Sunday, February 7, 2010

An unexpectedly repugnant transaction: singing "My Way" in the Philippines

A NY Times story on karaoke in the Philippines is full of interesting and unexpected detail: Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord
"The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.” "
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[While Karaoke sometimes leads to violence elsewhere] "the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.
Indeed, most of the “My Way” killings have reportedly occurred after the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer.
“The trouble with ‘My Way,’ ” said Mr. Gregorio, “is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.”
Others, noting that other equally popular tunes have not provoked killings, point to the song itself. "
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"Defenders of “My Way” say it is a victim of its own popularity. Because it is sung more often than most songs, the thinking goes, karaoke-related violence is more likely to occur while people are singing it. The real reasons behind the violence are breaches of karaoke etiquette, like hogging the microphone, laughing at someone’s singing or choosing a song that has already been sung.
“The Philippines is a very violent society, so karaoke only triggers what already exists here when certain social rules are broken,” said Roland B. Tolentino, a pop culture expert at the University of the Philippines. But even he hedged, noting that the song’s “triumphalist” nature might contribute to the violence."
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"But in karaoke bars where one song costs 5 pesos, or a tenth of a dollar, strangers often rub shoulders, sometimes uneasily. A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons. Since the gay men are not considered rivals for the women’s attention — or rivals in singing, which karaoke machines score and rank — they can use humor to forestall macho face-offs among the patrons.
In one such bar in Quezon City, next to Manila, patrons sing karaoke at tables on the first floor and can accompany a G.R.O. upstairs. Fights often break out when customers at one table look at another table “the wrong way,” said Mark Lanada, 20, the manager.
“That’s the biggest source of tension,” Mr. Lanada said. “That’s why every place like this has a gay man like me.”"

1 comment:

singtothe said...

although i do karaoke and not all the performances are great i cant say i have ever sat there wishing someone dead because of their singing, i've wished them off the stage but taking someones life over their singing?????? How can it be that singing a certain karaoke songs would get you killed?
the x factor judges have to sit through hours of potentially bad auditions and haven't attacked anyone, well it's not been reported if they have so really if this is happening surely it would be connected to a gang initiation or something more sinister than just mob culture, alcohol and a mic hog.