01 August 2009

Public Videoke

Young guy, covering his boobs with a towel, consults his girlfriend on song selection matters.

A pay videoke machine, stationed at the corner of a Manila street, becomes a place where members of a neighborhood converge. When someone puts a 5 peso coin in, and the strains of a synthesizer fill the air, and people begin to gather. There are also passers-by who become momentary audiences-- a "satellite group" of people forms outside the shed, watching on and singing along for a minute or two before picking up their sack of bulk goods or roving food carts and carrying on with work.

A passer-by (man standing on right, had a killer voice) is invited to sing a stanza or two.

Filipinos love to have an audience, even sleepless ones beyond a 50 foot radius. Most videoke, by the very nature of its aural intrusion, is public. I have grown used to the loud singing, and pick up the "musical pulse of the public" through my regular encounters with it, often hearing neighborhood renditions before the actual recordings.

A budding street videokeist has his turn.

I once overheard a conversation by some settled expatriates while chilling in some hot springs once. They were quite fearful in discussing the possibility of a videoke operation ruining the silence of their bucolic hillside homes. One of the foreigners said he proposed to fund a sound-proof videoke joint in his community before they could set up the characteristically loud, synth-y version. They refused and ridiculed him.

I later asked our companion, who was a local, if he would patronize a videoke place which did not leach its noise pollution onto the neighborhood. The answer was a quite vehement "no", and a smiling explanation along the lines of "Why should I pay if no one will hear me sing anyway?". How interesting.

The baby did sing. Really! Syllables.

A natural knack for singing, the feeling and glamor of clutching a microphone and being a star. Even the malls have more sophisticated "diva" versions of the machines, with video screens showing bystanders your performance, and open at the side, of course, if people want to take a peek at who is behind all the blaring. If that's not enough, you get a video copy and show everyone back home, or send it to a noontime show or recording company.

A student shows us her stuff.

An audience gathers around the "New Star".

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