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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Everybody's doing the Karaoke thing!

Everybody's doing the Karaoke thing!

T HE Karaoke craze has swept through Phnom Penh since spring. Many youths, whose

minds have been soaked by video games in the last few years, are now flooding

into Karaoke shops and paying a few hundred riels to sing their favorite songs.

Enterprising drinks-shop owners, after purchasing a video recorder,

Karaoke tapes, a microphone and speakers, have cashed in on the latest fad and

are running a thriving in-house business.

Everywhere you can see people

thrilled to bits by Karaoke songs and music. Phnom Penh is now able to fill in

its usually silent nights.

"Oh! oh! yeh! yeh! Si bai pteas kei, chous

arch pteas eng..." a boy shouts. His Khmer improvisation of the English song

literally translates to 'Oh! oh! yeh! yeh! Dining at his house and back to s**t

at our home... .'

In fact the singer did not mean to change the original

words but his English was too poor to read and say 'I love you more than I can

say.'

He says many Cambodians would love to sing foreign songs together

with those of their mother tongue but unfortunately they face the language

barrier.

In contrast Var Sara, who speaks fluent Japanese and Thai, says

he likes to sing songs in these two languages as well as the Khmer melodies to

amuse himself.

Sara, a 24-year-old guide at the Paradise Angkor Wat Tour

business, said: "While some people drink alcohol to forget their troubles I just

sing songs."

Apparently, Sara can sing more beautifully than most Karaoke

fans - not much worse than professional singers.

He said he owed his

singing ability to spending hours each day practicing songs at the top of his

voice in the privacy of his home to try to improve his voice.

Sara said:

"I know other people who would climb to the top of the [then] broken

Cambodian-Japanese friendship bridge to practice in privacy. They would scream

noisy rubbish to the birds in the sky and the fish in the river."

Unluckily, there are some folks who are not very successful at improving

their rough voices. These people have expressed much regret for their past

acts.

An unsuccessful singer who requested not to be identified lamented:

"It would be less shameful to walk naked than shout like a crazy man in

vain."

Enthusiastic Karaoke singer Sam Mao, 25, said: "I would sing all

the songs on all the videotapes if only I could catch-up with the scripts which

often move too fast.

He added: "Sometimes my friends complain that I

sound like I'm crying when I sing and at other times they say I sound like I'm

reading aloud."

Mao explained that the most popular Karaoke shops are

those with beautiful lady owners or daughters.

He said: "Besides going

to sing, I often go just to see and court the daughters of the owners. Sometimes

I have no money but I go to woo.

"The standard price for singing a song

in one of the small shops is only a few hundred riels, but in the red light

district the fees are much higher because they have girls to accompany you if

the song needs both a male and female singer."

New fans of Karaoke say

they find it very uncomfortable to air their voice in public with vicious

critics sitting around and saying this and that about them.

A new Karaoke

devotee Bi Samrach said: "At the beginning I must be a bit tipsy before I can

sing." Unfortunately, given the traditionally greater shyness of the Khmer

ladies, we do not see as many girls as boys at the Karaoke shops.

Owner

of the Karaoke house near the Japanese bridge Prak Yary said: "Girls prefer to

hide in their houses and sing to themselves. Some girls even feel ashamed of the

microphones. They think it is like holding a man's family jewels."

Yary,

who has been operating the Karaoke service for a month, complained that it is

not a lucrative business.

She said: "The money I earn barely makes up

for the costs of the electricity and the repayments on the entertainment

equipment I bought.

"On average I have about ten customers daily but I

often suffer from being cheated.

"Sometimes the more crowded it is and

the more singers I have the less money I make because more people cheat [not

paying after singing songs]."

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