Saturday, December 13, 2008

Random Japaneseness

Yes, they’re Japanese. Yes, they’re wearing Afro wigs. Yes, they’re doing a Jackson 5 cover... a cappella.

No, I am not pleased.

31 comments:

NunaOni said...

Do you find this offensive? They are not being offensive, they are just doing an imitation. Ask yourself if you would be offended if a Black person did the same, I doubt it. If I were going to imitate the Jackson 5, I would throw on the dashiki and afro wig also. They aren't half bad either.

Big Don said...

I vote *PRESENT"...

cnulan said...

I'll be really impressed if they can bust a convincing cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes....,

Edshugeo The GodMoor said...

I thought that was cool.

maria said...

ha, crazy shit! offensive or not, it's just weird.

what exactly IS the market for Japanese jackson 5 impersonators?

KeWayne said...

What could be cuter than 5 Japanese with big Afro's doing Motown. I'd love to see them doing 'Dancing In The Street", by Martha & The Vandellas...

Mad Hatter said...

I dont see anything wrong.

Undercover Black Man said...

CNulan: Would you settle for The Manhattans?

Undercover Black Man said...

I need to clarify. I'm not offended by these ladies... but neither am I delighted. As with many Japanese pop-cultural artifacts, the cuteness factor is outweighed by the WTF factor.

cnulan said...

That'll work.

Now I AM impressed and I must say delighted by the ladies' intricately produced cultural syncretism.

Imitation is after all the highest form of flattery.

David, has your casual surveillance of these artifacts given you any sense of the size and scope of this subculture? How does it compare to other external variations with which Japanese have shown a fondness for playing intricate dress-up?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Craig, these are the only ones I've encountered who be rockin' the Afro wigs. Maybe that's what puts me off a little bit. Couldn't they just sing the songs?

I encountered a Japanese all-girl Beatles cover band a while back. Kinda cute, yeah... but the phonetic pronunciations... I don't know. The novelty wears off pretty quickly, for a Beatles fan.

The whole thing reminds me of a TV news report I saw a long time ago about a country-western fad in Japan... with hip young Japanese dressing up in cowboy duds and singing country hits.

Imitation=flattery, I guess. But the whole "drag" aspect, to me, bespeaks too much focus on the surface image, not enough on the depth of the thing.

that dude said...

I dug the J5 cover but once I saw the Manhattans, I was hooked.

There's a Japanese girl beat boxing! Who can be mad at that?

They have great taste in covers. I would see this act in the US, let alone in Japan.

The Afros are the only questionable part, but Afros are cool and iconic, how could they pass on that? A black group covering the same era would pop them on. The Boogie Knights (a white band that does disco covers)
already does.

If I was in Japan and stumbled on this act, I would be very happy, and be peeping to see which one was the cutest. There's five of 'em...at least one should be fine.

Dollar Bill said...

David brings up a good question that I have been asking for quite a while.

Are Afro wigs the modern equivalent to black face?

I've had to filter through so many live cover bands that feel a afro wig,sequins and platform shoes,somehow make them more authentic,rather than just playing the music and playing it well.

The pressure has been applied to me as well,but I'll be damned if I'm going to suffer through bell bottoms,twice in my lifetime.

I know it would get me more bookings for more money,but it just comes of as lampooning and mocking,instead of the true apprecuiation I have for the music and culture.

So is the afro wig,just another innocent part of that retro look or is it used to identify with blackness in a supposedly non-offensive way?

This has been a frequent topic for me again with the upcoming Black Dynamite movie,which is very tounge n'cheek about 70's Blaxploitation movies.

I am a strange child,who grew up watching these movies on late,late night TV and as a result had my first set of action hero's who I took at 100% face value.

I was shocked and horrified the first time I booked some original prints in a movie theatre and had a sold out crowd,LAUGHING at my childhood hero's.

WTF!

I had never looked at the fashion,fro's,ho's,low budgetness in that way before and was truly upset.

Like seeing Oz behind the curtain,my reality was altered forever and I see and understand the campy laughs now,but it was still a sad day.

Sorry to ramble(get your own blog!),but the real question remains,is the Afro wig just another prop to make fun of the 70's or a prop to make fun of Black people?

To turn something that was a symbol of the Black Power,pride and self love movement into a source of trivial laughter,doesn't it diminish the original message?

Undercover Black Man said...

There's a Japanese girl beat boxing! Who can be mad at that?

Bah. Humbug.

cnulan said...

Imitation=flattery, I guess. But the whole "drag" aspect, to me, bespeaks too much focus on the surface image, not enough on the depth of the thing.

There's no way into the depth of the thing save through broaching its surface.

Are Afro wigs the modern equivalent to black face?

No more than big brimmed hats and coordinating accessories in flamboyant colors with high-heeled platform shoes were the equivalent of spoofing victorian male gear.

