Chinese Karaoke

In my books I’ve mentioned that it’s not uncommon, following a business dinner, for everyone to go to one of the numerous Karaoke bars that dot all Chinese cities. Known as KTV studios, these Karaoke bars have little resemblance to those found in the U.S. where everyone is in one large room watching the person holding the microphone sing. In China Karaoke bars have numerous private rooms, of various-sizes, with thick padded walls to insulate them from sound intrusion. The rooms are rented by the hour and range in size from those that can accommodate only a few to ones that can accommodate a large group. These often come with a raised dance floor, chandeliers, couches, and multiple synced flat screens.

All rooms have a big screen TV that plays music videos which are selected from an extensive music library, many of which are in English. The rooms I’ve been to also have a Western-style bathroom. There’s a menu in each room where you can order drinks as well as both foreign and Chinese food. Each room usually has a female attendant who keeps the place clean, places your food and drink orders, and solves any technical problems that occur.

Everyone lets their hair down at Karaoke bars. From the CEO of the company on down everyone sings, laughs, drinks, and has a good time. In fact everyone is expected to sing which, for most Westerners, is something we’re not prepared for. I have a voice like a frog and have no musical talent. Nevertheless, the host will select Western songs which even I can sing. They don’t care how you sound, just that everyone is enjoying themselves. In a society that’s hierarchical and regimented, Karaoke gives everyone a chance to relax, enjoy, and freely express themselves without social consequence.


Alan Refkin

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