When we arrived in Hong Kong a few years ago, I decided that alongside an exciting relocation, it would be good to embrace some new challenges. Learning Chinese was high on the list; whilst I now consider myself fluent in “Taxi Canto”, this, sadly, is yet to take off. I have, however, enjoyed discovering the hiking trails, and learnt not to kill the exotic plants on my balcony.
But I really didn’t anticipate the pleasures of my most recent discovery – the late night karaoke session. This new-found obsession does feel a little like a midlife crisis. As one firmly ensconced in my fifth decade, I have now started jumping in taxis to Causeway Bay with a group of like-minded mates, crowding into a small room with a couple of beers and grabbing the nearest microphone. While we may not be attempting to collectively recapture our misspent youth, I’m sure I can’t be the only one secretly pretending to be Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation – can I?
Introduced to the delights of Music Box by a good friend, the Karaoke Aficionado, I have come to love the faux-casual enquiry, a couple of drinks in, “So, anyone up for singing, then?” We all know that the evening wouldn’t be complete without at least three hours of tuneful (we trust) renditions of the University Years’ Classics. Our preferred song list is eclectic, with a slight bias towards late 80s and early 90s guitar bands, but we don’t discriminate. There will always be a couple of tracks we are forced to abandon half way through, conceding that the original artist was, indeed, rather good at their job. But our misplaced optimism adds a certain pathos to the occasion, while the joy of nailing a big anthem knows no bounds.
So is vocal ability necessary, or even desirable? Well, I once went with a lovely friend, who not only possesses a gorgeously clear soprano, but is also about to take her Grade 8 singing exam. After recovering from the shock of being massively out-performed, I now appreciate that the karaoke booth is a broad church, embracing both mediocrity and talent alike. Just the other week, we overheard a group of youngsters positively murdering Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”. When a couple of us smugly claimed that we could do rather better (given we were actually alive when the song was recorded) the Aficionado gently remonstrated, “This is karaoke – there is no judgement here”. And when you pop to the toilet and witness the harsh reality of how your friends sound from outside the room, it does rather deflate any delusions of vocal grandeur.
Clearly, the more sensible choice for a lady of my advanced years would be to join a choir, but the thought of an audition in front of proper musicians leaves me sweaty-palmed with nerves. So I’ll stick to karaoke, warbling away to a more forgiving audience and wonder why I just hadn’t discovered it sooner.
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