NEW YORK, NY: June 4, 2012 - Japan Society is proud to host the currently sold out New York debut of breakthrough singer JERO on June 9, where he will discuss his unlikely path to stardom and perform his celebrated take on the traditional Japanese balladry that is enka.
Enka is a melodic, uniquely Japanese, deeply sentimental, vocally challenging and lyrically driven style of pop ballad that reached its height of popularity in the 1960s and ’70s. Recent years have witnessed a revival of sorts in the genre as contemporary pop artists borrow from the enka tradition. Enter JERO. The thirty-year old Pittsburgh native is the first charting African-American professional enka singer in Japanese history.
Jerome Charles White Jr., a.k.a. JERO, was born of mixed Japanese and African American heritage. He was exposed to enka music at an early age by his Japanese grandmother. JERO learned Japanese from a young age and would imitate the enka performers his grandmother loved. As he grew older, his affection for the style continued, his voice improved and he moved to Japan to practice his craft. In 2008, JERO’s first single, Umiyuki (“Ocean Snow”), entered the top five of the Japanese pop charts. JERO went on to be named Best New Artist of 2008 at The 50th Annual Japan Record Awards, was invited to perform at that year’s Kohaku Uta Gassen (Japan’s most prestigious New Year’s Eve musical celebration) and has seen continued success ever since.
JERO’s hip hop clothing and dance styles set him apart as a truly unique artist among modern enka performers, who tend to dress in either the kimono or glitzy costumes. For his NYC debut, JERO will perform a selection of karaoke-accompanied enka originals as well as enka classics including those of Misora Hibari (美空ひばり) and Itsuki Hiroshi (五木ひろし) among others, and will speak at length about his childhood, his trailblazing success, the challenges he’s faced and his love for the enka tradition. Following the concert, a limited number of JERO’s CDs (generally quite difficult to acquire stateside) will be available for purchase and JERO will be autographing his albums. Additionally, JERO totebags will be on sale for only $10. All proceeds from totebag sales will be donated to JERF, The Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, set up by Japan Society in the wake of 3/11. For more information on JERF, visit http://www.japansociety.org/page/earthquake
Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for both English and Japanese-speaking artists and audiences. Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has produced more than 600 showings of Japan’s finest performing arts to an extensive American audience in and out of New York City. Program topics range from the traditional to the avant-garde. Japan Society commissions new works, administrates national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and distributes educational programs. The Society is responsible for hosting more than 100 events each year. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society’s overarching goal is to cultivate a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.
For press interested in attending this show to review or photograph: please be aware that we have an extremely limited number of house seats available. Please contact John Seroff, the press manager for Japan Society’s music events at GreenHousePublicity@gmail.com to request press tickets or will-call holds, to contact JERO for interview by phone, email or in person (either in Japanese or in English) or to discuss working with us further.
COMPLETE SHOW INFORMATION:
Conversation with John Wheeler + Concert with JERO at 7:30pm
Ticket Includes Entry to Post-Performance Reception
Pittsburgh-native, Tokyo-based enka superstar JERO makes his New York debut at Japan Society. With his smooth voice and hip-hop style, JERO has breathed new life into this sentimental Japanese music genre often associated with themes of one’s hometown, lost loves and sake. Often referred to as the “Japanese blues” or “Japanese country music,” enka’s melodies and required vocal techniques make it a quintessentially Japanese musical style.
Since releasing his debut single “Umiyuki (Ocean Snow)” in 2008,JERO has received the Japan Record Awards Best New Artist award and has appeared on Japan’s most prestigious New Year’s Eve music spectacular Kohaku Uta Gassen.
In this intimate evening, JERO will speak with the incomparable Japan expert and former Japan Society Executive Vice President John Wheeler about his relationship with the Japanese world of enka and serenade audiences with his own original songs as well as enka classics including those of Misora Hibari (美空ひばり) and Itsuki Hiroshi (五木ひろし).
John Wheeler is a consultant on Japan to corporations and non-profit cultural and international affairs organizations. He spent more than two decades at Japan Society in New York, serving as Executive Vice President and helping to guide the Society through a significant period of growth. Before joining Japan Society, Mr. Wheeler worked for Time-Life Books on assignments in New York, Tokyo and Singapore. An authority on Japan and U.S.-Japan relations, he is the author of numerous articles and co-author of a book, Takamiyama, The World of Sumo. He has appeared as a commentator on Japanese and U.S. television. Mr. Wheeler is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard University. He has studied and taught in Japan and India.
Reception at 6:30pm, Dinner at 7:30pm
The keynote speaker for the 2012 Japan Society Annual Dinner will be David M. Rubenstein, the Co-Founder & Managing Director of The Carlyle Group. Japan Society Award Recipients will include Carlos Ghosn (President & CEO of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.) and artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.
The evening’s Master of Ceremonies will be the US Managing Editor of Financial Times, Ms. Gillian Tett. Ms. Tett will engage Mr. Rubenstein on stage for a special dialogue following the keynote speech. The dinner will include an intimate performance by breakthrough American enka singer JERO.
To purchase tickets for this premium event, call 212-715-1219, email
GENERAL VENUE INFORMATION:
A waitlist for Let’s Enka! with JERO will begin one hour before the performance in the lobby of Japan Society. Arrive early for your best chance at last minute seats.
Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues. The venue is easily accessible by the 4 / 5 / 6 trains via the 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E / V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street
For more information about this show, questions about the venue, or to learn more about the entire Performing Arts season at Japan Society, please call 212-832-1155 or visit us on the web at http://www.japansociety.org/performingarts
Transportation for this concert is provided by United Airlines.
Major support for Japan Society 2011-2012 Performing Arts Programs is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the Endowment for the Performing Arts, established with leadership gifts from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Globus Family, Kyocera Corporation, The Starr Foundation and Toyota Motor Corporation. Additional major support is provided by the Odawara Art Foundation. MetLife Foundation is a Corporate Partner of Japan Society’s 2011-2012 Performing Arts season.
Japan Society is also grateful to the following individuals, foundations, and government agencies for their generous support: Dr. John K. Gillespie; The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.; Dr. and Mrs. Carl F. Taeusch II; Mr. Norton Belknap; Mr. Terry Brykczynski and Ms. Andrea Miller; Ms. Hiroko Onoyama; Howard and Sarah Solomon; Mr. Alex York; and Paula S. Lawrence. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Transportation assistance is provided by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.