AKB48's first overseas-based sister group25 January, 2012 by Mus
Near the end of 2011, AKB48 staged its own singing contest prior to the perennial NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Aside from being the first time such a singing competition was staged by the AKB48 family, it was also the first glimpse many Japanese (as well as the overseas fans through Google+) caught of the Jakarta-based AKB48 sister group, JKT48.
Akimoto Yasushi has constantly spoken of plans to expand the AKB48 family overseas. Given the presence of shops in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore, these locations were the first guesses for any probable new sister group, given their cultural closeness to Japan, as well as already proven fanbases. Indonesia, for all intents and purposes, was not on anyone’s list of places.
This only added to the surprise many had, when auditions for JKT48 were announced on the Internet. The initial lack of any official announcement by AKS only served to exacerbate fans’ doubts. These doubts however, were erased by an eventual official announcement on the official AKB48 blog.
Not long after, flanked by the 28 first generation members of JKT48, Akimoto Yasushi introduced the first overseas sister group of AKB48.
Right out of the gate, the girls were placed in a prominent ad, endorsing drink brand Pocari Sweat. Many were quick to point out that the commercial featured the AKB48 hit Heavy Rotation – in Bahasa Indonesia. With that, many came to realize the portability of the AKB48 formula. Refined to the point of being culturally odourless, the AKB concept was exported to Indonesia for the Indonesians.
A country that’s no stranger to idols (local versions of La Academia and Popstars were huge hits), Jakarta presents the perfect place to start a sister group to AKB48. With the AKB brand giving it a jump-start in the beginning, JKT48 aims to be the ‘original Indonesian idols’. Of course, this is made easier when you have a huge library of existing pop hits to localize from.
The new group doesn’t fall too far from the AKB tree. With the initial selection of 28 members, girls from the age of 12 to 22 were selected, with as broad an archetype range as you could possibly have. Part of the 48 groups’ established formula, that has proven to attract fans – there is, after all, something for everyone.
Response to the group has been favourable in Japan as well; the cheers were as loud as ever when the group performed the Indonesian version of Aitakatta to a full capacity crowd at Tokyo Dome City for AKB Kouhaku Uta Gassen. The group also performed at the actual NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen, and even made an appearance at this year’s Request Hour Set List Best 100 concert.
With a now solid fanbase of Indonesian fans, there is no doubt that JKT48 is bound for success, even if the extent of that success is still very much unknown. Even many who scoffed at the idea of an overseas 48 are now sitting up and listening.
What will be next in Akimoto Yasushi’s plans for world domination and where will JKT48 end up in the grand scheme of things? Only time can tell. And I, for one, am excited for the prospects.