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Southeast Asia, explained

Indonesia's call-in karaoke radio

Too broke for a karaoke outing? Croon over the airwaves for free.

For Indonesians with a song in their heart, but no rupiahs in their pockets, there is a solution: call-in karaoke radio.

I discovered this phenomenon last month while reporting on Muslim punks, Shariah cops and more in Aceh province. The singers call up, request a song and belt out their favorite jam over a bad MIDI track.

Karaoke takes many forms in Asia.

The wealthy retreat to deluxe karaoke rooms staffed by cooing hostesses. Middle-class families pile into rented rooms, stuff themselves silly with food and pass the mic. Broke students cram into coin-operated karaoke stalls the size of phone booths and sing their brains out.

But karaoke radio has to be the cheapest possible route to sing-along bliss. All you need is a mobile phone, a little confidence and, for many of you out there, a sadistic streak.

Here's a mercifully short sample of karaoke radio in Aceh, Indonesia.




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