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Girl bands - Music groups that feature women only have been around since the 1920's. However, none compares to Japan's latest pop sensation KBG84. That's because, with an average member age of 84, they are not just the country's hottest music band; they are also the oldest! But age has not hindered the "granny" group from releasing a hit single and performing to sold out shows in Tokyo and Osaka.
The 33-member group that includes women as young as 80 (minimum age) to a sprightly 97, is the brainchild of local musician Kikuo Tsuchida. They all hail from the remote, coral-fringed island of Kohima in Okinawa, which as you may have guessed, boasts one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
The name KBG84 that stands for Kohamajima Ba-chan Gasshodan (Kohamajima grandma chorus) is a smart play on a popular Japanese girl band called AKB48. However, its success can solely be attributed to the immense energy and enthusiasm of its elderly members. And if you think the women are just about singing, think again. The KBG84 is a “dance and vocal” band, and while their moves may not appear as "cool" as those of their younger counterparts, they are perfect for the middle-aged fans they cater to.
Like all girl bands KBG84 too has a diva - A pint-sized 92-year-old called Tomi Menaka. Normally hunched over her walking cane, Menaka comes to life when on stage, where she dances with joyous abandon to the traditional Okinawan music with a Tokyo-style pop twist. The queen bee that admits to a penchant for sweets, says she keeps in shape by cleaning her house on a regular basis. As for her youthful skin? That can be attributed to staying away from the harmful rays of the sun!
The details about how long the women have been performing together are a little hazy. However, they rose to fame recently following a sold-out tour in Osaka and Tokyo and the release of their first single, "Come On And Dance, Kohama Island.” In keeping with the modern trend, the group also filmed a music video that showcases their beautiful island as well as Menaka's superb dancing moves.
The newly found fame is bemusing to the unlikely pop stars who were a little miffed when they heard themselves being referred to as "idols." Menaka says she thought it meant " someone who had lived a long life and was at the gates of heaven." She was quite relieved to hear that it is another word for "entertainers." As she says with a toothy grin, “I hadn’t even been to Tokyo or Osaka. I wanted to go there before I went to heaven."
In fact, visiting the two cities was a great treat for this group whose members had never ventured outside the island before. In addition to the thrill of meeting their fans, the excursion also gave the grandmothers a chance to meet their grandkids - For some it was the first time!