Thursday, April 16, 2009
No Language Barrier in Asian Pop
LookAtVietnam.com reports a flurry of activity with some of the country’s top pop singers making records for other Asian markets. My Linh (in photo) has released three CDs in Japan on the country’s Pony Canyon label and a fourth one is in the works. Minh Thu is cracking the Thai market and My Tam is collaborating with a label in South Korea. All these singers sing in Vietnamese—Japanese, Thai, and South Korean fans don’t seem to mind the language barrier.
In fact, this lack of a language barrier probably has something to do with the huge Canto-Pop, Mandarin-Pop and K-Pop industries that learned their stuff from the successful Japanese J-Pop phenomenon, which has been around since the 1970s. I remember trying to save money by buying the Hong Kong pressings of Akina Nakamori or Seiko Matsuda’s CDs, which were cheaper than the Japanese. Akina and Seiko sang in Japanese, but the song lyrics were translated into Chinese in the CD booklet. Some also had the Japanese written in hiragana (the simple phonetic writing) so those who wanted to learn it could follow along in Japanese.
Perhaps Asia has been open to singers singing foreign languages because they have had to endure English pushed down their throats ever since records were invented. But here in the States, it seems that listeners have little tolerance for music sung in “foreign” languages. Except for the occasional novelty song, English seems to rule in the music world here. And Japanese singers who are trying to make it in the U.S. like Boa (who sings in her native Korean as well) and Utada aren’t allowed to sing in their native languages.