Karaoke is one of those things: you either love it or you hate it… actually that’s nonsense, some people are probably ambivalent towards it. Any way, it doesn’t matter, what’s important here is that karaoke can actually provoke some pretty surprising levels of violence. People partaking in this seemingly innocuous pastime have breathed their final breaths into spittle-filled karaoke microphones all across Asia.
These bloody karaoke attacks seem to be for a variety of reasons: perhaps it’s because of their regrettable song choice or maybe because they sing worse than Britney Spears without the autotune. Whatever the base route of this vicious sing-a-long slaughter, it makes a pretty mad read.
Personally I’m a karaoke Lord, I’ve sung my guts out on three continents and I haven’t been murdered once. Suck on that, Universe.
The most notorious murder spree in a karaoke context are the My Way murders which took place in the Philippines. At least six singers bashing out Sinatra’s classic tune met a violent end because of it. It’s unclear what the motivations of the murders were. It could have been the arrogance and triumph in the lyrics that got up the killer’s nose or perhaps the performer’s delivery was so ear-splittingly hideous that they deserved to be shot.
Filipino karaoke shacks can be pretty violent places in general, so one possibility is that because My Way is sung so often it was only a matter of time before someone was killed with it as the backdrop.
Although most of the six or so murders’ motives aren’t clear, we have a bit more info about one of them.
On May 29, 2007, a 29-year-old karaoke singer was busting out My Way at a bar in San Mateo, Rizal. He was shot dead as he sang, allegedly by the bar’s security guard, who was arrested and imprisoned after the incident.
But what was the security guard’s beef?
According to reports at the time, the guard complained that the young man’s rendition was “off-key”, and when the victim refused to stop singing, the guard pulled out a .38-caliber pistol and shot the man dead. Fair enough.
Karaoke is the entertainment of choice over in the Philippines, the wealthy hire out special rooms to get vocal in comfort whereas the poorest of the poor rock up at small and very cheap karaoke dens. These small bars do tend to get a bit stabby on occasion and it’s possible that the prevalence of violence in the bars is the reason for the murders, rather than My Way itself.
Many singers aren’t taking any chances now though. The song is rarely touched by anyone and many bars have removed it from their catalogue. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Roland B. Tolentino, a pop culture expert at the University of the Philippines says:
The Philippines is a very violent society, so karaoke only triggers what already exists here when certain social rules are broken.
Although that doesn’t explain why it seems to be My Way rather than any of the other equally popular tunes that triggers the blood bath. In Manila, Alisa Escanlar, 33, and her relatives often kick back with a karaoke machine, but they banned My Way after an uncle, listening to a friend sing the song at a bar, became enraged at the laughter coming from the next table. The uncle, who was a police officer, pulled out his revolver, the customers at the next table quietly paid their bill and skulked off.
With more than a million illegal guns in the Philipines and a general penchant for machismo, it’s no wonder that violence springs up now and again. It’s just weird that it should be My Way that sparks it.
This Karaoke killing is not peculiar to the Philippines though.
Other karaoke deaths have been witnessed in other (mostly) Asian countries. In Borneo, Malaysia in 2008, a chap called Abdul Sani Doli was singing his little heart out at a coffee shop in town.
Abdul hogged the karaoke microphone singing song after song, no one likes a mic-hogger. Three chaps on a table started hurling abuse and the fight rolled out into the street where Abdul was stabbed to death.
Songkhla Province, Thailand
In the same year in Thailand, Weenus Chumkamnerd, 52, was arrested for a pretty darned insane shooting spree. Weenus murdered eight neighbors, one of whom was his brother-in-law.
The tragic dispute erupted when the group refused to stop their karaoke binge. One track which seems to have really ruffled their feathers was John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. That would wind me up too tbh. Weenus had this to say:
I warned these people about their noisy karaoke parties. I said if they carried on I would go down and shoot them. I had told them if I couldn’t talk sense into them I would come back and finish them off… When I began shooting nobody pleaded for his life because they were all drunk.
In July of 2013 Bobby Ray Carter from Dallas, Texas (above left) was stabbed to death for refusing to stop singing in a Karaoke bar in Krabi, Thailand. According to news reports the man was singing with the band but got annoyed when they started playing a song he hadn’t requested. A row broke out on stage.
The Texan continued to sing even when the band were taking a break and was so annoyed he asked for his tip money back. Later, when Carter was leaving the venue he was stabbed with sharpened metal poles and died on his way to hospital.
In the Chinese town of Xi’an a pleasant evening was underway. My Yun, the owner of a noodle restaurant invited his family round for a get together. Mr Yun’s four-year-old son was having a good old go on the karaoke machine, but to some he seemed to be getting more than his fair share.
As four-year-olds have no idea about manners at all (or much else for that matter) two of the boy’s uncles started having a go at Mr Yun, saying he was raising a spoilt child, a “Little Emperor”.
Mr Yun’s nephew, who also worked at the noodle bar, did not like the uncle’s bad vibes so he dashed off to get a meat cleaver. Standard response. This is where things took a decidedly dark turn. The nephew returned to the fray and hacked the two uncles to death. Over reaction at all? Yeah, I reckon.
Finally we move out of Asia and across to Seattle. A gay bar called “Changes” (pictured above) was holding its hallowed Wednesday night karaoke show down, but a little after 1 am things turned tasty. Some fella started the opening lines to Coldplay’s Yellow and a random woman just went nuts. She got up in his face telling him how much he sucked and how she hated that song.
Eventually, when the drunk guy refused to stop (I assume he was drunk, I don’t think there’s any way you could find yourself sober in a karaoke bar at 1 am), she lost her rag. She started punching him and kicking him and had to be dragged off the poor buffoon.
Unfortunately for the Coldplay hater one of the patrons was an off duty cop who called for back up once she’d dragged the woman outside. In true American overkill style, patrol officers and Gang Unit detectives showed up within minutes and shut the whole street off just because one “little hippy girl” disliked Coldplay. LOL. America.
If all that Sing Star slaughtering has got you down, why not watch The Rock doing Christmas karaoke in a onesie to reboot your mood?