A while back I wrote about Japan's soft cultural power in Asia. Japan is the cultural leader in things like fashion and music in Asia, and has even taken to "discovering" singers in other countries and presenting them as Japanese like, such as with May, the Thai singer in Sweet Vacation. In my original article I also mentioned a Tibetan singer who had been similarly discovered.
Meet alan (known to her family as Alan Dawa Dolma). She was discovered in China and moved to Japan in 2007 to be groomed for their pop machine, learning the language and getting a makeover.
Here are two of her album covers.
If you saw those out of context, you'd think she was Japanese, right? It's only when you hear her haunting voice that you catch on that something is different.
Here she is on Japanese TV. Towards the end she sings and you can definitely hear the "ethnic" in her voice.
Here's another video, also from Japanese TV, in which she sings a traditional Tibetan song.
But how is alan marketed in her native China?
This is interesting. There's a distinct difference from the Japanese covers. I don't think she's marketed as more "Chinese" here but with the blue contacts there's a definite exoticness happening. Also interesting is that the songs have a world music flavor. Her Japanese music is—aside from her voice—largely indistinguishable from other J-pop but this album mixes traditional instrumentation with modern rhythms.
So does this mean that Japan prefers its outside elements to be made more Japanese, while China doesn't mind a little exotica? I don't want to pass any sweeping judgments, but it sure looks that way based on this one isolated case.
As for me, I prefer the Japanese covers and the Chinese music.