White Song Battle on NHK on December 31st 1989.

Here’s hoping the people responsible at NHK start inviting some of the non-Japanese artists that become popular in Japan. It’s a fact that music from the US and other countries sell well here… I would love to see that represented in this New Years tradition.


1 jay December 31, 2008 at 11:02 am

Add to that that BLUE MAN GROUP just did a little special appearance skit. If they keep coming out between songs this may be worth watching!

2 lemoned January 7, 2009 at 8:51 pm

There were many ethnicities on this year’s Kouhaku…not only was there Jero and blue man group, but that white guitarist who played in the beginning of performance of one of the Enka(?) female singers (I forgot his name), Enya, and of course Korean group Tohoshinki.. And there were more half-Japanese people on show like Angela Aki, comedian Kojima Yoshio, Wentz Eiji, Thelma Aoyama and maybe more. It was a very diverse show…

3 jay January 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Thanks lemoned. That’s a very good point. It was quite international this year. I hope they continue the trend. I even commented myself about Blue Man Group, but forgot to list them among the non-Japanese performers. It was really cute when they held up the little sign cheering for the “Ao-gumi”.

There have been a lot of performers from Korea, and people like Angela Aki and Thelma Aoyama who are part Japanese but are a part of the Japanese entertainment industry.

I have to ask though, because I have never heard that Kojima Yoshio is half-Japanese! What is the other half?

Thanks a lot for the comment and correction. I would still like to see some major performers from other countries (who are not a part of the Japanese entertainment industry, but still sell a lot of CDs here) perform. I’m sure there are plenty of artists that would love to spend New Year’s rocking out in Japan.

4 lemoned January 12, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I knew Kojima Yoshio had to be mixed because he just had that “look” to him. I’ve read that he’s half Brazilian…and I definitely can see it. Thanks for the reply and for this article. Plus Hirai Ken was there…no wait…he claims he’s pure Japanese..hehehe…he sure looks half.

5 jay January 13, 2009 at 11:44 am

Kojima Yoshio is from Okinawa, right? Maybe that’s why he has darker features. Anyway, it’s pretty hard to tell sometimes isn’t it. Really, it doesn’t matter what an entertainer is if they have talent, right?

I’m glad the world keeps getting smaller though.