After a long day strolling the sands and the shore i started chopping like i did most nights. Something like a tomato salad or egg plants; aubergine cooked on fire. Another night with him, them and the Burmese family who hugged us to death on every meeting.
Cool kids came down from Yangon for the weekend, dropped off and picked up by bus. A karaoke machine appears for twenty something hours and i assume it’s for them . A silver sparkling mic and a host family with baited breath; all in an outside, empty dining hall in the dark. Three or four generations sitting in rows south of the screen, only meters from the water, void of tourists. I am requested to sing,sing sing. “I don’t know Burmese”, i say in panic. Only hello, thank you, i am vegetarian; Tataloc.
The guest house owner climbs on his motorbike and whizzes to town, only to return clutching an English language CD. The disk is Rihanna. Oh no.
As i hear the machine draw open and close and i slightly panic. I grab the cover, searching for a song that i may vaguely know, the only one being S & M! I question how appropriate my vocal debut is for a family in the middle of space, in darkness, in rural conservative Burma?
Palms back-lit by moon, stars and the sound of the Bay of Bengal lapping, droned out by the sounds of the most inappropriate song choice ever.
The dilemma –
Choose a song that i could sing to, due to slightly knowing the melody and sound tuneful,
Choose a song that i did’t know and sound worse.
Would the family, my new friends really understand the sexual English words? For me it was all about pitch, tone and not disappointing them.
Wrapped in a blanket, clasping the mic i stand in-front of the shiny TV waiting for the action. Na na na na na come on, as i looked around at the two row’s of Burmese, men, lady’s and children half smiling. Beyond them my room door and the night enveloping us. I begin.
” Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it,
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But chains and whips excite me” – Rihanna 2011
After the initial shock of being in my body i just got on with it and relaxed. Sang, sung, aung sang sung!
I was blissfully unaware that the visuals to accompany the track were on the screen. I whipped off my blanket and immediately covered the TV. I felt it was my duty to not subject these kind and gracious, peaceful people to what seemed grotesque in this context. Some silly girl writhing around in PVC, looking rather loose. Is Rihanna part of the Burmese quest for democracy? In some ways, yes. Freedom to contribute to further YouTube statistics and the freedom to click. Freedom to have open internet access to view whatever they wish and freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Rights. However i did not want these kind people, the family, my new friends to know that i was singing about the smell of sex in the air, i don’t care, i love the smell of it. I did not want them to see me as being associated with such silly capitalist vulgarity as Rihanna.
Thankfully it was over in a flash, karaoke not being something i expected from Burma, but nothing i experienced there was how i imagined.
Image of Rihanna from Google.