AS far as popular music is concerned, the “manufactured model” of idol groups has prove to be pretty successful. And that’s why Yasushi Akimoto, creator of award-winning girl group AKB48 from Akihabara, Japan, has brought the franchise to Indonesia.

The result is JKT48 – Indonesia’s first idol group. The name is somewhat a misnomer, because as of today, the band consists of 51 girls. That’s right. They’re a 51-member girl group. In fact, the original AKB48 now has 88 members.

The JKT48 concept is simple yet extremely effective – and highly entertaining. The girls in the group, aged 13 to 22, perform Indonesian versions of catchy AKB48 songs (originally sung in Japanese) in elaborate costumes. The girls also have their own JKT48 Theatre in Jakarta that puts on shows every single night.

After auditioning thousands of girls across Indonesia in 2011, their managers from Dentsu Media Group Indonesia picked only 28 girls and to this day, these chosen 28 are known as “first generation” members of JKT48.
It takes more than just talent to be a member of this elite group of performers. On top of being able to sing and dance like professionals, the girls of JKT48 have to take Japanese lessons and attend training every single day. This means that the majority of girls have to juggle between their entertainment careers and school.

“It was tiring at first, but after a while, you get used to it and it’s fine,” said Jessica Veranda, 20, one of the six members who visited Kuala Lumpur last week.

The girls of JKT48 are also well groomed, and they act mature beyond their years.

“We’re not going to lie – working with so many other girls can be difficult sometimes. We’re all young and we used to fight, but now we’ve got used to each other and we have learnt how to work around each others’ personalities,” said Veranda.

Among the girls in the group, Veranda is the most fluent in English. Much like many other J-pop and K-pop idol groups, each girl has a special “purpose” that makes them valuable to the group.

The other girls who were in town were Melody Nurramdhani Laksani, 21, who often takes the prestigious “centre position” in most of their songs; Huraka Nakagawa, 21, a former AKB48 member and commercial talent; Cindy Yuvia, 15, who is considered the epitome of “kawaii” (the Japanese definition of “cute”); Rona Anggraeni, 18, the fashionista; and Nabilah Ratna Ayu Azalia, 13, the youngest member of the group.

The girls were in town to shoot an upcoming music video, but would not reveal what song it was for. “It is a secret project,” said Veranda. “But we are very excited and can’t wait to show what we did for our fans”.

Speaking of fans, the girls decided to film part of their upcoming video here because most of their fans from outside Indonesia come from Malaysia.

“We get a lot of fans who come to our theatre in Jakarta and to our handshake (meet-and-greet) events in Indonesia and excitedly tell us that they’re from Malaysia,” said Melody.

“We haven’t had the chance to meet our Malaysian fans (on this trip) but we hope to get the chance to know them better and we want them to get to know us better and come to our shows in Indonesia. But we also hope to perform in Malaysia as soon as possible. Maybe next year!”

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