Pre-Karaoke childhood


We always rushed through dinner to claim our living room space, or call it a stage.

Daddy’s mandolin, brother’s violin, and my guitar.

But we never played with one another, being from three different generations.

So “Du Am”, “Em Toi” and “Le Da” in mandolin.

Then “Serenade”, “Guitare D’Amour” either by violin or guitar.

Finally my turn, with the Beatles, Bee Gee or Bad Fingers.

I had never given any thought to the music of earlier generations.

But having lived in the US for most of my adult life, and now returned to the same place, I finally saw the connection:

music has been the invisible (but audible) links between us. Had there been a karaoke machine in the house, we would have fought over the mike.

But given that pre-karaoke era, the best we could do was to race through dinner to get first crack at the music room.

My Dad’s choice painted a vague but very sentimental pictures of North Vietnam where he used to live before the country got partitioned. Then through my brother’s choice, I had a peek at Johnny Holiday, Sylvie Vartan and Elvis Presley.

To me, those were “uncool” music, but I tolerated them.

My “youthful” music, by today’s standard, would be considered “uncool”.

Performers got wireless mikes, and could move about freely.

On YouTube, one can see how “stuck” the 60’s bands were to the confinement of the studio (lighting, cameras and boom mikes).

You can only do so much with dissolve and editing.

The best we could do in our time was those sound distortion accessories, once plugged into an electric guitar, produces solo material as you would hear from Santana.

I thought the world was already “flat” when Santana rules Woodstock (he recently married his drummer – a she).

A Facebook posting of “Le Da” brought all this back. Memories of yesterday, of rush dinners and spontaneous rehearsals, our secret sauce for survival. Now those survival instincts are returning like a long lost friend, whispering ” you don’t need all the gadget to be happy.”

In fact, overly accessorized society has produced more neuroses. Birds and lilies in the field don’t need to be adorned. They are beauties in their own rights. The funny thing about today’s headline in Yahoo, was that of Facebook founder riding a buffalo in Northern Vietnam.

“Ai bao chan trau la kho” (who said riding a buffalo was a chore). High tech needs high touch, the virtual needs the real. The Japanese knew a thing or two about these instinctual needs when inventing virtual pets, or a karaoke machine (without the band). The question is, with all the gadget for education and entertainment, are we learning more and singing better? I wish we (Dad, brother and me) had at least found one song we all loved to jam together. Ask your teenagers, if they would like to hang out with you or their friends?

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