BENGALURU: Calling karaoke jockeys (KJs) ‘a neglected lot’, Martin D’souza, who has been hosting the vibrant karaoke nights every Wednesday at Love Shack for close to a decade now, says that watching people let loose and just enjoy themselves is what has kept him in the game all these years. City Express spoke to KJs from the city, who tell us that it is purely their love for music that has kept them going, even though it is a not a full-time job for most, and requires a fair amount of investment from their ends.
‘Everybody can sing’
“I don’t believe people are tone-deaf, everybody can sing. And that is the best part about karaoke – once a little encouragement is given and inhibitions are shed – watching people enjoying singing is amazing,” says Sabrina Price, a full-time vocalist who emcees, hosts quizzes, is a KJ and is also part of a band.
For Martin, the shift to karaoke happened accidentally. After quitting his job in the advertising field to pursue things he enjoyed, he chanced upon the opportunity to host a karaoke night at the then newly-opened Love Shack, and there has been no looking back since.
“I’m not a trained singer, but I always loved music and wondered how I could get more involved in it,” he says, adding that to be a KJ, you have be able to perform and engage a crowd as well, which were skills he developed during college.“A huge part of this job is being able to convince people that they can sing, that it’s not a performance,” says Martin.
Naveen R, another KJ from the city who has hosted nights at Social outlets, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Fridays and more, adds that the pleasure of watching people get over their stage fright is what keeps him going.“I shifted from DJ-ing to KJ-ing because I felt that people prefer this. DJ-ing had become a little too commercial with clubs bringing in artists for cheaper,” says Naveen.
Peter Rebello, who is a learning and development trainer by day, says that KJ-ing gave him that kickstart to pursue music. “These days, I do a lot of corporate gig as pubs have started hosting karaoke nights on low-action nights during the week, as compared to the earlier format of places hosting them on Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays. It just isn’t as fun as before,” says Peter.
‘B’luru loves its karaoke’
All the KJs we spoke were unanimous in telling us how much the city loves karaoke nights. In fact, Martin, Naveen and Peter, say that after hosting and checking out karaoke nights across the country, they found that the scene in Bengaluru is far superior, and has a lot of variety.Telling us about the most popular song requests at karaoke nights, the KJs say that there is quite a lot of difference between corporate gigs and the public ones. The ultimate crowd pleasers still remain retro tracks such as Summer of ‘69, Hotel California, Bohemian Rhapsody, Shaggy’s Angel songs by band such as the Backstreet Boys, N Sync, etc. Among the newer ones, Cheap Thrills, Despacito,Havana, Humble and Shape of You have been popular requests.
“For corporate gigs, you need to tune into regional songs as well, Bollywood especially. Tracks such as Batameez Dil and Laila Main Laila are requested,” says Peter.Naveen adds that while the karaoke scene in the city has slowed down a bit in the last six months, it is still the more popular than in other parts of the country.
US/UK Top 40 a must
“Since part of this job is helping people out with their songs – helping them stay in tune, etc – you need to know what’s going on in the music world,” says Martin. The KJs tell us that they go through the US and UK Top 40 lists, as those are the ones from which most songs are chosen.KJs buy these tracks, which come in two files for audio and lyrics, and keep adding to their collections. Each track costs
between 9 cents to $3, says Naveen, who had a massive collection of 2,40,000 tracks.
“Newer KJs have started using YouTube to get their songs, but we old-school KJs prefer buying the tracks. Some of us even make our own karaoke tracks, there are multiple softwares for this, and the process takes upto 6-8 hours per track,” he says.He adds that a newbie can earn from `3k-4k for hosting one karaoke night, an experienced KJ can earn anywhere between `7,000-`10,000.While Peter says that meeting new people is something he loves about being a KJ, he also used this to his advantage.
“I would meet talented singers and build my contact base, and each time I’d host a karaoke night, I’d call them for it. The trick is to run the night like a show. I would get the night going by having some of these singers perform and keep the crowd engaged and excited to sing,” he says.