World Hum (August 2016)

How Korean Karaoke Changed my Life

Growing up, I was The One Who Could Not Sing. My older sister and brother, on the other hand, were routinely cast in musicals and chosen for high school Madrigals (the “Glee”-like choir reserved for the cream of the teen vocal crop). At Christmas, my siblings harmonized over “We Three Kings”—and while they charitably let me sing along, it was pretty clear who was the weakest king.

Meanwhile, my father enforced strict family rules blatantly designed to silence my ambitious lungs:

1. No singing in the morning before breakfast.

2. No singing at the table (breakfast, lunch, or dinner).

None of this deterred me. I sang in the afternoon and evening, in the shower and in my bedroom and standing on living-room furniture. I sang in the car and in the grocery store, my fist serving as a microphone. And as I entered my teens in the ‘80s, I sang everything on offer: Bananarama and Boy George, Rick Springfield and Richard Marx, Oingo Boingo and OMD, Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette, Guns N’ Roses and Quiet Riot. I sang it all, I sang it loud, and I sang it off-key.

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Your road is everything that a road ought to be... and yet you will not stay on it half a mile, for the reason that little, seductive mysterious roads are always branching out from it on either hand, and as these curve sharply also and hide what is beyond, you cannot resist the temptation to desert your own chosen road and explore them.” –Mark Twain