Jero, a Japanese-African-American singer credited with reviving popular interest in Japan’s postwar sentimental ballads known as enka, will receive the 2011 Berkeley Japan New Vision Award from the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Japanese Studies in a private ceremony on campus Friday, April 8.
Jero has been applauded for rekindling enthusiasm for enka among Japan’s younger generation and for encouraging fluent Japanese speakers from around the world to enter Japan’s entertainment and other industries. Jero, who prefers hip-hop garb over the traditional Japanese kimonos worn by many enka singers, also has become a symbol for multi-ethnic acceptance in 21stcentury Japan.
Jero will perform a short, free concert at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall Auditorium after receiving the award. He also will participate in an on-stage interview.
The Berkeley Japan New Vision Award was established in 2009 to recognize an individual who has dramatically transformed the contemporary vision of Japan. The first award recipient was filmmaker Clint Eastwood, for his dual production of the movies “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which depicted one of World War II’s most horrific battles from American and Japanese viewpoints.
Born Jerome Charles White Jr. in Pittsburg, Pa., Jero is said to have been influenced by his Japanese grandmother and took up enka singing at the age of six. Enka, a genre whose songs often conclude with the singer near tears, emerged in Japan in the 1940s.
After studying information science at the University of Pittsburg, Jero moved to Japan in 2003 to pursue a singing career. His recording debut in 2008 featured a single, “Umiyuki (“Ocean Snow”), and was followed by his critically acclaimed albums, “Covers” (2008), “Yakusoku” (2009), “Covers 2” (2009) and “Covers 3” (2010). Jero was named Japan’s best new artist for 2008.
As part of his first U.S. concert tour, Jero performed to a sold-out crowd at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts in March 2010.
Seats at the Wheeler Hall concert are sold out. The Center for Japanese Studies is only accepting requests for standby tickets at (510) 642-3415 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, email address, phone number and number of tickets requested. The limit is two tickets per request.