Friday, November 14, 2008

The Island is alive... With the Sound of Music

When I say the word “karaoke” what comes to mind? For me, images of sketchy bars that boast a dimly-lit stage and television screens with psychedelic pictures behind song lyrics dance through my head like the infamous bouncing ball. The aroma of cigarette smoke and stale beer is almost overwhelming as tone-deaf singers mumble awkwardly through the verses so they can belt out the chorus of classic tunes such as Sweet Home Alabama, Any Man of Mine, or even It’s the End of the World as We Know it. However, as you may know, karaoke is extremely popular throughout Asia, for some reason. We knew that we would have to partake in this cultural experience at some point during our time here and last night was the lucky night.

Before we even arrived, I knew that I was in for a different experience than what I had in my mind’s eye. We were invited to go by some friends about a week and a half ago because, apparently, you need to make reservations that far in advance. When we strode up to the site described to us by our friends, I had to double check to make sure that we were in the right place. Walking up, it looked like the entrance to an elegant hotel. No sketchy bar here, folks. There was a grand foyer complete with chandeliers and leather sofas for those who had not made reservations and were now waiting for an indefinite amount of time for space to become available. Lucky us with our reservations, we were shown directly to the elevators and to the twelfth floor of the establishment where our private room awaited us. No stage up in front of complete strangers, no listening to Mr. Three-sheets-to-the-wind sing I Will Always Love You for the fifth time (unless he actually came with you). Evidently, this is how it is always done here. Everyone gets a private room with a table, two microphones, and a television. Now, I am getting why this is more popular here.

Shortly after we were seated, our waiter came in to take our order. Orders successfully placed with the aid of our Taiwanese friends, we dove into the singing. We were very pleasantly surprised at the number of English songs they had in their selection. Though the lyrics sometimes were a little off (I am dig in you = I am digging you), we were happy to not have to try to read Chinese characters. Probably our favorite part, however, was the videos that they showed behind the lyrics while we sang. For a select few of the songs, they had the actual music videos. However, for the vast majority of the songs, they had random girls walking through parks or what I could only guess were tourism videos from Ottawa, Canada. Beat It! actually had a girl dancing around a no parking sign the entire time. Succumbing to temptation, Chris and I broke down and actually sang Sweet Home Alabama. But, the best part about it was that throughout the song, images proudly displaying the Australian flag were plastered on the screen. Hey, they both start with an A and speak a strange variant of English, right?

All in all, the evening was dubbed a roaring success and much good, clean fun was had by all. I encourage you all to set up a karaoke machine in your living rooms and turn on the BBC to duplicate the experience. Happy singing!

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