Being part of the biggest (in both popularity and size) girl group in the world is no easy feat – but the girls of JKT48 make it look like a breeze. Formed in 2011 as the first international sister group of J-pop powerhouse AKB48, this Indonesian girl group has since become a household name in Southeast Asia, amassing a huge following of adoring and dedicated fans. And the love is very much reciprocated, from what we can tell.
While the girls were in town for their debut Malaysian performance at AniManGaki 2023, we got the chance to talk to members Mutiara Azzahra (Muthe), Freya Jayawardana (Freya), Shania Gracia (Gracia) and Kathrina Irene (Kathrina). During the interview, the girls spoke about the group, their impression of Malaysian fans and how they feel being part of the AKB48 family.
Q: Before we start, we just want to quickly welcome you guys to Malaysia! What was your first impression of the city?
Freya: Our first impression of the city is that it’s clean and it’s cold here.
Muthe: Really cold!
Freya: Because when we arrived, the rain had just stopped.
Shania: Also, there are a lot of cool buildings here.
Muthe: Yeah, a lot of unique buildings.
Q: JKT48 is here in Malaysia to perform at AniManGaki so how do you guys feel after your first performance here?
Muthe: We were so happy!
Freya: We felt so thankful! Because there were so many fans here in Malaysia that knew us! We weren’t really expecting the crowd to know us but they did! And they even knew this song and this song so we were so grateful for that. And that is why we were able to complete the performance feeling really happy.
Q: Was it always a goal for JKT48 to perform in Malaysia or overseas?
Kathrina: To be honest, yeah! We always dreamed about getting bigger and performing around the world and performing in Malaysia was the first time we did it.
Q: You guys also had a meet-and-greet session with your fans here so what was it like meeting and interacting with your Malaysian fans?
Freya: They’re all so cute! And since we’re at AniManGaki (an anime convention), there were so many cosplayers so we got to take photos with them while they were in their costumes.
Muthe: There were so many of them! All wearing their cute costumes. It was very ‘comel’!
Q: Let’s talk more about the group: Since JKT48 is the first international sister group of AKB48, do you feel pressure being part of such an influential group?
Kathrina: I think we do feel a little bit of pressure but most of it is just feeling proud of being a ‘48’ group. Like we’re proud of it (the title) and we hope we can continue to bring more positive energy to the people.
Q: JKT48 has so many members and it can be hard working together. How do you guys make sure that you stay in sync?
Gracia: We do practice together-
Freya: A lot!
Shania: Like every day.
Freya: Because we have a lot of members that are really different but despite that, we also feel like we have this responsibility to bring and show the best to the fans that love us. So, whatever that happens in the end, we just want to make sure that we do our best.
Q: Do you guys spend time together to maintain that close relationship between the members?
Freya: We hang out (with each other) a lot.
Kathrina: We have a bonding time where we go out and chill.
Q: In terms of music release, JKT48 recently debuted a subunit (JKT48v) and you recently released a re-recorded version of your single “Ponytail dan Shu-shu”. Can you share more about what the group is planning to release next?
Gracia: We have so many upcoming events and stuff in the future (but we can’t reveal it) so just wait for us to share it.
Q: Even though this was your first appearance in Malaysia, the JKT48 group isn’t complete because not all members are here so can we expect the entire group to return in the future?
All: Of course!
Kathrina: We’ll bring, like, all our friends and family here. The whole team!
Freya: We would love to (come back to Malaysia)!
Kathrina: And we really hope that we can do that.
Q: Before we end, let’s play a round of quick-fire questions where you guys will choose who fits the questions the most. Let’s start with: who is the member who is the most clumsy?
Freya: Kak Eli (Helisma Putri)!
Muthe: Christy (Angelina Christy)!
Kathrina: Zee (Azizi Asadel)!
Freya: Christy, Zee…
Gracia: Kathrina *laughs*
Kathrina: I say it’s Zee.
Freya: Because she’s always spilling her stuff.
Muthe: Christy is always spilling something *laughs*
Q: Next, who is the fashionista?
Shania: Actually, I think all the members are (fashionistas).
Kathrina: We have our own style.
Freya: I’d say it’s Kak Feni (Feni Fitriyanti) and Fiony (Fiony Alveria).
Gracia: Muthe, Freya, Kathrina *laughs*
Muthe: Everyone! *laughs*
Q: Who is the jokester?
Kathrina: Okay, in one, two, three:
All: Kak Olla (Febriola Sinambela)!
Freya: And Kak Oniel (Cornelia Vanisa)!
Muthe and Kathrina: And Kak Eli!
Freya: Kak Oniel’s jokes are just dad jokes.
Q: And last, who is the gamer?
All: *points to Kathrina and laughs*
Freya: And Marsha (Marsha Lenathea)! *points to her, off-camera*
Q: So before we end, do you have anything to say to your Malaysian fans?
Freya: Thank you so much! And thank you for the warm welcome and thanks for all the love that you showed us.
Kathrina: We’re really thankful for the warm welcome and please continue to support us as a group and the members as well.
Muthe: And please wait for us to return!
Freya: Maybe for a concert next year? *laughs*