PERTH IDOL FESTIVAL Bringing Japan to Perth

Debuting this Fringe World with a night inspired by Akihabara’s idol scene, Perth Idol Festival will explode onto the stage in a special one-night-only event, celebrating Japanese pop culture and music at Vision Studios on Saturday, January 22. KWANWOO HAN caught up with Lady Fafa, anime podcaster and the festival’s organiser, to find out why she’s excited to bring such a unique type of Fringe show to the stage this summer.

Congrats on bringing Perth Idol Festival to Fringe World 2022! How does it feel to present the show?

Thank you! It feels exciting but a bit scary at the same time. Exciting because it is the first of its kind here in Perth and of course Fringe World, but scary for those reasons as well. The excitement factor is what’s driving the organising team, staff and performers.

A lot of groups and individuals are involved with the festival. Could you give us an introduction to who will be performing during the show? 

The performers all have one thing in common – a love for Japanese music and culture. What is unique about this festival is that the performers all represent the different fabrics of the Japanese music scene. We have Stelluna and Palettes who are established cosplay dance cover groups here in Perth who dance and perform songs from LoveLive and Vocaloid, Nyamaha, a J-Rock cover band who play hits from all different anime, JustCosplaySings, a Youtuber who sings anime covers and MuYuu, a dance idol who will be performing her solo debut. All these performers have a passion for the scene and want to show Perth what it is all about.

There have been other similar festivals before, KaiCon, Hoshi after Dark, but this will be your first show with Fringe. How long has this been in the works and how does it compare?

The idea to hold a festival like this came about eight months ago. We thought about it and we definitely wanted to see something like this happen here in Perth; at the time we didn’t know exactly how we would go about it. We contemplated going the convention route but we also thought the focus is the music and giving the performers a chance to connect with the community. I worked on the debut live for MuYuu’s group and Stelluna were the support act. After that event, I got to talking with Stelluna and we agreed that we would like to see something like this happen here, and with Nyamaha in agreement we got to work.

We thought that summer would be the best time for everyone as many people have time off from work/uni and it would be a great way to celebrate. The idea of joining Fringe was one of those “are we good enough to be even considered a Fringe event?” but then when we thought about it, it really was a no brainer. Our festival is niche and Fringe is all about the niche.

What sets this event apart from the other events such as KaiCon and Hoshi after Dark is that this is purely about the performances. This is also an opportunity to introduce people who don’t know much about the Japanese music culture a first-hand look. Another thing about this festival is that every performer is from the Perth community. The Australian community itself is huge but what sets this particular event apart is that all the performers are from Perth.

While there will be music being performed, Perth Idol Festival is still a festival. What else will be there?

The performers will have the opportunity to sell their merch to the community. While we have seen the growth in the convention circuit with performances, many of these groups rely on their merch to fund their next projects and we know that the community love getting the merch as well. This is a great opportunity for the performers to get to know the community and meet them, say thank you for supporting them and allowing them to do what they love to do.

We also have Hoshi, a local anime cosmetics brand, supporting the festival through doing fun games and chances to win prizes which is exciting as well as sell their products at the festival. Hoshi has been a big supporter of the community for many years now and are keen to see this community grow as much as we do.

Music differs from place to place, culture to culture. What sets Japanese music from what we usually hear?

I think for me it’s how versatile Japanese music is. You could have rock, you could have techno, pop or even traditional. Even with the idol music it has a distinct vibe that is just unique to that music scene. What I love about the Japanese music is how it gets the audience involved, whether it’s through chanting or moving the penlights to the music, there is something for everyone. I find listening to Japanese music strangely comforting. I will drive to work listening to Japanese music more than Western music and even with my limited understanding of the language I feel the music always tells a story, just through the way it is delivered through the music or from the vocals.

Japanese music is a pretty niche genre to get into, especially in Perth. What got you started?

Anime! For me it was listening to the original soundtracks from shows and going “Wow, this music is great.” I always tell this story, but the moment where I fell in love with idol music was at an anime festival in Melbourne in 2017. At these conventions they used to highlight community performers and dance groups; where cosplay groups would dance from idol anime shows. However, around that time there was an idol group called AGS102, a former Sydney based idol group, and some of their members from the group were performing a dance routine on the community stage.

While I was blown away with the dancers and how amazing their performance was, I was more invested in the crowd. There were a group of people in the audience with penlights in their hands just screaming and chanting along as the girls would dance. I had a penlight in my bag from an earlier purchase and I turned to my friend and said, ”I kind of want to join in” and I just stood back, behind the group and just jumped in and cheered along, having no idea what I was doing. The feeling and adrenaline rush I felt from doing that was the moment I fell in love hard with the scene and never looked back. From there I researched what these chants and calls were all about, how to move my penlight with the music and how to hear for the cues in the songs. Now any chance I get I will generally find myself in the crowd calling and chanting along.

What is an idol? It feels like it has a slightly different meaning from what most would know.

An idol is a performer first and foremost. They do it because they love the feeling they get from the people who support them and cheer them on. By cheering them on is their motivation to dance and sing and connect. Every idol of course is different. Idols in Japan also tend to have characters or different personas to their real-life counterpart. If I was to explain it for a Western audience, we had the Spice Girls and each girl represented a different character such as sporty or scary and everyone had their favourite and one they wanted to support. It’s the exact same for idol culture in Japan and in the idol community here in Australia and globally.

Perth Idol Festival will be filled with fans of Japanese culture who will be looking forward to having fun. What are you looking forward to?

Building the community here in Perth and showing the community that we are here to stay; this is our beginning. We want to be able to hold more events like this in the future and we just want to inspire the next generation in the community.

Eventually we would like to see other community members from around Australia to take part in this event. Perth does get a bad rep from the other side of the country for either being too far away or just being dull, we want to say it’s not the case.

What do you consider your first step into Japanese culture? Anime? Music? A random clip on Youtube?

Definitely anime for me. It is your gateway to loving Japanese music whether its opening or closing soundtracks. From there you find yourself looking at more music-based anime and from there it opens the Japanese music scene. If it wasn’t for the music and anime, I would not have taken two trips to Japan.

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