On any given night out there will always be a point when I mention karaoke. The suggestion is usually followed by a lot of nodding, beaming and sometimes even jumping up and down. When I do that, my friends usually just laugh.
I’ve not always been a karaoke lover. It took me going to Japan to break open the shell of petrification that quickly surrounded my entire boy whenever anyone proposed singing in front of others. Of course, I’ve never had any reservations about other people singing – it was just never really my thing.
I lived near Nagoya when I worked in Japan, which was very lucky for me. I also worked with a whole bunch of fantastic people and on one particular night we all decided to hit the town. Knowing nothing of the area I placed my trust in the hands of my friends and they certainly did not disappoint. Having lived in cities and towns of low population density I was totally unprepared for the multi-storey nightclub to which I was lead, but bewilderment gave way to enjoyment and before long I was exploring the club eagerly, making my way from one floor to another, completely impressed by the changing themes which suited different social personalities.
When we had tired of dancing, drinking and talking we decided it was time to move on. One of our party brought up karaoke (because if there’s anything at all that you have to do when you’re in Japan on a night out, it’s karaoke!) and of course the idea was met with resounding approval. And so, off we wandered – our somewhat ragged, slightly intoxicated but still happily engaging group of revellers looking for a place to relax and continue sharing our merriment. Soon enough we found our destination. After a brief period of organisation we found ourselves breaking into smaller groups and shortly afterwards I found myself in a room with three other friends, staring at a thick catalogue of songs and holding a microphone.
Initially I was extremely hesitant; bashful even. I passed the microphone to my friends and shrank into the couch, cheering them on as they paid tribute to their chosen artists. Before too long though (and after another couple of drinks) I was drawn into the fun and as the time passed I found myself swept up in the fantasy of being a rock star. The night rolled on towards the dawn and as it claimed some of our group, I was left to share the microphone with one other remaining superstar. She and I sang into the early hours of the morning, resigning ourselves to the end of our reign only when the owner of the karaoke parlour ushered us out of his establishment and into the growing light of the morning.
I lost my voice that night and it didn’t come back for two days. A miniscule price to pay for what I gained.
To me, karaoke isn’t just about trying to be a superstar. Whether you sing at a pub in front of all the patrons or you gather with a group of your closest friends in a karaoke booth doesn’t matter to me. It’s about being courageous. I’m still very shy, but I will always applaud everyone who is willing to sing in front of other people because its something that I’ve always been scared of doing. And that’s what makes it such an amazing thing to me. I love karaoke because whenever I get up and sing, I am putting my courage to work. I’m doing something that scares me and I’m glad that I can sit down and say “Sure, I might be a terrible singer, but I had a go.” Laugh at me, jeer if you like, but I’m making sure that I’m getting the most out of life.
I don’t believe in pushing people to do things that they don’t want to do, but I am always happy to make a fool of myself if it will encourage others to have a go at something. Success and failure aren’t as important as some people make out – they’re mostly subjective anyway.