8 days left until I return to China. My mom practically cries when I say it in number form instead of saying August 23rd. “It seems so short when you say that!” she whines. Nevertheless, I am heading back on August 23rd, and I am much more prepared than the last time around. For one, I have learned how to sing a Chinese song. You may or may not know, but KTV (private karaoke rooms) are a huge part of Chinese life. Despite the fact that I lived in a small town, there were still numerous KTV clubs for people to display their incredibly terrible singing voices at all hours of the day and night.
I am not a good singer. I never thought I was a good singer. But, I have always enjoyed putting on a show…with someone else, of course. And preferably another guy who can help mask the awful sounds coming from my mouth. And, believe me, the performance factor is just as important, if not more so, than the actual vocals. Just ask the judges from Gettysburg Idol 2009 because, yes, Steve Fairhurst, my roommate, and I won. We beat out voice majors, I believe…although, I’m not quite sure.
So KTV is huge in China. I like to perform. Only there is one large problem: being trapped in a stuffy room with friends is not exactly the best performance venue. Therefore, I (along with a partner or two) often venture off and invade random people’s rooms. There, I can sing a song to a new audience and get free drinks. They usually request that we sing immediately. Or at least, I believe that’s what they are requesting (since I can’t really understand Chinese) when they throw me at the computer to choose a song. I always choose, “I want it that way” by the Backstreet Boys, and believe me, I (and with Zak if he’s there) am quite good at it now. But, recently, I made it a summer goal of mine to learn a Chinese song. That would really blow some people’s minds and gain me some mad guanxi among Chinese people. Yes, they enjoy hearing English songs, but if I could sing something of their native language….then WOW.
Some other things to note about KTV. You are in control of how loud the music and vocals of the original artist are. This means, when I sing “I want it that way” I can sound like a pro as my perfect notes blend with those of AJ, Nick, Brian, Howie, and the other one (yeah, I realize that the fact that I said “the other one” gives away the fact that I know 4 of their names…). But sometimes, they turn off the other voices completely, and people are forced to listen to the former Gettysburg Idol on his own. I can remember the most painful performance I ever gave:
I invaded a random Chinese room by myself. It was either my first or second time singing KTV ever, and I was feeling rather daring. Immediately after walking in, they pushed me to the computer. I had just performed Mika’s “Love Today” in our room and thought that I did quite well. Well, everyone thinks they sound good when their microphone is at level 1 and the actual artist’s voice is on level 9. These Chinese people turned Mika’s vocals off altogether. It was the longest 18 minutes of my life. If you’ve never heard the song. Give it a listen. Those high notes he hits….yeah. Try that. It’s not fun. The group applauded me regardless, and they even applauded a 2nd time when I returned with friends to sing a little “Livin’ la vida loca.” And yes, that performance was just as bad…if not worse.
Bottom line: KTV is huge in China. I’m terrible at it. But, I still always try. Moreover, once I get alcohol in me, I actually REQUEST to sing. So…knowing a Chinese song is only going to increase the odds of someone appreciating my horrendous performances because at least then…I am exhibiting the skill of having mastered a song of a different language. K. That’s it for now. I’ll let you know how it goes when I unleash it for the first time.
(related note: Zak and I are going to learn a duet. Haven’t decided what song yet. If anyone has any suggestions, do send them this way. Thanks)
This is the song I learned: Tong Hua (fairy tale) by Guang Liang