An English-Speaker’s Guide to Karaoke in Laos

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Laos Karaoke room with the title
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If there’s one thing living in Laos has taught me it’s that karaoke is popular. And it is fuuuuuuun.

Scared? Fear not – even with minimal vocal talents you too can sing karaoke in Laos. And without making an ass of yourself.

This English-speaker’s guide to karaoke in Laos gets you ready for:

  • The English song situation
  • How to request your song (not always as easy as you think)
  • Available English songs (with lyric videos!)
  • Popular Lao and Thai songs (so you know them when you hear them)

The Scene

Laos – like Japan, Korea, and Vietnam – has embraced karaoke. Head to a karaoke bar, a restaurant, or a backyard party, and you’ll find a speaker and a microphone at the ready.

You can only say “no thanks” so many times until you feel the pressure to join in. And you can! These points will prepare you for your Great Laos Karaoke Debut (yes, you deserve bold capitals).

Part 1 – There are English Songs

I’m guessing you don’t speak (and read) Lao, because pretty much all of these people live in Laos already. And if you already live in Laos, you already know about karaoke so stop reading and go practice My Heart Will Go On.

If you don’t speak or read Lao, you can usually find English songs to sing. Don’t get too excited though, it’s a pretty limited selection. Your best bet is 70’s rock, along with a few surprises that I’ll explain later.

Part 2 – How to request English Songs

Maybe you’ve been to karaoke where you flip through a book. Your strategy may even be to spend all night flipping pages (stalling) hoping your friends go somewhere else before you have to sing.

Well, surprise – when you go to karaoke in Laos, there is no song book. Here are the 2 ways you can choose a song.

Number 1 – At the karaoke bar, which doubles as a restaurant/bar, there’s a DJ who takes your song requests. Get a piece of paper and a pen from the DJ (or your server) and write the name of the song you want. Note: write CLEARLY, English is probably their second language. Hand in your request and sip your Beer Lao while you wait for your song to come up. You might wait all night – you’ll get zero feedback on whether they can actually play your song or not.

Number 2 – At the karaoke joint, you’ll be exercising your vocal prowess in a private room for you and your friends. Here, you use a keyboard hooked up to the screen to choose your song. Start typing the song name (NOT the artist) and it will auto-populate. Select the one you want using the arrow keys and hit enter. Oh, and you might have to change the keyboard from Thai to English (the keyboard will probably be in Thai).

Practicing karaoke in Laos - Take Me To Your Heart!

Part 3 – English Song lists

Now you get to find out whether your favourite karaoke song is waiting for you in Laos. If it is, you won’t have to learn a new one. That would be great right?

Yeah, well. Don’t count on it.

There are 3 types of English songs that you’ll consistently be able to find at a Laos karaoke bar or joint.

Classic songs:

  • Hotel California by the Eagles
  • Winds of Change by the Scorpions
  • Beautiful Sunday by Daniel Boone

Notice, if you will, that there is no Beatles or Rolling Stones on this list. If you were counting on A Hard Day’s Night to get you through karaoke in Laos, think again.

Practice your karaoke with these lyric videos

New-ish songs:

  • All of Me by John Legend
  • I Want it That Way by The Backstreet Boys
  • Zombie by The Cranberries (yes, really)
  • When You Say Nothing at All by Ronan Keating
  • My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion (what is karaoke without the Titanic song?)

More lyric videos to help you master your karaoke songs

These are mostly (with the exception of Zombie) slow, love songs. Probably that’s because they’re easier to sing for non-English-speakers and they’re easier to read because they’re slow? Who knows. Anyways, it’s not because the songs are any good.

Which leads me to my next group of songs…

Ridiculous songs:

  • Take Me To Your Heart by Michael Learns to Rock
    • OK, so for some context around this one, this is pretty much THE NUMBER ONE SONG IN LAOS FOR KARAOKE. If you’ve heard of this group of nobodys, I’m sorry but I just lost respect for you.
  • My Love by Westlife (yes, flash-in-the-pan Westlife made a lasting impression in Laos, especially this song)
  • Only Love by Trademark (yet another band you’ve probably – hopefully – never heard of. The good news is that this song is super easy to learn. Also super cheesy, but whatever)
  • Keep on Loving You by Tokyo Square (no, this is not the song by REO Speedwagon, it’s by a Singaporean group from the 80’s that sings English songs…badly)
  • Hello by Lionel Ritchie (nope, not the one by Adele)

Surprised? You should be. Karaoke in Laos is an acquired taste, and the English songs aren’t exactly works of musical genius. But karaoke is best when you choose a song that everybody knows, and this list of Ridiculous songs is your list for a great time.

You might be embarrassed just listening to these songs, but learning to sing them pays off – I promise

Part 4 – Lao and Thai Songs

This is the English-speaker’s guide but it’s worth mentioning some songs you’ll definitely hear at karaoke when you go with Lao people.

Thai pop songs are SUPER popular, and since all Lao people can speak and read Thai (I dare you to defy this statement), you’re bound to hear a few gems like these:

  • Zee Hee Nong Bor
  • Any song by artist Ad Carabao
  • Your Heart for My Number

Lao songs are popular too, and they come in 2 types: pop songs and “country” songs. Don’t be fooled when they tell you they’re going to sing a country song – it’s not Johnny Cash or George Strait. It’s an old school Lao “revolutionary” song (with a badly outdated video).

Right now one of the most popular new Lao songs is Khoi Baw Men Naang Faa. It’s a slow love song (a breakup song, naturally. You’ll hear a lot of these).

One of the most popular country songs is Sao Siang Khouang. There’s also a dance that goes along with it (be prepared to put down your glass of Beer Lao and get up to learn the dance).

If you can manage to memorize how to sing a Lao or Thai song, you’ll probably blow everyone’s mind. At least, this is what I picture for myself when I finally manage to master a Lao karaoke song.

Sure, try to sing along. If you can, you’re a greater Lao karaoke star than I

Summary

Karaoke in Laos is a ton of fun, and a totally normal way to enjoy hanging out with your Lao friends. So get over yourself and pick up the mic already.

  1. Choose an English song (consult the list above)
  2. Practice your song (the handy lyric videos should help)
  3. Write or type your song (write clearly, and type in English)
  4. Sing your damn song

To truly embrace Laos, you need to embrace karaoke. And now you know exactly how to do it without making an ass of yourself.

 

Now you’re ready for karaoke in Laos, but Lao food could shock you into submission. Know what you’re getting into with Strange Food: What do they REALLY eat in Lao

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