Karaoke: When singing in the shower just isn’t enough

Ever since karaoke came on the scene it has swept the world, and has remained one of the few interactive forms of entertainment that has gone the distance. Machines were created in Japan and the Philippines in the 1970s and their popularity spread to Southeast Asia in the 1980s, finally making their mark in the United States and Canada in the 1990s.

Karaoke means “empty orchestra” but the orchestra seats are rarely empty in bars and clubs where karaoke is offered. It has a constant following as let’s face it; there are always singers and wannabe singers with a dream who crave the stage.

For years, machines were bulky items that used CD+Gs: CDs formatted to play music and accompanying graphics. Of course the issue with these was that a spilled beer or an ill-placed glass could scratch or damage the media, and suddenly a crooner would be trying to keep up with the skips in “Ice Ice Baby.” Thankfully, the technology has improved over time, and now everything is computerised. People can buy Magic Microphones with thousands of songs built into one handheld device, and karaoke DJs or “KJs” as they are known can store a huge library of songs in a hard drive the size of a shirt pocket, running the entire programme from a computer. It is usually possible to change the key of the song, so if there are any baritones out there itching to sing a bit of Celine Dion, this will be the answer to their prayers.

Bug bite

The karaoke bug bit the Cayman Islands in the 1990s and evenings started popping up here and there. Hard Rock Café was known for it on Thursday nights, and people in Cayman Brac would step up to the microphone at The Captain’s Table and the Brac Reef Resort.

Karaoke is going stronger than ever on the local scene 20 years later. On almost every night of the week you’ll find it somewhere, like Havana Club on Tuesdays, Reef Resort on Wednesdays, Singh’s Roti Shop on Thursdays, Triple Crown on Fridays and Fidel Murphy’s on Saturdays. It is also offered at other hotpots such as Cotton Club, The Office and the South Coast Bar & Grill on select evenings. Don’t be surprised if you see local Elvis doing the rounds … when he’s not driving his taxi.

I host karaoke at Fidel Murphy’s on Saturday nights, and I’ve certainly had my share of interesting guests and requests. I always try to accommodate everyone, but if you are new to this karaoke thing there are a few things to bear in mind when you go to any karaoke night to ensure you get your chance at the microphone at least once:

Fill in your request form clearly. Make sure you put your name, title of the song and (if necessary) the number of the song on it. Missing information can cause delays.

If you need to go to the toilets or outside for a bit, get friends to listen out for your name so if you’re called they can let the host know that you’re still around.

Slow songs will not get as much play as fast ones at most karaoke venues. In the end the host is paid to fill the bar and keep an audience entertained. Air Supply followed by Celine Dion followed by Richard Marx will start to get pretty tedious. Try to choose a song with at least a bit of a beat behind it.

When you are called up, try to get to the stage as quickly as possible. There are usually others wanting to sing and the faster a host can get someone up and off, the more people get a chance to perform.

Don’t swing the microphone around by its cord. Mick Jagger can afford to constantly replace his cables; the host can’t.

We can handle tipsy but we can’t handle drunk. It puts our equipment at risk and can make for a miserable performance that will drive punters away. Dutch courage is one thing; legless is another.

If you have to leave and you still have requests left with the host, it is a nice common courtesy to let them know so they can take them out. It frees up slots for others who would like to sing.

Karaoke can be a great fun night out for a group of friends, and if you don’t feel confident enough to get up there on your own, then go up as part of a duet, or trio, or quartet …

Don’t Stop Believin’ that you’re a Dancing Queen; just Hold On For One More Day and before you know it you’ll be Singin’ in the Rain.

It is usually possible to change the key of the song, so if there are any baritones out there itching to sing a bit of Celine Dion, this will be the answer to their prayers.