By Wayne Chan
I have decided to be a brain surgeon.
I have no relevant experience or formal training as a brain surgeon, but I do have some time on my hands and thought it might be challenging and fun. I’ll probably kick off my new role as a brain surgeon this weekend with something manageable – nothing too demanding.
Wait a minute. Did I say I wanted to be a “Brain Surgeon”? I’m sorry…that’s just silly. What I meant to say was “Karaoke Singer”. There’s not really that much in common between the two. First off, Karaoke singers don’t usually hold people’s lives in the palm of their hands. Hearing? Possibly. But lives? Probably not.
For those who don’t know, Karaoke (pronounced “Carry-Okey” in the West) is the popular phenomenon that began in Japan where patrons take turns singing lyrics to pre-recorded music.
I have participated in Karaoke both here and in Asia. While the experience in the U.S. is fairly straightforward, out in Asia it is much more elaborate. For those of you who might have an opportunity to Karaoke in Asia, I thought I might provide the following observations as a primer.
Karaoke Clubs are often located in posh hotels throughout Asia. Once you enter the lobby of a club, you are greeted by a hostess dressed in formal attire who will escort you to a private and elegantly decorated Karaoke room. You are somewhat surprised by all the pomp and circumstance surrounding an activity that is typically reserved for your daily shower.
You and your friends enter a small room lined with an “L” shaped sofa on one end facing a large screen on the other. The more exclusive rooms also include an adjoining restroom in case nature calls or can be used as a makeshift “quiet room” for those who would rather miss the least talented member of the group straining to hit the high notes of “New York, New York” (♫ These little town blues are melting awaaaaay! ♫).
Once seated on the sofa, a waiter will take drink and snack orders. While the Karaoke room charges are very reasonable, you suspect that the club makes up the difference on what they charge for food and drinks. Either that, or there must be a world wide potato and barley shortage forcing the club to charge eighteen dollars for a bag of potato chips and a beer.
The next order of business is to select songs for everyone to sing. Seeing as how this is a Chinese Karaoke club, most of the songs are in Chinese, but a good number of them are from the west as well.
As far as I can tell, all Chinese Karaoke songs are about love. There are songs about being in love, falling in love, falling out of love, looking for love, finding love, songs by singer Courtney Love, tennis matches with a score of 15-love, words that start with “L” that rhyme with “dove”…you definitely start to see a pattern.
As for me, I never have to worry about selecting a song. Like it or not, in the course of the evening I will inevitably end up singing the Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody.” For some reason, if you are from America and have been invited to a Karaoke party in Asia, you are required to sing that song. I believe you have to agree to it before they’ll give you a visa.
On top of that, the person operating the Karaoke machine always raises the pitch of the song, so the only way I can reach the high notes is if I’m wearing some really tight pants. By the time I reach the climax of the song and reach that last high note, no one can hear me except for any stray dogs or dolphins that happen to be near by.
Although the written word can hardly do it justice, I thought I’d give you a sampling of my performance of that final verse:
♫ I-aye-aye-aye NEED your love! ♫
♫ I-aye-aye-aye-aye need your luh-huv,♫
♫ God speed your love, to-who-who-who-ooh, me-HEE-HEE-EEE!!! ♫
The bathroom really gets hoppin’ when I get to that part.