We’re back for Part Three of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour. I was in Kyrgyzstan as part of the research for my book Where’s Wallis? and on my final night I hit the streets of the capital Bishkek in search of karaoke (as any good travel writer would!). It was there that I found most of the young cool set of Bishkek loitering on the footpaths of the main drag Chuy Prospektisi. Kids loiter on city streets at night in every city in the world, but these kids had a better reason to hang about than most. Every twenty metres or so along the street there was a full karaoke set-up, complete with TV monitors, large speakers, flashing lights and even plastic chairs for the audience. The combined cacophony of badly sung, god-awful soppy Russian love songs was both ear-and nerve-shattering, but I loved it.
I picked the fellow with the flashiest lights and nicest plastic chairs and paid him twenty cents to let me sing a song. As I waited for my turn to get on the microphone, a small crowd of curious locals gathered around to hear the scruffy-looking tourist belt out a number. I was only halfway through what I thought was quite a moving rendition of ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’ when most of the crowd got up and walked away. By the time I’d finished there were only three people left. One of them, who had only stayed in order to sing, immediately got up and launched into a badly sung, god-awful soppy Russian love song. My choice of song obviously wasn’t anywhere near sickly enough.
I thought I’d try another ‘karaoke set-up’ further down the street when I was robbed by a bunch of incredibly friendly locals. As I was walking down the street, three clean-cut young fellows smiled and said hello as they strolled past. When they discovered that I spoke ‘English’, they all wanted to shake my hand. After a few big hugs and some boisterous high fives they disappeared into the crowd. Oh, and after they’d taken the money out of my pocket. Mind you, when I realised what had happened I was more amused than upset. Their rather elaborate ruse had netted them just over two dollars. The rest of my cash was spread out over the other five pockets of my cargo pants. But, more importantly, they left me with more than enough money so I could pay to sing a few more songs (and scare off a few more locals).
Next time on Brian’s Karaoke World Tour: Sweden