Sam & Tyler's bday karaoke - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
If the JET community (and increasingly the NOVA community as well) in Izumo has a favorite bar, then it's the one called Number One - we go there a lot.
It has a huge main room, much bigger than they almost ever need, so it's ideal for large gatherings. It's not quite a "gaijin bar" like Kayas or Filaments in Matsue, since we don't go there nightly, but it's the one bar we all know and enjoy.
They have a friendly staff and an "open mike" style karaoke set-up, so even tho I almost never drink alcohol, I still go along for the karaoke.
We had such a gathering a little while ago to celebrate the birthday of two new ALTs - Tyler and Sam. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, so we all gathered at Number 1 and did the nomihodai - or all you can drink special. And we sang a bunch of karaoke.
Now some JETs will tell you that their enjoyment of karaoke is in direct proportion to how drunk they are - but I enjoy it sober. I'm weird like that. :P
I never thought I was a good singer, but I've found a few songs that I guess fit my vocal range/style and since I'm comfortable singing them, I guess it comes across as skill and/or confidence, because I often get small compliments on my singing. I think the key is to just go for it and sing full voice - I always sound better at full volume I think. And even though I do annoy my neighbors with my occasional shower singing, I rarely get a chance to just belt out a tune except at karaoke. (Although I do sing rather loudly in my car when I'm driving - I'm sure to the bewilderment of the Japanese drivers around me)
But now my only problem is I keep singing the same songs over and over. I've been here for more than two years now, and my frequent karaoke partners, like the JETs in Izumo, must be so tired of me singing "New York, New York" and "Take Me Home (Country Roads)" and "Johnny B. Goode" by now. I try and sing some new songs, but the karaoke selection in Izumo is limited when it comes to songs in English. I recently went to Kyoto and sang karaoke and was amazed at how many more songs they had to choose from.
And I sing mostly "oldies" I guess - altho I do break out a Radiohead or Oasis song on occasion, I don't often sing anything from say 2000 to now - I just am a little out of the loop on current Western music and hip/hop is not my style. And I actually have a modicum of respect for the guys that can really rap - I've seen it attempted countless times in karaoke bars by amateurs - and it's really hard to do and pull off. So even tho I enjoy some rap I stay away from it at karaoke bars (with the exception of "Baby's Got Back" - it's a guaranteed sing-a-long, but such a long song).
And I would like to be able to sing some Japanese songs, but the text goes by way too fast for me to keep up. They make it somewhat easier for us novice Nihongo learners by adding furigana (the small hiragana letters put atop the harder to decipher kanji characters) to the lyrics, but it still goes by too fast for me to read and sing-along to. So I join in on the chorus of songs I know if they are requested by other singers more adept at Japanese than me.
So the next time you're in Izumo, let's head out to a karaoke bar (or the cool karaoke box place we have here called "Salsa") and get to singing!
-Jason "Mack the Knife" Harris