Pump up the J-pop volume

Luna Sea's (above from left) Kiyonobu Inoue, Jun Onose, Ryuichi Kawamura, Shinya Yamada and Yasuhiro Sugihara are pioneers in the Japanese visual kei movement. (ANN/The Straits Times/1HKO ENTERTAINMENT)
Luna Sea's (above from left) Kiyonobu Inoue, Jun Onose, Ryuichi Kawamura, Shinya Yamada and Yasuhiro Sugihara are pioneers in the Japanese visual kei movement. (ANN/The Straits Times/1HKO ENTERTAINMENT)

One of Japan's biggest rock bands, Luna Sea, will be performing in Singapore next year for the first time since its formation 26 years ago.

They will be heading here on February 8 to play at the 5,000-seat The Star Theatre at The Star Performing Arts Centre in one-north, Buona Vista. The stop is part of Luna Sea's The End Of The Dream Asia Tour 2013.

Luna Sea's concert is the latest in a series of Japanese music events held here recently. Last month, pop-rock band flumpool performed here for the first time, and piano rock band Weaver, the second.

Big names which have made their debut appearances in Singapore include veteran rock band L'Arc-En-Ciel, which performed at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in April, as well as pop queen Namie Amuro, who came here in July for album promotions.

There are more companies trying to draw upon Japanese music, a vast resource for the concert scene here, as Japan is still the world's second largest music market and the biggest in Asia.

J-Live Asia, which brought in flumpool, Weaver, and rock band One Ok Rock in June, was created in March this year to promote Japanese popular music in Singapore.

It is also bringing in popular J-pop girl group Perfume next month for a November 24 show at *Scape Warehouse. Ticket sales will begin from Sunday.

The brand is a partnership between Sozo, a Singapore-based entertainment and youth marketing company, and Dentsu Singapore, a subsidiary of Dentsu, Japan's largest media and advertising agency group. Both companies are behind the popular Anime Festival Asia.

Shawn Chin, executive director of Sozo and co-founder of J-Live Asia, explains why they are bringing in even more Japanese music acts.

He says: "Over the last three to four years, online platforms such as YouTube have made J-pop content more accessible and artist companies are able to have a better sense of the popularity of the artists in the Southeast Asian region."

1HKO Entertainment, the local co-promoter of the Luna Sea concert, agrees. Its spokesman says: "Overall, Japanese artists don't come to Singapore because they are unsure of their popularity and demand in Singapore."

Chin adds: "It has only been in the last few years that we've seen the Japanese music industry looking to expand beyond Japan and into South-east Asia. In the past, Japanese artists have considered overseas concerts only in East Asia - Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea - and also regions such as the United States and Europe."

Michael Roche, regional director of Lushington Entertainments, which organized the L'Arc-En-Ciel concert here, says: "We undertook L'Arc-en-Ciel to test the waters for the J-pop market here since it has been many years since the Chage and Aska concerts in the 1990s.

"It's a tough market and costs of staging and large entourages make it very tough to make the budget work but we'd still consider Japanese acts on a case-by-case basis."

Luna Sea's Singapore engagement is their last stop in the region after Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. Public ticket sales will begin from November 17 through Sistic and prices start from S$128.

Luna Sea are hailed as pioneers in the Japanese visual kei movement - a glam rock-influenced movement generally dominated by men and involves copious amounts of make-up as well as flamboyant outfits.

They have released seven studio albums and sold more than nine million records in Japan alone.

The 1HKO spokesman says: "Luna Sea are a big name in Japan and we know that there is a strong fan base in Singapore as well as South-east Asia. We have always wanted to bring them over but just did not have the right connection or experience to do so previously.

"At the same time, we got to know that Luna Sea are planning an Asia Tour, so we spent much effort in inviting them over. Not many Japanese artists stop by Singapore for a tour concert but we want to change this."

Video editor Peter Pang, 27, founder of the Slave Singapore Luna Sea Facebook page, is excited that the band he has followed since he was a teenager are finally heading to Singapore.

He thinks upcoming Japanese acts might have been encouraged by the response L'Arc-En-Ciel received and is looking forward to more acts coming here. He says: "It's good for the J-rock scene that all these bands are coming and are starting to become more active in Southeast Asia. This should happened 10 to 15 years ago when the Japanese wave was huge."

Pang hopes to see veterans such as heavy metal band X Japan, which Luna Sea's Sugizo is also a member of, Dir en Grey, and popular group Glay, perform in Singapore.

1HKO is aware of the local interest in these bands.

Its spokesperson says: "Nothing has been finalized yet but we know that big acts such as X Japan are also looking forward to holding a show in Singapore and all their fans have been waiting for them to come over.

"Many other organizers would like to host their show here as well."

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