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Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008

Fans shocked at fall


By SETSUKO KAMIYA, NATSUKO FUKUE and ALEX MARTIN
Staff writers

As a composer and producer, Tetsuya Komuro was an undisputed sensation on the Japanese and Asian music scenes from the late 1980s to the 1990s.

News photo
Before the fall: Music producer Tetsuya Komuro in July 1998 meets then Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Hong Kong at the first anniversary ceremony of the colony's handover to China. KYODO PHOTO

Thus news of his Tuesday arrest for fraud surprised people across Japan as well as in many other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong and Shanghai.

"His music was really easy to sing along to," said 33-year-old Kyoto resident Tsuyoshi Miike, who was around 20 years old when Komuro's works dominated the scene.

"I think it was more the melody and the style of his music that had an impact rather than the artists singing them," he said.

The 49-year-old Komuro, a Waseda University dropout, debuted in 1984 as a member of TM Network. The group soon became a fixture on the pop charts, which they topped in 1987 with "Get Wild."

In no time, Komuro moved beyond his own group to begin composing songs for dozens of other artists, including chart-toppers for Misato Watanabe, Ryoko Shinohara, Tomomi Kahala and Namie Amuro. Komuro eventually formed the trio globe and continued his career as a performer as well.

Mostly upbeat dance music, the tunes were catchy and easy to remember, which made them popular at karaoke joints everywhere.

Komuro expanded his music projects overseas, especially in Asia. Amuro, TRF and many other Komuro associates performed in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where they enjoyed a large fan base.

In 1998, Komuro even launched a music venture in Hong Kong — reportedly with Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch — but withdrew from management in 2004.

"(Komuro is) very famous in Hong Kong. I guess nearly everybody knows him," said 27-year-old Jessica Lam, a Hong Kong resident who said her younger sister had TRF and Amuro CDs.

Noting Komuro's popularity in Hong Kong from around 1997 to 2000, Lam said she was surprised at the news of his arrest.

"He disappeared for quite a while, and suddenly reappears with this shocking news," Lam said by e-mail.

England Cheng, a Shanghai-based magazine editor originally from Hong Kong, also remembered Komuro's popularity in the 1990s.

"I used to like those dance beats . . . and we sang Amuro's songs in karaoke quite often," said Cheng, also via e-mail from Shanghai.

She added that her favorite was Amuro's Komuro-written megahit "Can You Celebrate?"

"I think now he can't celebrate anything," she said.

In 2000, the government appointed Komuro the music producer for the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, where Amuro sang the theme song he composed titled "Never End."

But Komuro gradually lost popularity and momentum after that. And with his arrest Tuesday, his career may in fact be at an end.

"I think Komuro became too greedy," said 27-year-old Ken Kimura, who works for a marketing company in Tokyo.

"His strategic moves, like making his studio in Hong Kong, didn't pay off. He couldn't catch up with the evolving digital media, either. He lost touch with the trends and I think that caused his decline," said Kimura, who said he sang many Komuro-produced songs on karaoke.

Cheng in Shanghai also said the speed of technological change, such as the eclipsing of CDs by music downloads from the Internet, was making things difficult for people in the music industry to earn like they used to.

"Maybe that's one of the reasons they have to find a new way to make a 'living,' " she said.



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