Just quietly, I had been avoiding her like the plague!
It wasn’t easy though….everywhere I looked, every corner I turned, there she was.
Standing tall, bold and brassy….
Her name staring down at me, beckoning me to see what all the fuss was about.
They call her, KTV.
Westerners may know her by another name. Karaoke.
It’s not that I don’t like a good sing-a-long….but considering I’m tone deaf, these are normally held in the privacy of my own home.
So, I was at a bit of a loss as to why KTV had her clutches on most of the Chinese population’s social life.
Outside of Tai Chi and drinking tea, KTV reigns supreme across most of Asia.
For Chinese locals, KTV is their answer to our night at the pub or that slick new cocktail bar. KTV is a beacon of light where anyone can feel like a super star, week days, week nights, weekends!
Whether you’re young or old, a student, a mum, a businessman or the CEO, KTV enthrals them all with her razzle dazzle.
Birthday, business meeting, staff get together or hot date with your other half….KTV is your girl.
Trivial fact – a survey in 2013 found there were almost 20-thousand KTV’s in China.
So when my expat friends announced a big KTV night out for a birthday party, my stomach did a little flip flop…. but admittedly I was also curious to see why she was so dam popular.
Step inside the KTV realm and her charm is evident. Chandeliers glisten in the foyer; neon lights fuel the anticipation. (Of course in true Asian style, she also comes in a myriad of themes. Think Hello Kitty, The Lion King, Super Mario….vintage and super opulent!)
The first thing that caught me by surprise was the mini supermarket. I guess I was expecting a bar of some description not a 7/11 perched amongst the glitz.
This is where you grab your shopping cart and stock up with supplies, namely booze and snacks.
The staff will then escort you to your own room.
You see, KTV is all about privacy. Inside the massive building are dozens of smallish, sound proof rooms with their own Karaoke box.
Oh and just for the record there are some KTV venues that offer more than a stage and some snacks. In some, I’m told, you get girls! Lines of women are brought in for your selection to ahem… “serve” you.
Thankfully all that was brought into us was the shopping carts, packed with our goodies.
Including these tasty morsels.
(Let’s not mention the fact we were moved rooms due to our hostesses fear of us being electrocuted!?)
Time to kick back and settle in on the leather bench seats that wrap around the room….which for all intents and purposes holds a myriad of mirror balls, microphones and maracas!
OK, there aren’t maracas, that just sounded good… but there are tambourines!
Which immediately piqued my interest. She can’t sing but she can shake!!
There’s a small stage but mostly everyone’s in their seat or up on the dance floor, microphone in hand. We
regrettably took kids, and it was head-splitting noisy, until they inadvertently found their own room! Hellelujah!
A lot of the songs are naturally in Chinese, but there are also plenty of English pop songs to whisk you back to the eighties (just don’t expect too much in the way of music videos, apparently rights to use the footage is limited, making for some rather dodgy clips on display).
That said, as soon as I heard Dirty Dancing’s ‘Hungry Eyes’ belt out from the machine, I was back in high school dreaming about Patrick Swayze… and I was sold!
KTV you had me at hello!
This is one cultural phenomenon I might embrace…..maybe.
After all, this is China.