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Karaoke, a growing part of Jamaican Culture

Published:Monday | September 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
This brother-sister duo, Jesanya Faulder and Kaneil Coote tore up the stage at Gee Wee last Friday night.
Reggae Mill Bar is ready for the patrons of Live at the Devon.
Singers, Duchess and Shantel are given a bit of back up by social media figure Dutty Berry during their performance of My Humps by pop group, Black Eyed Peas.
The stage is cleared for (from left) Paul "Tall Pac" Wellington by Live at the Devon MC, Jerry Benzwick and social media figure Dutty Berry.
This picture doesn’t even show half of the crowd that was focused on the stage at Gee Wee Restaurant for last Friday’s karaoke night.
Karim Xhang pays no attention to the ladies waiting to act as his back up dancers as he takes control of the microphone at the Reggae Mill Bar's karaoke.
Entry vouchers are redeemable at the Reggae Mill Bar at Wednesday night's karaoke event, Live at the Devon.
Local recording artiste, Kim Nain uses Live at the Devon at the Reggae Mill Bar last Wednesday to improve on her talent.

Just like the Japanese have found a fascination with our dancehall culture, the reverse has happened, as Jamaicans are becoming increasingly interested in aspects of the Japanese culture.

Karaoke is one popular pastime that originated in Japan. The word comes from two phrases 'kara' meaning empty or without and 'okee', which stands for orchestra.

If you are in Kingston, it's possible that you live in close enough proximity to a restaurant, lounge or bar, that offers karaoke activities at least one night each week.

"Most people enjoy karaoke because we all have an inner star hidden inside us and karaoke offers a moment to bring out that star quality; some of us also have super star role models and such stages provide us with a chance to emulate them," said Orlease King, director of operations at Opa Greek Restaurant and Reggae Mill Bar.




Ears are initially affected by the horrible quality of music coming from a karaoke machine or maybe just because the track the disc jockey found is so old. But eventually the music is worsened by the voices that seemed to be drunk in most instances and once in a while an observing patron will stop indulging in their favourite drink or dish because a performer sounds like or even better than the original singer.

Right in the busy New Kingston area, persons leaving work on a Monday evening can make a stop at Escape 24/7, to release some of the work week stress at karaoke night. It is a good environment for a person that does not mind an audience bigger than their bathroom shower.

"I do believe real talent can be found through karaoke. There are lots of persons out there with true talent, but quite often, they don't have a readily available platform for exposure. It is a relaxed environment that allows person to feel comfortable and sing without the pressure of being judged. It is also true that 'practice becomes perfect' and with constant performance on a karaoke stage, a person who already might have a good voice, will more likely improve and evolve," said King.




According to an online article by ABC News, international recording artistes like Mary J. Blige and Taylor Swift, were discovered through karaoke.

While it started out as a way to make money for businesses, and a form of after work jam for patrons, most of the restaurants and bars in Kingston have made the cover charge redeemable at the bar.

On a Wednesday night, the Reggae Mill Bar at Devon House offers karaoke at a $500 cover charge, that allows patrons their choice of a mixed drink, beer or carbonated drink. Patrons can also enjoy games while being entertained and each week, they book one live act (either known or unknown) to perform.

You definitely can't miss the long lines of parked cars along Waterloo Road on a Thursday night when JoJo's Jerk Pit hosts their karaoke night.

Then on Friday nights, there is the Barbican Beach Grill, while over at the Gee Wee Restaurant, you don't even have to get out of your vehicle to be part of the audience at the Caledonia Avenue hot spot.

"It is family-oriented fun, from a child can hum a tune, we allow them on the stage. Some weeks we have giveaways," said Maria Betton, supervisor at Gee Wee Restaurant.

There is no cover charge and persons can just drive in and park and get served without having to leave their vehicles.

This Friday, performers can try their luck at winning back to school prizes.

It would be great to see some of our local artistes out more at these karaoke spots, after all the idea that their careers and talent could be improved is realistic.