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A Brief History of Hello! Project, the Umbrella Name that has many Japanese Female Musical Artists
A photo of Maimi Yajima, leader of Hello! Project
What is Hello! Project?
For fans of Japanese pop music they may be wondering what actually is Hello! Project? I have been wondering about this too for a long time. To make it easier for readers to understand this, let’s just say that Hello! Project is actually a name or label assigned to all female Japanese pop music groups that are under contract with an agency called Up-Front Group. It is described as the “umbrella name” for all of the Japanese female performers and recording artists. To phrase this more simply, let’s just say that it is like a record label without actually being one in the traditional sense. This puts perspective on the deepness of the Japanese entertainment scene. Hello! Project is one level below the talent agency. This talent agency has the record label that these artists are signed to.
Hello! Project: the early years which were 1997 and 1998
The earliest roots of Hello! Project go back to 1997 when rock group Sharam Q was actively looking for female vocalists. There were auditions that aired by way of a reality show. The winner of that audition, Michiyo Heike was chosen as the first female vocalist in Hello Project history. However, there were a group of five young girls that lead vocalist of Sharam Q Tsunku decided that should be given a chance to form their own musical group. But the condition was that they had to sell 50,000 copies of their debut single Ai No Tane. This group of girls sold that required number in just four days. It was at this moment that the group Morning Musume was formed.
The first lineup consisted of the following members:
The band’s first single Morning Coffee was released in January 1998 on the One Up music label. The single came in at #6 on the Japanese music charts. That’s really impressive for a first single. Several months later, the group’s first live appearance came at Shibuya Music Hall now known as Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall. With the introduction of Morning Musume, the whole Hello Project label was born.
Hello! Project groups as of 2014
Hello! Project now consists of the following musical groups: (note: this lineup was the one at the end of 2014).
Morning Musume (the most famous of all these groups)
Hello! Project Eggs
And Tomoiki: Ki o Uetai.
Some of these groups are now no longer a part of Hello! Project.
Saki Nakajima of the girl group C-ute
Hello! Project: 2001-2011
In 2001, the Hello! Project saga continued with the establishment of a TV show called Hello! Morning which lasted for four years from 2001 through 2005. It was in March 2001 that then Morning Musume band leader and co-founder Yuko Nakazawa announced her intention to graduate from the group to focus on other things in her 30s. Nakazawa is now 42 years old. This announcement really caught the attention of the press in Japan. Between the months of April and June 2002, there were auditions held for Hello! Project Kids. These auditions gave birth to two more girl groups Berryz Kobo and C-ute. It was in 2007 that Hello! Project started the Morning Family New Star Audition and it did so because the objective was to get Taiwanese girls to join Hello! Project. In April of 2008, it was decided that the group IceCreamusume would be formed with six members. The end of 2008 also would be the first time that Morning Musume would not appear at the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen tournament. This is a singing contest where there are to teams, the red team and the white team. Each team is assigned a team captain. Actress Mao Inoue was one of the captains for that contest at the end of 2011.
The song called Wakuteka Take a Chance
A photo of the 9th generation of girl group Morning Musume
Hello! Project: group name changes
In 2014, Morning Musume changed their name to Morning Musume 14. And they now have a new leader. That leader is ninth generation member Mizuki Fukumura who started her leadership work at just 18 years old. It was also announced that idol group Country Musume who be reformed under the new name of Country Girls. Berryz Kobo member Momoko Tsugunaga will be one of the new members when the group begins their activities in 2015. Note: Country Musume now operates under the name Country Girls. You have now seen a brief history of Hello! Project beginning with how it was created up until the present time. As of 2015, Hello! Project has had five leaders. The first leader was first generation member Yuko Nakazawa who served from April 2001 through March 15, 2009. Following Yuko’s departure, Ai Takahashi served as leader from April 2009 through September 30, 2011. Takahashi has since gotten married to comedian Koji Abe. Risa Niigaki would serve as Hello! Project leader from October 2011 until her graduation in May 2012. Maimi Yajima of the idol group C-ute has been serving as leader since Niigaki’s departure.
Maimi Yajima with Ayaka Wada in 2009
Graduation of Kanon Suzuki
In February 2016, 9th generation member of Morning Musume Kanon Suzuki announced that she intends to graduate from the group at the conclusion of their concert tour. The date for her graduation is May 31, 2016.