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Karaoke evolves as popular entertainment in Bishkek
Capital's residents now find restaurants and discotheques boring
By Asyl Osmonaliyeva
BISHKEK - Karaoke clubs are becoming increasingly popular as Bishkek dwellers pass their free time in them now that restaurants and discotheques have become passé.
Yadgar Khaijanov, the manager of a karaoke club, said that two years ago, when he just started working, karaoke was an exotic item in Bishkek.
“Now there is some sort of karaoke boom”, he said. “Not long ago we conducted our own market research and found that in Bishkek there are more than 40 karaoke clubs, 15 of which opened only in the last month and a half”.
The price of admission to karaoke clubs ranges from 100-800 som (US $2-16). Club owners say that with the increase in competition they will have to lower the prices, but the business is still lucrative and attracts many customers.
“It seems to me the main reason for karaoke’s popularity is that people really loving to sing, especially young people", said Rysbek Amankulov, the manager of another karaoke club. "Programmes hyping young pop singers, which are gaining momentum, play a certain role. The possibility of becoming a star makes a young person’s head spin. Everyone wants to take the microphone and feel like a ‘real artist’”.
He said some of his regular customers are preparing themselves for the pop scene, perceiving karaoke clubs as a training ground for their entrance onto the big stage.
In Amankulov’s club, the prices are moderate and everyone who holds the microphone gets into the public eye.
“That’s our trump card", he said. "Our customers want to hear themselves, not special effects, to learn to independently keep their poise in public. In short, they are seriously preparing for the stage".
In another karaoke club, which has a VIP section, it costs 700 som (US $14) to spend an hour in a separate booth with a girl singing backup.
“Our clients are people of all different ages and nationalities", said Anastasia, a backup singer at the club. "Office workers, businessmen and students come here. They all want to have a good time, relieve stress, celebrate a family anniversary, celebrate a birthday with friends. In short, there are many excuses, and the selection of karaoke clubs in Bishkek is as vast (as the list of reasons to go). Restaurants, cafés and discotheques are no longer fashionable”.
According to her, karaoke clubs differ from simple clubs and restaurants in that their clients can forget all their problems.
“Restaurants and cafés cannot give what karaoke clubs do: the possibility not just to listen, but to sing your favourite songs yourself", said Uluk, a young man patronising the club. "Good music and songs always recharge a person with positive energy. Here, I cut loose to the max and get a charge of energy that lasts a long time".
One club manager said tastes vary. Older patrons prefer old Kyrgyz songs, while young people prefer modern foreign and Russian pop songs.
Marat Negmatov, producer of a music programme at Raketa-TV, said plans are underway to hold a televised contest for karaoke amateurs in Bishkek. Details of that have not been released.