Saturday, March 28, 2009

Festival Feature: A Japanese Idol From Pittsburgh

Jerome Charles White Jr. is Japan’s first black Enka singer.

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 28, 2009; B01

Suddenly, out of the predawn fog, he was there, in all his hip-hop splendor: sideways red baseball cap, gleaming red and white Nikes, long silver neck bling.

The TV lights were on. The interview chair was waiting for him. But when the Japanese ambassador arrived, wearing a dark suit and pink tie, the star placed his hands at his sides and bowed deeply.

Down by the misty Tidal Basin yesterday, this was no rapper. It was Jero, the mind-bending African American-Japanese pop sensation, who was doing a mini-media blitz for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. He performs about 4:15 p.m. today during the festival's opening ceremony at the National Building Museum.

Cherry blossoms and bling?

Jero -- Jerome White Jr., 27, of Pittsburgh -- is a dazzling mix of musical, national and ethnic cultures. Part Lil Wayne, part Wayne Newton, part Japanese torch singer, he looks like the latest American rapper. But he has hit the charts in Japan specializing in a kind of traditional, low-key romance music called enka.

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