Southern All Stars’ latest hit delves into foreign relations

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

A chart-topping song by the Southern All Stars is stirring talk over its political content as Japan experiences heightened tensions with both China and South Korea over historical and territorial disputes.

“Peace and Hi-lite” debuted at No. 1, selling 207,000 copies in its first week of release.

“I saw on the news that our neighbors were irritated. No matter how much dialogue we hold, it seems that the argument doesn’t change,” go the lyrics penned by the venerable band’s leader, Keisuke Kuwata.

The song also expresses what could be interpreted as criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his revisionist views of history, warning that “people tend to forget the tragic past and their foolish acts.”

The lyrics disapprove of how lessons from modern history are often put aside in schools, while the chorus speaks of the need to “grow the seed of hope and cultivate love on the planet.”

Characters wearing masks of Abe, U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye appear in the music video, all arguing at first but getting along together by the end.

The Chinese media are reportedly describing “Peace and Hi-lite” as an effort by the band to “improve neighboring ties.”

The Southern All Stars have a wide following in China and other parts of Asia as well.

Akahata (Red Flag), the newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party, on Wednesday described “Peace and Hi-lite” as “a message song that bestows courage” to listeners.

The paper goes on to express hope that it will help soothe the tension between Tokyo and its neighbors, saying a song “not only reflects the times but can move the people’s heart and even society.”

The five-member Southern All Stars have not often delved into politics, and the song has received a mixed reaction online.

Some have praised the message in the lyrics, congratulating the band for taking a bold stand. Others have condemned it for being “anti-Japan” and disapprove of the “hackneyed ‘peace and love’ attitude,” saying it doesn’t match the imminent threat Japan is facing from neighboring countries.

The Southern All Stars formed in 1978 and have numerous hits to their credit.

The band had been on hiatus since 2008 but returned to the scene with the release of “Peace and Hi-lite” on Aug. 7.