Yesterday, after many weeks of logistical planning, rescheduling, and venue changes, the majority of my IES program-mates and I experienced a Chinese cultural phenomena which we had been yearning to experience since we had arrived in Shanghai; K-TV! To all of you who don’t know, K-TV is not a television show, a trendy night-club (although it sounds like a plausible name for a Shanghai club), or an edgy street drug; in actuality K-TV is China’s version of karaoke. Right now you are probably thinking, “Karaoke, you mean that singing event American bars have where most people drunkenly wail into the microphone?” To the aforementioned statement I would respond both yes and no, although K-TV and karaoke have roughly the same format, K-TV shares few other similarities with its American counterpart.
Before coming to China I saw karaoke as one of two things: 1. As a sub-free party alternative offered by Grinnell College where sober students sing their hearts out at 9:00PM on a Friday night. This incarnation of karaoke is usually followed by a night of studying or curling up with the modern-day wonder which is Netflix. 2. As the place where you go onto the “stage” of a seedy dive bar late on a Wednesday night. At this version of karaoke the microphone, in the words of Billy Joel, “smells like a beer”, and most people’s singing ability is roughly equivalent to the sounds of a car crash combined with orc noises from Lord of the Rings. However, having successfully completed a marathon four-hour round of K-TV, my views of karaoke have been changed for the better.
Walking into the karaoke bar (V-Show), I was offered an incredible first impression of the phenomena which is K-TV, there were over 50 (50!!!) private palatial-style rooms arranged in the form of an Alice In Wonderland meets a Tim Burton Movie-esque city, complete with street signs, street lights, a “grocery store” among others. We were lead by one of the workers to our group’s private suite, an incredibly luxurious Romanesque room with ample seating to accommodate our roughly thirty people. The room we used was likely generally occupied by the Chinese upper-crust of society however, since we booked our room from 3:00-7:00PM on a Friday we were able to get rock-bottom rates (and experience the cleaning crew at work…). Once we all situated ourselves, we looked at the master computer for song choices, and much to our pleasant surprise, there were over 2000 English-language hits (however much to my disappointment, no songs from The Strokes were available).
After choosing our songs we all burst into absolute, unadulterated, and shameless singing! After a period of vocal warming up, I shuffled up to the main microphone wearing my “dad clothes” (quirky polo shirt tucked into jeans) and tackled, We Are Young, by Fun., a song which falls mostly in my vocal range. During the following hours I ended up belting out a wide range of songs ranging from: We Are the Champions by Queen, Apologize by One Republic (of which I am not a fan), and In the Club by 50 Cent. Making our experience even more fun was the fact that our Chinese R.A., Hu Pan, and a few of our Chinese language partners were able to attend K-TV with us to show us how K-TV is really done! They not only impressively belted out some Chinese-language hits but also showed me how to play the traditional Chinese dice game which I had been wondering how to play for the majority of the past month.
After our time limit was reached (4 hours at K-TV goes by much faster than you would imagine) we all headed out to get some much needed sustenance and rest our completely shot vocal cords. Before actually participating in K-TV I had pretty high expectations for the experience and it is safe to say that my expectations of K-TV were definitely met if not exceeded. Having experienced the fun which Chinese K-TV offers, I have one question for America, “Why can’t we learn from China and embrace the superior version of karaoke which is K-TV?” I believe both our perceptions of karaoke and general health of our ears (due to not having to listen to drunk wailing) would be greatly improved if we were to simply accept K-TV into our American society!
Until next time (When I’ll be writing you from Tokyo!),
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<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell's T&F and XC teams). </div>