I have never been one for karaoke. Actually, I hate it. I don’t want to hear you sing, your friend sing nor do I ever want to sing. Back home karaoke night at a local bar was equivalent to torture. It always seemed like you heard people butcher songs you didn’t like in the first place.
This attitude changed completely Saturday night. After an excellent birthday party thrown for my buddy Ethan, a few of us decided we had to go to a nearby nori bang. The literal translation for a nori bang is “singing room.” Thought we haven’t been before, Lindsay and I are very familiar with these rooms as we have two very close to our apartment. Late at night we can hear an inebriated Korean singing. My older sister lived in Scotland for a year next to a slaughterhouse. Often she would hear the awful sounds of a pig being slaughtered. I can only imagine that the noises coming from our local nori bang sound similar.
This is not to say that Chris, Maria, Ethan or myself sounded any better Saturday night. But the experience of the nori bang was absolutely life changing. We walked into this swanky joint and requested a room. We were escorted back to one of the 5 rooms or so that had terrific mood lighting, comfortable couches and a fantastic karaoke machine. After each song we were giving a score between 1-100. We topped out at a 98.
But the most amazing thing to me was that I became a karaoke fan. Or at least a nori bang fan. I feel like overnight I have been transformed into a music machine. In fact, I sit here wishing that our dinner plans tonight end with an encore performance of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” by yours truly.
But there are rules. One we learned the hard way was don’t sing too loud. The staff will turn you down.
Here are some rules of etiquette for the next time you go to a nori bang with friends.
- Always let the most advanced singer go first. There will usually be one person who is far better than everyone else. Most likely they have spent a considerable amount of time in Singing Rooms and will know their favorite selection of 200 or so songs by heart.
Choose a song where you at least know the chorus well. It’s one thing to sing badly but not even knowing the chorus is a real faux pas.
- When in doubt go for the Beatles, or “Hotel California”. The latter is considered the holy grail of modern rock and inspires tears to well in the eyes of even the hardest gangster boss.
- The aim of the game is to keep up with the little bouncy ball and sing in approximately the right pitch. Don’t worry about mumbling a few nonsensical words to get through the song. Most people will be too drunk to notice or just plain impressed that you are sharing your talent with them.
- Always Clap. Even if it was the most excruciating experience you have been through. There is almost no lower insult you can give by not acknowledging the efforts of your colleague. It’s very important that you make everyone feel they are appreciated.
- Restrain yourself. The sudden urge to make Eminem or Mick Jagger look amateur is not going to pay off in your favour without a lot of practice.
- Duet. If you really want to make an impression go for a duet on the second or third round.
- Don’t drink faster than anyone else. One of the tricks of a Korean business person is to take the guest out for drinks to get to know the “real” person. If you drink faster than anyone else it just makes it easier for them to crack your shell when it comes time for the inevitable round of questioning.