The Asian Love Affair with Showtime at The Apollo

6.12.12 ShaSha LaPerf 10 Comments

So a few nights ago I was watching BET. Not to long ago the station decided to reboot Showtime at the Apollo, renaming it Apollo Live. It's hosted by Tony Rock with Gladys Knight, Doug E. Fresh, and Michael Bivens from New Edition/Bel Biv DeVoe acting as judges. I was actually a bit tired that night so was I missed most of the earlier performances.

Then this guy came on:

I know this isn't the greatest quality, but this is the performance that I watched on BET, so I wanted to post it.

That's Matthew Hashimoto. I did some Googling to find out more about him. He's a dentist from Hawaii who cites Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Jazmine Sullivan and Sara Barrelies as his music influence. By the way, dude gets an extra ten points for knowing who Jazmine Sullivan is. Apparently his run on Apollo's Amateur Night has gone very well. He won second place in the Amateur Broadway night which happened last March. And just this November he won first place at Amateur Night: Top Dog with this performance:

What's even more interesting about Hashimoto is that this wasn't his first attempt at performing on TV. He actually audition from season 10 of American Idol. Here's an introduction video for him:

I completely missed Season 10, and really only know that Scotty McCreepy won. So I don't know how far he actually got in the auditions. Having watched this performance, I'm seeing serious vocal talent and stage presence; I really can't see why he wouldn't have made it to the live shows.

Hasimoto wasn't the only Asian to get a bit of exposure of Apollo. Beat boxer Daichi from Japan also took top honors on Apollo:

And a few months ago, YT's Honor, a Chinese student studying at the famed Berklee College of Music, performed as well (but did not place):

In 2010, Korean singer G Soul performed at Apollo, taking third place:

Apollo has also been pretty kind to Asian dancers as well. Dancer Kenichi Ebina has appeared on the Apollo stage several times:

Another Japanese dancer by the name of Takahiro was also well received:

And even way back in 2001, hip-hop trio Lina World hit the stage:

Okay, honestly the last group of guys were kinda wack compared to Ebina and Takahiro, but again the audience loved their performances.

For the most part, Apollo is a show targeted at black audiences. Of course the show has had several acts that haven't been black, and the audience itself probably as a smattering of non-blacks. But the show was meant to give some exposure to many black talents. LOL yes I'm well aware that there are plenty of hot mess acts that appear on the show, but that's not the point. Still it's pretty interesting to see so many Asian acts appearing on the Apollo stage. Mainstream shows haven't been so kind to Asian talent. I've already written about the few Asians on American Idol. Singer Harlem Lee (who also appeared on Showtime at the Apollo) was completely screwed over after winning Fame. The Voice and X-Factor are newer series, but so far we're yet to see any Asians make it to the live shows. So You Think You Can Dance has done okay with Asians getting into the finals for the last two seasons, and at least the All-Stars brings back older dancers like Alex Wong. However, the show seems to be going through a ton of changes lately, so we'll see how long this lasts. America's Best Dance Crew boasted the most Asians and Asian winners...but it was cancelled. So where mainstream shows are failing Asian, perhaps Apollo will continue to be a good way for them to get exposure. Hashimoto didn't even get to touch the American Idol stage, but was able to display his vocal talent on the Apollo stage. He brought the audience to their feet. Sure he didn't get that million dollar Idol contract, but he did get a few bucks from Apollo and Knight, Bivens, and Fresh were certainly impressed.

I also think what's more fascinating is the number of acts coming from Japan. Besides the men I already mention, women like Mirei Tohyama and Saho Aono performed for the Apollo audience too. Oh and...this guy:

Wow, LOL. I really didn't know how react to that one. This fool won third place! Of course there have been other Asians to appear. Besides G Soul, and YT's Honor, Lianah Santa Ana and Freda Nazarene Beck were representing for the Filipino population. However, Japan has had over 20 acts perform at Apollo. Even big Japanese stars like Hirai Ken and Shota Shimizu have performed as during Amateur Night. I'm really not sure where Japan's interest in performing on the Apollo stage comes from. I tried to do a bit of Googling Japanese style and outside of a old Japanese blog from a man living in Harlem and a Mixi group with about 125 members, I couldn't find much information on why so many Japanese people want to be on the show. Maybe it's a matter of wanting to feel validated by the audience that created the music and dances they love so much? Maybe they knew the odds of doing anything on a mainstream show and decided to go a smaller route first? I guess the reasons really don't matter. It's pretty hard for anyone to take the stage seeing as people can boo you or love you. So I give mad props to people coming from across the world to take on the stage.

I hope we continue to see diversity on the Apollo stage. Heck, I'd like to see some diversity in the Asian talent, get some comedians on that stage! And as for Hashimoto, I hope that someone out there is listening and will give this man a recording contract. Hello, are you listening!?


  1. OMG Shasha! You picked a great clip!Matthew is not only quite an irresistible looking man,but the brother has some great pipes as well.A great combo that America seem to ignore to Asian people.

    I was looking at how quickly Psy has become a household name around the world.Don't get me wrong,its nice for somebody to break bread on American soil,but Psy is a guy that our music industry is comfortable with:average looking man ,who some people see as comedic and to put the icing on the cake,hes a family man.

