x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

How karaoke can divide and conquer

A night at the karaoke club ended up being a sure-fire way to split friends down the middle.

It seems I've discovered a sure-fire way to lose friends and alienate people. Picture the scene: a gaggle of good friends enjoying a perfectly civilised night out in Dubai. After passing an hour or two at a fairly sedate rooftop terrace, the group became restless and as we bandied about ideas of dinner and dancing, I was somehow nominated chief decision maker.

So, being the benevolent spreader of happiness that I am, I decided to introduce the uninitiated to the wonderful world of karaoke. Not being the shyest, most retiring bunch on the block, I felt sure that these confident, fun-loving individuals would love the experience. We sashayed through the doors of the swanky Sheikh Zayed Road haunt and as we were ushered to comfy leather chairs with an unfettered view of a huge plasma screen, I felt sure we were on to a winner.

Now, I'm no Mariah Carey, nor do I claim to have Simon Cowell's ear for music. I am, however, a good sport and in the spirit of adventure, I dutifully flicked through the enormous song catalogue in front of me and chose a couple of tunes that I had half a chance of carrying.

However, at the very sight of two wireless microphones heading in the direction of our table, half the group recoiled as if a pair of snarling Dobermans was bounding towards them. Eyes widened, backs stiffened and vigorous head-shaking took place. What to do? Who would be Kenny Rogers to my Dolly Parton?

It's remarkable the power that a microphone and a public stage have to render the most gregarious and vivacious utterly silent. The mic I had so hoped would unite the merry throng had, in fact, severed the group clean down the middle like a musical machete. Looking around the room, it seemed we weren't the only dysfunctional, tuneless team. In a scene reminiscent of West Side Story, larger groups squared off against each other, fighting to stay on stage and sabotaging their competitors by singing louder than any amp should allow.

Ego and ambition, especially when there was applause involved, squarely trumped friendship in this place.

Granted, one clan member of ours did lead the entire restaurant in a rousing chorus of Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, but even that failed to unite our group entirely, with some refusing to so much as let out a single note.

So, as the evening drew to a close and I took my final curtain call, it was with an achy breaky heart that I admitted my musical outing had left most of my pals singing the blues.