November 08, 2010

The Cambodian ultimate experience: KARAOKE

If you stay long enough around, there will be at least one chance of being invited to go out to karaoke. In my organization, farewell parties for colleagues take place at the karaoke. So a big room is rented and everyone is invited. Once you get there you take your place on the couch, as there are huge couches in one side of the room, the other side, across the couches and tables, is taken of course by the huge TV screens. The music starts right as the first guests arrive. Cambodians do not need much incentive or alcohol for that matter, in order to perform. They all sit down and sing, until someone takes the microphone and breaks the ice. And then whoever wants to sing, sings. People are not shy at all, irrespective of their voices. Don’t get me wrong, the majority have very nice voices, and a talent to sing, but not all do.. :) After 5 minutes there, I was already being asked what I wanted to sing..I said maybe later, thinking that I will get out of it before I know it…I needed a bit of encouragement, if you know what I mean. Karaoke where I come from is more like a collective craziness of drunk people, here people respect each other, and they take singing very seriously. Each one chooses a song which he or she dully sings until the end, without anyone laughing at them. While one of them sings, all the others eat or enjoy a drink, but mostly eat. When the food part is over, the lights are being dimmed and people start dancing as well.
Oh yes, I didn’t tell you that the singing is performed in full light, well at least this is how it was when I had to sing “My heart will go on…” this is because the other option was “I don’t want to sleep alone..”?!?!? I also have to tell you that I didn’t have anything to drink and it was only half an hour after I arrived. I thought well if they do it, why shouldn’t I ?? hahaha it went well in the end they applauded me :-D hahahah
I was surprised to see how much passion my colleagues put into singing. People that at the office look very serious, well, in front of those TV screens they were giving it their best, with all the drama of a performer..impressing I must admit :D It is a paradox cause here people are very shy in general, however when it comes to singing in front of strangers, or work colleagues, they don’t have any issues.. :)
Cambodian music is mostly romantic music about love, and performed by couples. So of course, we had a fair share of couples singing together. The girl in one part of the room and the guy in the other, not looking at each other, just singing..I told you they really take it seriously here…
This would be a very interesting team building exercise for Europeans hahha

PS: My favourite Khmer song


  1. I think you were there with an NGO atmosphere and spirit, so things went that particular way. Actually, you can find out more about Cambodian Karaoke if you stay there a bit longer or if you have a closed local friends, you'll be more surprised to know how Karaoke parlor works.

  2. actually we are working in karaoke places as well doing HIV prevention and providing health care, so i know more than you think i know about how it works.. ;)
    that doesn't mean that Cambodians don't love singing..and they do love their karaoke be it in these places or at home.. :)