[news] Asian Stars Shine: Wonder Girls On The Move As Far East Movement Soars

Whether you call it inevitable or long overdue, the Asian music scene is making its mark on America – and New York City is the gateway for what has literally become a far east movement. Lewis Dodley reports that the movement is now full speed ahead.

It's been four years since "Rain" fell on Madison Square Garden – but you could hardly call it a drought.

Though he is now out of the U.S. spotlight, the former and original producers of the aforementioned Korean heartthrob haven't missed a beat, forging ahead with their dream of creating an Asian pop star in America. JYP Entertainment set up shop in New York City three years ago with a mission – one that their group the Wonder Girls has come on the brink of realizing. They are 21-year-olds Sun (Min Sun Ye) and Yenny (Pak Ye Un), 22-year-old Yubin (Kim Yoo Bin) and 18-year-olds Sohee (Ahn So Hee) and Lim (Woo Hye Lim). Lim stepped in for Sunmi (Lee Sun Mi), who wanted to dedicate more time to her education – a transition that has apparently been seamless.

"She is the baby (youngest) of the group along with Sohee, and everybody loves her kind and happy personality," said JYP Marketing Director David Hyun.

After last year's first English-language single, "Nobody," and their tour opening for the Jonas Brothers, the group followed up this year with the predominantly English language CD "Two Different Tears" and a full-blown U.S. tour that included a sold-out performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. Two shows were performed in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu because of high demand, and Wonder Girls merchandise flew off the shelves. They appeared on the Wendy Williams Show last year, but have designs on their own national show next year, to serve as a showcase for their talents.

Hyun says the Wonder Girls are currently going back and forth between the U.S. and Asia, recording songs and doing events and shows.

"We get a lot of performance/appearance requests from all over Asia including China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. They were recently in Cannes, France for the MIPCOM conference, doing red carpet and performances there," says Hyun, who also said we should brace ourselves for the Wonder Girls new album in early 2011.

"We are excited about it because there will be lots of good songs on it," he says.

While the meter is still running on "2 Different Tears", "Nobody" landed on the Billboard Hot 100 – a first for a Korean group. Not bad for five young ladies who just three years ago were singing, speaking and thinking only in Korean.

Last year in an exclusive interview with NY1, JYPE founder and mega-producer J.Y. Park predicted an Asian star music movement in the United States – and true to his words the Wonder Girls are not alone. In fact, Park's words may already be prophecy through four Asian-Americans who are taking the charts by storm.

Kev Nish (Kevin Nishimura) of Chinese and Japanese descent, Korean-Americans Prohgress (James Roh) and J Splif (Jae Choung) and Filipino-American DJ Virman (Virman Coquia) are the west coast guys who make up Far East Movement. Despite the fact that it only took them two hours to put the song together, their hit "Like a G-6" has flown to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a first for an artist of Asian descent since Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" in 1963.

"We have been working for a while, so the fact that people are connecting with us is just a really cool thing," said Prohgress.

It has yet to be seen whether Far East Movement will reach the iconic status JYPE aspires, but they couldn't be off to a better start – a start that predicates itself on the so-called "Free Wired" lifestyle.

"There are so many cultures out there; Free Wired is mixing it all together" says Kev Nish. "In our sound Free Wired, we're not really defined by one genre so we're taking on an alternative pop route."

Childhood friends Kev Nish, J Splif and Prohgress found their love for music fresh out of high school and have since been on world tours, signed international distribution deals and had their music featured on numerous other media projects. Though they hail from Los Angeles, they recognize the melting pot that is New York, and that the road to stardom will always come through the city. At a recent engagement in Midtown the members told NY1 they still don't feel successful and that despite the name of their group it's not about any particular race.

"We grew up in a scene where there are Latino rappers, African-American rappers, Caucasian, and we all grew up as kind of a community," said Kev Nish. "So when we saw them rise it wasn't like they broke because they're a certain race or we broke because we're a certain race; we all just mesh together. Whoever breaks it's about you're repping your neighborhood, you're repping the street, you're repping the scene."

Also hoping New York would help launch their American presence is JYJ, comprised of three members of the Korean five-member boy group TVXQ. Themselves an Asian sensation, TVXQ is on hiatus after members Xiah (Kim Jun Su), Micky (Park Yoo Chun) and Hero (Kim Jae Joong) won a lawsuit against Korea's SM Entertainment over the length of their contract. The other two members, U-Know (Jung Yun Ho) and Max (Choikang Chang Miin), reportedly did not join the suit because they were busy preparing for their debut dramas.

A drama of a different type played out as JYJ attempted to put on a showcase concert in New York promoting their first English-language album, "The Beginning". With songs including performances by Kanye West and Queens rapper Flowsik, JYJ is hoping the album will also give it a foothold in America as it wades through its problems with SM. But the Manhattan show was nearly derailed as the group failed to get a work visa and had to return all the money to ticket holders and let the other concertgoers in for free.

Still, the popularity of their sound – not to mention the attention from hitmaker West and their seemingly advanced English skills – seems bound to put JYJ on the map.

Trying to put traditional Korean music on the contemporary map is YIEN. They are five young ladies who take centuries-old instruments to places that music lovers thought they'd never go. The so-called kinetic music group hopes to convey young sentiments through traditional elements of Korean music and electronic sounds. All in their mid-20s, YIEN brought their instruments the haegeum (Kang Dul Yi), gayageum (Nam Kyung Min), piri/taepyeongso (Lee Saem Yi) daegeum/sogeum (Cha Jeong Hui) and janggu/kkwaenggwari (Han Sol Ip) to Flushing, Queens, and wowed the adoring crowd.

YIEN started off in Korea in 2003 as a group of college freshmen who wanted to "reinvent" the prevailing image of the lyrical and quiet art form called gukak, while still respecting its roots. In fact the group says everything thing they do musically is based on gukak. YIEN tries to separate themselves from other gukak bands with not only their style, but their administration. The group is actually seven members when including the director and producer, and they are not under any label or management company. They are also de facto Korean ambassadors, having also travelled to countries like Peru, Bolivia and most recently Australia spreading their musical prowess.

YIEN has also been partially funded by the Korea Foundation and Arts Council Korea, pointing to the promise this young band possesses. Upon the release of their first CD, "Urban Heart," one music critic noted their uniqueness, calling YIEN "a free-spirited and lively girl group that proposed a new stage culture with an urban-style stage art and fashionable clothes." Professor Won Il of the Korea National University of Arts calls YIEN "a group of precious and young artistic spirits that delve into ways of communicating with audiences in new manners as well as their identity and musical identity through music in Korea."

The question facing YIEN and the other groups now is whether their identity can be embraced by the world. Luckily for us, it appears they won't take no for an answer.

Source: Lewis Dodley @ NY1.com