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"JENKA" cuts Japan's music scene with originality and talent

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-01-01

If you are looking for something different at the CD shop here in Japan, you should check out JENKA. The female singer-song writer has been turning many heads in the music industry with her original lyrics and voice. Although she is very popular in the Japanese pop music world, she is definitely not a product of fancy videos with the latest dance moves imported from America. JENKA is considered a fine artists by many of her peers, both in Japan and abroad.

She released her first album in May of 1995 titled "Sugar Beats", and quickly blew away many music producers and critics with her unique style of singing and clear sound. The album received high kudos from other top artists, such as Kahime Karie, Cornelius, and the Cardigans. JENKA continued to attract attention from the international music community with an appearance later in that same year at the Swedish Pop Festival, where she met Cardigans producer Tore Johansson. Impressed by her work, he was quoted describing her first album as "the most personal and original album of all the Japanese artists."

Johansson quickly sensed that JENKA had the talent and originality to do some serious work under his production, and he offered his expertise on her next CD. Drawn to her music writing abilities, Johansson decided to produce the new artist under his own "Vibrafon Records" label. Taking advantage of the opportunity to work with a major European producer, JENKA flew to Sweden the following year. She wrote all the music and lyrics for the new CD, and labored for three months at Tambourine Studios. The result was a wide variety of excellent songs, and a fresh new sound that was lacking among many of Japan's leading pop artists. JENKA also became the first foreign artist to be released under the Vibrafon Records label.

In 1997 she released a maxi single CD, which included the hits "Muddy Muddy Murmer" and "Becky and a Boyfriend". It was followed by the album "BE" in December of that same year, showcasing more of her work with Johansson. The album was released here in Japan as a foreign import, and received even better reviews than her first CD. Since that time, major CD shops and recording companies have embraced JENKA, helping to push her CD sales.

JENKA recently landed a recording contract with Sony Music Japan/ Epic Records, and is now presently working on new music to complete her next album.

Despite having many fans and people in the music industry running after the popular artist, JENKA remains very elusive from the media, and concentrates on her work with a minimum of staff around her. Her devotion to song writing has furthered her appeal with many fans, who have grown tired of the TV pop idols, who frequent the air waves so often. She has also managed to attract fans by singing all of her songs in English. Her pronunciation is not the greatest, but it is part of her allure and sultry sound. She claims that she is trying to "write lyrics that no native English speaker is able to write", which seems to be working.

On the single "Again and Again" released from Epic Records in October 31, 1998, she draws you into the song with her sweet voice. The lyrics become a blend with the music, which flows into a very up-tempo beat, backed with drums, bass, and guitar. The words are sometimes hard to decipher, but you find yourself listening and enjoying the song.

Her new album is scheduled to be released on January 30, 1999. Fans are waiting, and music critics are anxious to see if JENKA has again managed to pull off another great CD. It will also be interesting to see if JENKA manages to break the international barriers and become a major artist in Europe and America.

For now, you can catch this pop artist on her already released CDs, or grab her latest off of the shelves on January 30. She is also rumored to possibly be making an appearance here on Okinawa, so keep your ears open for announcements.

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