Published:  12:24 AM, 16 June 2019

Life in the desert kingdom: A karaoke night on good friday

Life in the desert kingdom: A karaoke night on good friday

I do not claim myself to be a late bloomer in the world of music. When I was very young, my father hired a music teacher for us. I fondly remember those exciting days in Khulna, where I got my first music lesson.

My three sisters and I were sitting beside harmonium and practiced Bengali Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Thakur's famous song, "Kharo bayu boi bege charidik chai meghe..".[English translation: The wind is high, clouds dark]. That was part of my formative years of growing up in a port city of Bangladesh. In that particular Rabindra song, the line, "Goni goni din khon chanchal kori mon"[English translation: The day, time just or not, anxiously] always baffled me.

I was yet to be enrolled in elementary school. May be that is the reason I could not decipher the true meaning of "Goni" [Exact English translation is to count]. We had a servant named Goni. I was always wondering why on earth the great poet picked up our servant's name! Unfortunately, nobody answered my query. Anyway, my music lesson ended up abruptly as our father's job required him to be transferred to another town in Bangladesh.

Without practice, my voice became rusty. Nonetheless, during my college days I spent some moments practicing songs. My stage fright was long gone because of my active involvement in college and university debates and in giving public speeches.

I attempted to sing songs in private gatherings, which included my couple of times singing effort in the Voice of America's Bangla Service office facing a small circle of colleagues. But I did not continue the endeavor. Many years after, during my first deployment in Kuwait, I found in Karaoke Nights an avenue where I could take advantage of singing before a tolerant and fun loving audience. Thus my musical talent got the necessary fertile ground for growth.

Unlike in Kuwait, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Karaoke sessions mostly draw bigger crowd. This situation inspires me to practice songs more zealously. Sometimes, just to expand my horizon (or to be a little bit silly), I try some songs far beyond my frequency range.

A case in point is my futile effort to try Prince's "Kiss". From the beginning to the end of the song "Kiss", Prince manipulated his voice to perform the song in falsetto. Thanks to my lucky star, my miserable attempt of trying falsetto did not result in heckling or egg throwing. To my great contentment, I did not hear any chuckles from the audience either. Rather, I was consoled by my associate David as he told me, "I would give you a "B" for the effort."

My most memorable Karaoke performance happened to be on the last Good Friday. I decided to wear traditional Arab outfit because of the certain songs I chose to sing. I began the Karaoke Night with a long song in front of a handful of attendees. The singer Gordon Lightfoot is usually within my vocal range. I sang at ease "The wreck of the Edmund Fitzerald". As the night proceeded, so did the sparkles, the happiness and the cheers. David and I sang together Neil Diamond's "Coming To America".

Slowly the club house became almost overcrowded. After a few singers' performance, I delivered the famous transcendental song "Imagine" by John Lennon. After I finished Lennon's peace loving song, I received a standing ovation from everyone in the crowd.

This sort of feedback from the audience ought to be any performer's dream. It was the moment of being overwhelmed with joy and emotion. A few more singers later, I ended my Karaoke Night with Neil Diamond's "Hello Again". A few of the people from the cheerful listeners shook my hand. The clock was ticking closer to the midnight. I thought it was time to go home.

The writer is based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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