There are nights I couldn’t sleep because of the neighbors. It’s not because they have a band playing or pots and pans are banging since people are fighting.
It’s because, until the wee hours of the morning, all members of the family are hooked on the karaoke machine and won’t let go — as if their life depended on it.
What’s funny is that it is equally likely that they are celebrating a birthday as they are entertaining guests at a home service wake, with songs far from sounding like dirges.
Singing is a national pastime in the Philippines. It is done at almost all types of events: from fiestas and weddings to band gigs and solitary beer nights. Seldom is the television free of singing contests. So it only makes sense that a Filipino, Roberto del Rosario, holds the patent for the invention of the karaoke device, even if it is mostly seen as a piece of Japanese culture and ingenuity.
It is said that in 1975, Del Rosario developed the sing along system, otherwise known as the minus one (music minus the lead voice). From then, Filipino entertainers brought the minus one through the 1960s and 1970 to places they performed in, including Japan.
As we all know, the rest is history. The karaoke spread to the rest of Asia, and further on to the US, where it has become a part of American culture, especially as depicted in films such as When Harry Met Sally and My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Filipinos are obsessed with singing. This of course can be a good thing as it keeps people happy and upbeat, but unfortunately the obsession has gone beyond that.
Violent killings have resulted from karaoke singing, perpetrated by people disturbed not just by the noise by singers, but also by the way they sing. In the Philippines (there are similar phenomena in other parts of Asia), these murders are known as the My Way Killings. You guessed it, they have all resulted from people singing the Frank Sinatra classic.
One bar security guard complained that a young man sang the piece off key. When the victim refused to stop, the guard pulled out a pistol and shot him. Another incident involved another police officer, who brought out his gun when other patrons reacted negatively about his singing. It is not certain how fights and deaths have resulted from just one song. Academics and experts opine that it is the strong, arrogant lyrics that bring out the macho side of people. Others add that the song is fatal when performed in a violent society such as the Philippines, where unlicensed guns are not properly regulated.
Whatever the reason, bar owners and even families have opted not to include My Way in their playlists for fear of further violence. It is a strange exception to an otherwise positive and constructive pastime.