Billboard magazine - January 20th, 1996 - BY STEVIE McCLURE



TOKYO - In the late '60s, when few foreign musicians took the Japanese market seriously, Paul Mauriat mae a special effort to win the hearts of music lovers in this country. The result has been a deep and long-lasting relationship between the French band-leader and his legions of Japanese fans, who over the years have bought a total of 15 million Mauriat albums.

Mauriat's commitment to the Japanese market was evident from the word go.

"I was in the audience of the first show of his first tour here in 1969," recalls Tats Nagashima, who at the time was working for promotion company Kyodo Kikaku (predecessor of Kyodo Tokyo). "After the opening number, I was shocked when Paul made a three-minute speech in perfect Japanese without notes or any guidance.

"He had brought with him a musician-comedian called "Gaston" and doing the show he did a 10-minute skit with him - again in perfect Japanese." Nagashima continues. "For a world-renowned artist to take the time to memorize all this Japanese was, at the time, unthinkable. The audience really loved and appreciate it."


Throughtout the 1970s, Mauriat became a familiar figure on the Japanese concert scene. To date he has toured Japan some 25 times, which puts him in the same league as such other hardy perennials such as the Ventures.

One unique aspect of Mauriat's success in the Japanese market is the important role played by merchandise. Cufflinks, neckties, handkerchiefs and various other goods emblazoned with the "PM" logo are always on sale at his concerts and are eagerly bought by fans seeking souvenirs of a very special listening experience.

Nippon Phonogram (now Mercury Music Entertainment) served as Mauriat's Japanese license from 1969 until Tokyo-based label Pony Canyon signed a worldwide master-rights deal with Mauriat in 1993.


In January, Mercury will release two more Mauriat compilations from its extensive back catalog. The first comprises the 25 tunes most popular with his Japanese fans, and the second is made up of movie themes songs taht have been given the PM treatment.

Toshiki Arai, chief director of MME's international-pop department, says that Mauriat's Japanese fans base is very different from those of other foreign performers.

"They're not people who usually listen to foreign music." he says "They just like beautiful orchestrated melodies." Another factor that has worked on Mauriat's favor, Arai points out, is that the instrumental nature of his music makes it much easier for Japanese fans to relate to, as oppose to being confronted with lyrics in a foreign language.


Pony Canyon, which in the last few years has developed a strong network of affiliates in Southeast Asia, plans to aggresively market Mauriat's music in the region, including mainland China, according to Tatsuo Ozu, general manager of Pony Canyon's international A&R department. Distribution to the rest of the world is handled together with Mauriat's management, which has joint ownership with Pony Canyon of some of his masters.

"In the countryside, older people love his style of orchestration," says Ozu, who stresses the long-term appeal of the Mauriat catalog Pony Canyon is now assembling.

Pony Canyon international A&R staffer Jun Sato says, "We're not talking about normal pop-rock fans here. We're talking about everyday 'jii-chans' and 'baa-chans' ('grannies and grandpas'). Even if you are Mariah Carey, you don't get these people. His concerts could be the only concert that people go to all year.

"He has worked this market carefully over 25 years and toured extensively in smaller cities in Japan, and he was open to ideas like playing Japanese songs, "Sato adds "I think he lovered his ego and adjusted to the market. He worked hard to stay familiar with everyday people and tried to get away frm the trends that change."


Mauriat's first project for Pony Canyon was an album comprising his versions of tunes by Japanese pop duo Chage and Aska (a Pony Canyon act).

"Then we released an album of new recordings of some of his famous tunes, like 'Love is Blue' and 'El Bimbo'," Ozu adds. Its newest release on the label is an album of themes from recent movies such as "Beauty And The Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Bodyguard."

Mauriat's upcoming visit to Japan is his first in a number of years, and to capitalize on that, Pony Canyon is releasing a special 'Japan tour' album. His Japanese tour kicks off Jan. 31 in Tokyo.

"Selling the CDs at the venue is a very big chance for us," says Ozu, noting that Mauriat will play 15 concerts in 14 days. "This is a very short concert tour compared to the previous ones."

Last April, Mauriat, together with Franck Pourcel, Raymond Lefevre and Francis Lai, recorded a special charity CD called 'Quartet for Kobe' to aid the Japanese Red Cross in relief work in the earthquake-damaged western Japanese city.

Mike Nakamura of concert-promotion company Kyodo Tokyo says Mauriat's tour is being promoted through TV and newspaper ads and direct mail, as well as poster campaign.