11 August 2019

Karaoke - Love it or hate it

What Filipino home would be without a karaoke machine? What gathering or party would exist in the  Philippines without karaoke/videoke making an appearance at some stage?

videoke and karaoke in the Philippines

I can remember many years ago when I first heard of karaoke, and sorry to say I thought it was a really dumb idea. No issue with singing or with music. Music has always played a major part of my life. Always a rock 'n' roll boy. Used to go and see bands in Sydney when I was a teenager all the time. I think it was the idea of singing to a TV screen that I had trouble getting my head around. Seemed like a very strange thing to do.

Oddly enough though, I used to sing as a kid. Not in front of anybody. Far too humiliating, and I suppose it was just part of growing up in 1970's suburban Australia was that many decisions you made were to avoid ridicule. Certainly a more critical and meaner lot than Filipinos tend to be.

So question is: Does Jeff ever pick up the microphone and sing?

Yes, I most definitely do. When and how? I had sworn never to ever sing to a TV screen over many years, and I had stuck to it. Then in 2010 at a party at a friend's place in Philippines I finally decided to have a go, much to the amazement of my wife and especially my kids. Jaws were dropping like flies! I even had a go at Martin Nievera's "Be My Lady", and seemed to manage the high notes.

Know what's odd? Never been able to hit those high notes since. The song requires someone who has a broad range, and I have my limitations. I suspect it was the quantity of red wine consumed that encouraged me at the beginning was sufficient to hide the fact I probably wasn't hitting those high notes as well as I thought I was. I guess we'll never know!

Karaoke in the Philippines

Is karaoke common in the Philippines? That would be an understatement! Almost everyone has a go, and a notable thing is you never hear criticism even when someone is clearly tone-deaf. Even those who invent notes that don't exist and cause the paint peel off the walls, they still get a clap and assorted words of encouragement. Me? I wince if I hear a single bad note in a song on shows like American Idol. Filipinos? Seem to never notice.

Therefore to get a household where everyone there has some singing talent, this is fairly rare. A few average singers and a whole lot of people who sing like they're "singing through a large sock full of custard with a mouthful of buwad (dried fish)" (credited to Perry Gamsby from Philippine Dreams) is more the norm. And the more alcohol consumed at a gathering, the worse it gets as the voices deteriorate and bravery increases. Add some heavy Filipino accents to English songs, and you can get a very unpleasant sound bellowing across the neighbourhood!

In fact when my daughter Remy first came to Australia, we played her the amazing Wing (singing Mama Mia, I'm fairly sure). How did Remy react? She started singing along! Didn't get the point at all! (Click on the link if you don't know what I'm referring to). This is because she grew up surrounded by singers who would make Wing seem like Celine Dion in comparison!

But basically, nearly everyone sings in the Philippines. Alcohol helps, but it's not a vital component. Birthday parties...house blessings.....even funerals. Yes, people will sing at the wake in the days before the funeral, and back at the house afterwards. Open coffin on display in one room, and a rental videoke machine set up outside for the mourners to enjoy.

And families with machines at home (like the Harvie family) will usually have a machine hooked up to the TV set and an amplifier. Requests of "Can we sing tonight, dad?" are pretty common. Remy and myself are the most enthusiastic, and Maggie (5 years old) is catching up. Remy and I sing "Way Back Into Love" and "What's up?" as duets, and Maggie likes "Eternal Flame" and "500 Miles" with me. And I'm so glad that all the kids have forgotten "Let It Go" from that awful "Frozen" cartoon movie.

Can be a great deal of fun, and it brings people together. Much better that a house full of people all glued to phones and devices.