28 girls picked for first AKB overseas sister group


Twenty-eight girls were selected Wednesday to join the Jakarta-based JKT48, the first official overseas sister group of AKB48, one of Japan’s most popular idol groups.

Wearing white shirts and blue-jeans shorts, the all-girl group was introduced to the press following a six-hour final audition.

The girls, aged between 12 to 21, smiled but looked tense in their first encounter with journalists. Most of them only briefly answered questions from reporters.

“I’m very happy,” Jessica Vania Widjaja, 15, said shyly.

But Cindy Gulla, 14, the most outspoken among the girls, offered help representing her friends, saying the selection process has taught them to be as one family in sadness and happiness.

“Some of our friends who were not selected were sad, crying and collapsing, but we tried to console them, because we have learned much about solidarity and about how to be mature,” she said.

After a series of exhaustive auditions that included singing, dancing and interviews since September, Rena Nozawa, 13, the only Japanese girl in the group, felt “a togetherness as one family” with her Indonesian friends.

TV and music producer Yasushi Akimoto, who formed AKB48 in 2005, shared a similar view, saying JKT48 will be a place for the girls to build their characters.

“The girls are not only capable in singing and dancing, but they also have good characters, because character is the most important thing for this idol group,” he said.

Akimoto believed the members of JKT48 could be as popular as their Japanese cousins.

“I can say that because my feeling when becoming the judge in this Jakarta audition was similar to mine when I did it in Japan. Their voices are beautiful when singing, so although the songs they sang were in Indonesian, I felt that I could understand,” he said. “And the difference between the auditions in Indonesia and in Japan was that the girls are really good. They can express what they feel in their hearts into their songs.”

The first JKT48 team, comprising 16 girls, is set to debut in December. Billed as a “unique idol group with Indonesian culture,” the auditions for JKT48 attracted about 1,200 girls from across the country. Like AKB48, JKT48 was created based on the concept of “idols you can meet every day.”

“This group will carry a unique concept, a concept that will make our idols more down to earth, being always nice and able to be greeted anytime,” said Harris Thayeb, CEO of PT Dentsu Media Indonesia Group, the promotional agent for JKT48. “Since the very beginning, the girls will be educated to be better persons by putting their good characters first before their beautiful faces.”