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Crooning and the city

Lights! Lyrics! And action! In a nation of bathroom singers, this was bound to happen — karaoke is the rage (again) and Delhi is finding its voice — if only to break into song.

art and culture Updated: Aug 19, 2011 22:03 IST
Pankaj Mullick

Lights! Lyrics! And action! In a nation of bathroom singers, this was bound to happen — karaoke is the rage (again) and Delhi is finding its voice — if only to break into song.

The myth that karaoke was just a ploy for pub owners to pace up their slow nights has finally been shattered. Sing-a-song is now an option every night of the week — in fact some nights there’s more than one option around town.

The city’s nightingales had another thing to cheer about as the Karaoke World Championship (KWC) held trials and then the zonals last month at One Cafe Bar in Saket. Akshay Anand, partner-owner, One Cafe Bar, says, “We were the first ones to sustain karaoke nights since we started them two-and-a-half years ago. Hosting KWC is therefore a natural progression for One Cafe Bar.” KWC will culminate in September in Killarney, Ireland.

The Saket outlet tries out different blends of music including fusion music, every Wednesday and Friday to keep microphone hounds interested. Radhika Shankar, who along with Marshall hosts the karaoke nights at the venue, has become something of a veteran on the Delhi karaoke scene. (Karaoke hosts are called Karaoke Jockeys or KJs.) “Karaoke is great way to break ice with strangers. People cheer each other on and even join in. We now see regulars mingling with newbies and the energy is amazing,” she says. Ankita Kumar, a lawyer, vouches for the camaraderie that can result from evenings of singing out loud. “I like to sing and one evening I landed up at TC (in Adchini), where Radhika was the host. I took the mike and kept coming back. I have since bonded with the group who used to sing at TC and now quite a few of us have moved on to Zook, Saket, where Radhika and Marshall rock the house every Sunday,” says Kumar.

Shankar, along with Manish Gunthey, another veteran, was part of the first wave of karaoke in the city, which started at Aquifer in GK-II. When it shut down two years ago, it created a vacuum which places like Bennigan's (in the same market) tried to fill. By now, karaoke is so hot that Shankar and Gunthey (now part of separate groups) don’t get a single night off during the week.

And there are new kids on the block to handle what the old-hands can't. Siblings Tanya and Karan Nambiar, who along with Gunthey and another KJ, Mohit Pise, go under the name Microphonics, recently started karaoke nights at Manajsa in Hauz Khas on Wednesdays. Ask Tanya about the revival of this form of DIY entertainment and she says, “There's a growing pub culture in the city and a wave of Indian independent artistes coming out with original music. Going with this, pub-goers are now more open to exploring new forms of entertainment and karaoke is certainly a more interactive one.”

Manajsa owner-partner, Anup Singh, says, “We are all about music and hope to have artistes playing here every day of the week. Karaoke is a great way to tell people what we stand for. All music lovers are welcome.”

And it’s not just English songs that are in vogue. Things can get pretty busy on Thursdays when Gunthey hosts classic Bollywood nights at Harry’s Karaoke Lounge Bar (yes, it’s a whole outlet dedicated to karaoke) at Ansal Plaza. “It's fun to see what a release it is for people to sing their hearts out,” he says.

Lee (the jeans brand) is also riding the karaoke bandwagon and starting this month has been sponsoring Lee KroaKING, Season 6 in venues around the city, including Turquoise Cottage in Vasant Vihar.