I’ve had a long fascination with Japan and Japanese culture, but knew almost nothing about it until I met my wife, Naomi, whose hometown is Tokyo, Japan. So I found this Yahoo article fascinating, about a 27-year-old American who has become famous in Japan for singing an updated, hip-hop influenced version of a traditional Japanese folk music called enka.
Jerome White Jr. learned about enka from his Japanese grandmother, who passed away in 2005.
Enka had an unwavering hook on White, and it has made him a superstar in Japan, where he’s known as Jero. Named best new artist last year by Japan Record Awards — the Japanese version of the Grammys — White made his first major U.S. appearance Saturday during the opening ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington before a diverse audience of several hundred. They cheered, waved and some even held up signs bearing his name.
White’s career took off last year with his first release, “Umiyuki,” or “Ocean Snow,” which debuted at number four on the local pop charts — the highest debut ever by an enka artist. Last month, he released his first original album, “Yakusoku,” or “Promise.” Some of his performances are featured on the YouTube Web site.
You can see Jero in action on YouTube (with English subtitles).