Asian News 2/2

Page Talks Zep

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was in Japan the weekend of January 26 to promote the group’s greatest hits package, Mothership, as well as the re-release of "The Song Remains the Same."

At a press conference he was naturally asked about the possibility of a world tour with his former band and said that, at present, Robert Plant was busy with his Alison Krauss project and until that was finished he couldn’t give a definite answer. "Certainly not until September," he added.

According to the Nikkan Sports newspaper, one reporter asked Page his opinion of actress Erika Sawajiri, who flew to London for the Led Zeppelin reunion concert last fall.

Page said he didn’t know the woman, but his answer was translated as "betsu ni" (nothing special), a famous line that Sawajiri uttered repeatedly in a petulant tone last summer during a press conference for her latest movie and which landed her in the doghouse with her management.

The attending reporters exploded into laughter, which puzzled the rock legend. "Maybe I should have met the lady," he replied.


NK Orchestra To Play In U.K.

The North Korea State Symphony Orchestra will play two concerts in Great Britain next September, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The 120-member orchestra will perform at London’s Royal Festival Hall and at a venue in Middlesborough, in northeast England. Middlesborough was the town where the North Korean soccer team stayed when it played an historic World Cup match in 1966.

Suzannah Clark, who became the first British opera singer to perform in the reclusive communist country in 2003, is helping to arrange the concerts.

She told the Guardian, "None of [the members of the orchesta] have been out of North Korea before, so it will be a new experience."


Malaysian Singer TV Ban

Faizal Tahir, one of Malaysia’s most popular rock singers, has been banned from appearing on television for three months after he bared his chest during a live TV concert January 13.

During his performance in Kuala Lumpur, Tahir, who is famous for his exuberant style, stripped off his jacket, undershirt and belt and threw them in the audience, revealing his naked chest, which had a bright red Superman logo painted on it.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission branded Tahir’s antics "insensitive" to both viewers and Malaysian culture, according to the New Straits Times. In addition, the private TV network 8TV, which had broadcast the concert, was banned from airing any live content for three months.

Faizal, 29, became famous in 2006 when he was the runner-up in a popular song contest. He has publicly apologized for his behavior.

In similar but unrelated news, a veteran Korean pop singer dropped his drawers on television to make a point.

Middle-aged crooner Na Hoon-a, who commands legions of older fans in South Korea, had called a press conference on January 25 to deny rumors that he had been castrated by or lost his penis to a Japanese gangster, who the media said had been angry with the 60-year-old singer for having an affair with an actress the gangster had a crush on.

The press conference was aired live on daytime news programs when Na became visibly agitated at reporters’ questions. "Do I have to show you?" he asked, and then jumped on the table and started undoing his pants.

According to various news reports, the TV cameras averted their gaze just in time, but the sound was kept on and viewers could hear reporters shrieking.

However, subsequent reports of the press conference said that what was revealed was "inconclusive."


Puppeteer Bungo Dies

Yoshida Bungo, one of Japan’s master bunraku (puppet theatre) artists died January 16 of liver cancer.

Bungo, 73, is famous for having revitalized the traditional theatrical form, in which puppeteers appear on stage beside the puppets they manipulate, back in the early 1980s for a new generation.

Yoshida’s method for attracting young people was quite shocking at the time: rock ’n’ roll. A huge fan of Elvis Presley and The Beatles, Yoshida commissioned rock singer and songwriter Ryudo Uzaki to write a score for the play, "The Love Suicides of Sonezaki," an 18th-century classic about a suicide pact between a merchant and a prostitute. Uzaki performed his score live during the performances of the play.

At present only 37 master bunraku puppeteers are left in Japan, two of whom have been designated by the government as "living national treasures." Until his death, Yoshida was a third, and the oldest.