Why Asian hits never go global
Most people know karaoke is painful. But did you know it can be fatal? Today, boys and girls, we will look at the topic of music in Asia.
An in-depth survey by yours truly shows that there have been scores of deaths at sing-it-yourself places, particularly in Asia. Sometimes fights are triggered by audience comments about amateurish singing (what do they expect at a karaoke venue? Pavarotti?).
Or disputes break out when one singer hogs the microphone for too long -- and five seconds is too long if my former boss is performing.
Then there are the technical glitches. There have been at least four deaths in Vietnam alone in which a karaoke performer puts an ill-wired mike to his lips, leans against the speaker and goes out with a bang -- literally. POW!
Karaoke deaths are also common in the Philippines, but not due to bad wiring. In one unfortunate incident in a town north of Manila, listeners criticised a singer for being off-key.
Bad idea. The singer and his friends turned out to be heavily armed agents from the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation. They drew their guns.
Bad idea Number 2: The hecklers turned out to be heavily armed police officers.
There were numerous deaths in the ensuing shoot-out. And it was al l over a few duff notes in My Way.
The deadly underside of karaoke is worrying, considering its prevalence in Asia. One Singapore hotel installed karaoke equipment in each guestroom. The Royal Dokmaideng Hotel in Vientiane, Laos, boasts in brochures about its 16 karaoke fun rooms: "Yell your joyfulness. Seek the spiritual communication."
Sometimes karaoke kills by sheer excitement. The present writer watched a Hong Kong politician sing Unchained Melody, better known in Asia as the theme from the movie Ghost, in a large ballroom.
We held our breath as he strained for the high note close to the end of the song: "Are you still mine? I neeeeeed your love."
He finished singing. We applauded. He dropped dead.
Or to put it another way, he yelled his joyfulness and found spiritual communication.
Five actual names of Japanese pop music bands:
1. Bump of Chicken;
2. Dog Hairdressers;
3. The Pees;
4. Elephant Kashimashi; and
5. Super Butter Dog.
Quiz: What Asian language are the following phrases from?
"Fallin' in lurve," "Breakin' my heart" and "Kiss me, baby."
They sound English, but they are popular English clichés used in vernacular pop songs throughout Asia.
In South Korea, bands jump seamlessly between English and Korean, such as in T.T. Ma's Wanna Be Loved: "Hear me now, hanguhleum da gawa nal aeajwo nae jinshimeul," which means, "Hear me now, take a step closer and embrace me and my truth."
The good news is that anglicised Asian pop still retains a delightful charm all its own. For example, top Japanese boy band Glay's Kissin' Noise goes like this:
"I and love don't kiss me noisy love don't kiss me only you don't kiss me lost my love."
As you can see, it has lots of nice English poppy sort of words scattered around, but no meaning at all.
Their countrymen, The Pees, have released a thoughtful song called Brain:
"I want to throw my brain of a half, I want to throw my brain of a half, wanna throw it away, wanna throw it away."
This, for me, is on a par with the greatest lyrics of the Spice Girls:
"I wanna huh I wanna huh I wanna huh I wanna huh I wanna really really really really zig-a-zig-ah."
Yes, the heirs of Cole Porter are refining their skills.