    I read an article(you may have seen it..its an old one) about the frustration some Asians have in the music industry and its understandable. Every other race have been recognized in the music industry far more than Asians.Some have great voices that stood out, right..should be famous,but they aren't.

    I was reading an Asian website about Psy.There was one Asian guy who didn't get the other posters complaint about him.What the guy didn't get was that it wasn't so much that they weren't condemning Psy as an entertainer,but they felt that Asians couldn't be famous unless they were willing to be unsexy and funny. On top of that,the number of Famous Asians are a drop in the bucket compared to other races of men.If there is a such thing as adults being typecasted,to constant be in such roles may further hurt them. I mean,there were several Asian guys on AI that looked good and sound good.Yet,they focused on William Hung because he was for comedy.I would also mention Sanjaya.Mind you that he couldn't sing his way out of a paper bag,but his good looks saved him from being put with him as there were girls who loved him(I remembered being one of those people who couldn't understand why he got those X amount of chances making me sick with his singing. )

    Perhaps Bruce Lee will be always be regarded as one of the most famous Asian men of all time,but even with every woman swooning at his feet,even he was relegated to only Kung Fu movies.They have yet to put a Matthew kind of guy on TV.

    1. The music world seems to be the slowest at accepting Asians. On TV right now there's Glen from The Walking Dead, half the cast of Hawaii 5.0, John Cho on Go On , and a few others other there. In movies we're getting a smattering of Asians two. And they've certainly made a dent in the dance world. It's really just music where we're not seeing a whole lot. Yeah the Far East movement had their moment, but they've yet to duplicate their success. And Psy is very polarizing and will essentially be a one hit-wonder as well. The problem I think is Asians are still often seen as the perpetual foreigner. And I think music buyers see them as such. I'm betting some companies feel like it's hard to market Asians. If he/she's doing hip-hop they're trying to hard to be "black." If it's a Carly Rae Jepson song they're trying to hard to be "white." I think companies see Asians literally as gray area, and they don't want to put the right money and marketing behind Asian singers so they can get the exposure.

  2. I totally caught this episode of Apollo Live! I also wrote about it. I think I took a more cynical slant on it, but I do agree that the continued exposure of Asian-Americans in entertainment will help break the stereotypes surrounding them when it comes to what's expected of them talent-wise. You can read my article if you like:

    1. Hey Monique your blog post. I'll respond here then copy it onto your page if you like.

      I think it's up for debate whether Hashimoto's standing ovation was because he's an Asian than can sing. Although Hashimoto had performed on the stage before, I'm assuming this audience might not have been familiar with him. And I do think initially they didn't know what to expect. But the man can SANG. He wasn't a mediocre talent. And from what I did see of these other three act, there was booing that turned into cheers for two of them (and neither act could touch Hashimoto). He hasn't been the only Asian to perform at Apollo (or the only one who's performed recently). And while I did get a sense that the other acts were well received, he seems to be the only Asian to have gotten that standing ovation. And only one of two Asians to win the Top Dog title--Daichi also won the title. So I think the audience sincerely thought he did a great performance. If anything, I would give side-eye at the fact that Akatsu basically acted like a damn fool on the stage and got third place. He was pretty much awarded for acting like a goofy Asian guy on the stage. And I bet we'll see him on Two Broke Girls next week or something like that next week while Hashimoto is still trying to get his name out there. >_<

  3. Nice post :)

    Yes, I also wonder why we don't see (from your post) more Asian amateur singers of South East Asia and South Asia descent, or even from China (North East Asia).
    Maybe because they're the 3rd or 4th generation of Japanese Americans...since they were the first Asians after Chinese people to go to America. Dunno know, my theory is probably irrelevant.

    And it's surprising to me to know that Ken Hirai and Shota Shimizu went on this American stage! I think it makes sense, as you said their influences are R&B and American singers in general so yeah, they don't want to do an American debut, but just enjoy the stage and the American audience :) Their labels probably have contacts with that TV show as well, who knows.

    Matthew Hashimoto is awesome :) I love his voice, his hair too :p

    1. Shota Shimizu was probably under contract at the time since the first time I ever heard of him was on an interview where he'd said he was performing at the Apollo a few years ago. I don't know about Hirai Ken. I'm guess he was probably also under Sony at the same time, but also probably performed in his early days, maybe late 90s. I tried to find video of their performances, but no luck. :(

    2. OK, I see. So it was kinda before Shimizu got very popular in Japan. Interesting.

  4. Omg Shasha, this is like a dissertation you wrote! Interesting, I had noticed also that Asian talent fares better in black venues. Maybe that's why so many Japanese want to perform at the Apollo Theater.

  5. In the mid 90s dark ages before youtube I used to stay up every Saturday night to watch/tape Showtime at the Apollo because it was one of the few shows that featured the latest R&B stars. Back then there was an East Asian woman who competed on Amateur Night. She did not speak English but sang a classic soul song and did very well.

  6. I'm not surprised by this. (I'm from Harlem) Despite what people say, Black folks are some of the most accepting people I know. Unfortunately most people don't accept us.

    Predominately white venues/shows are not interested in showcasing Asians, especially Asians who are doing hip-hop/Soul/R&B.