Seriously, to see the flyest of the fly pimp gear, one need only watch some of those PBS period dramas and the entire Flag Bro.'s catalog on steroids is on display.

Go back to the florentine era, three musketeers, and all-a-dat and it gets yet another notch more pimpalicious. Not to mention all the outrageous gear and hairstyles being sported by samurai during this same span of time during which Japan was somewhat intentionally cut off from the west.

There's no moresarcasm in what these ladies are up to than there is in the Wu-Tang clan's tribute to Shaw Bro's/Golden Harvest spectacles, which were themselves tributes to Samurai epics from the 60's.

There's so much more syncretic cross pollination possible, and like the 70's the global economic downturn is going to amp up folks creativity as a meritocratic avenue to status and attention in contrast with the conformist cash flash shyte that has dragged popular culture to the nadir of creativity since the late 1980's.

Nipsey Muhammad said...

To turn something that was a symbol of the Black Power,pride and self love movement into a source of trivial laughter,doesn't it diminish the original message?

I haven't digested a meal properly since Bo Derek cornrowed her bleach-blonde string mop in "10."

Masking is masking, and it will always invite a dubious gaze from me.

How would you easily entertained coloreds feel if they were singing Bob Marley joints... wearing dreadlock wigs?

If these Yokohama mamas don't wanna come correct, I'd rather see 'em laid out buck naked and covered with sushi. That's what I'm talkin' about!

NunaOni said...

"Are Afro wigs the modern equivalent to black face?"

I vote no way in hell! Although the wearing of our hair in its natural state was a form of Black pride, it eventually became a fashion statement (or maybe it was fashion from the jump). If these girls were singing Duke Ellington in afro wigs, then you might have a point. However the larger point is that the J5 had big azz afros. Would it be offensive if a MJ impressionist sported a jheri curl? I don't think so.

People, let's not make every inch of ourselves an offensive characteristic.

cnulan said...

Masking is masking

What exactly does "masking" mean in this context?

I absolutely see nothing worthy of taking offense to in any of this material.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ What do you say to Nipsey's point about them singing Bob Marley songs in dreadlock wigs?

Wouldn't this quintet be just as entertaining -- to the degree that it is -- without masking their hair?

Dollar Bill said...

I agree that a Afro wig can be non-offensive and innocent,but it can also be malicious,ignorant and insulting.

As with everything,it is all about intent.

So is it imitation and authenticity or mockery?

Case by case basis,but for me it becomes questionable when it is used for laughs or camp factor,by people that couldn't rock a natural 'fro,even with all the perm solution in the world.

cnulan,excellent point about Victorian fashion being a influence.
One look at the cover for Mutiny - Mutiny On The Mamaship,more than confirms that(P)theory.

HoweverI think that while the Afro was part fashion,there is something deeper and more important about it.

It may just be me(The white kid in Canada),what do I know,I was still wearing the latest in Gary Shider ensembles when the Afro was at it's strongest.

cnulan said...

Wouldn't this quintet be just as entertaining -- to the degree that it is -- without masking their hair?

In precisely the same way a Led Zeppelin tribute band would be as entertaining dressed like the Four Freshmen...,

HoweverI think that while the Afro was part fashion,there is something deeper and more important about it.

As a former big-assed afro wearing buster, I can assure you that there was nothing deeper or more important about it than transitory fashion or style.

Which is why you see so many more processed, bleached blonde weaves on female heads than afros, and, feminized sets of cornrow braids on doods than you see afros. Lastly, there is what we used to call a "quo vadis" you know, the peeled close to the scalp look which is nowadays dominant across all Black male social strata...,

cnulan said...

What would Faheem Akuta say about it?

John B. said...

There's a disco cover band here in Milwaukee called the Boogie Men that's also down with the Afro wigs and I've never heard anyone complain, although in their case it's more like "Jewish Afros" (Hebros?)

Dave, don't you remember back in the Seventies everybody was into the Afro look!

I vote thumbs up!

John B. said...

cnulan:

A led Zeppelin tribute band dressed up like the Four Freshmen would be awesome!

Andrew said...

although in their case it's more like "Jewish Afros" (Hebros?)

Nah, they're called "Jewfros." It might be hyphenated, but I'm not sure.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ My favorite slang encyclopedia also says "Isro."

Undercover Black Man said...

A led Zeppelin tribute band dressed up like the Four Freshmen would be awesome!

Precisely. If these young ladies performed this material dressed like geishas... now that's syncretism.

Geneva Girl said...

Sorry UBM, I agree with NunaOni on this one.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ No sorries necessary, GG.

Anonymous said...

Went there on several occasions, military, and these people copy just about everything black people do in this country.

Anonymous said...

Btw, the younger crowds in Japan and Korea sport real afros. I bull shit you not! They copy us not of making jokes, but they really want to be like us!