Friday, November 06, 2009

Here is the account of my utterly wonderful Thursday night.

I checked out Hip Hop Karaoke at The Social on Thursday night. Once again, because I have no cool friends who like to do cool things, I ended up going there by myself. As I went straight from work, this meant that I ended up looking just a tad out of place in my pink-striped work shirt and work trousers. I arrived at 8.45 pm, thinking that the music should have started by then, so that I wouldn't have to sit around looking like a goon while waiting for the karaoke to begin.

I was wrong. Or partly right, depending on how you look at it. The music had started - the DJ was spinning some great old school hip hop tunes - but there was no one on stage, contrary to the poster which advertised the commencement of signing up from 7 pm and karaoke from 8 pm to 10 pm.

I asked one of the bar stuff. She said people usually just went up and sang, but as this wasn't something she was into, she wasn't sure whether the karaoke had begun yet, or if no one wanted to sing.

This, I thought to myself, was not good. I wasn't going to be drinking alcohol as I'd decided to give my liver an alcohol holiday (meaning no alcohol for ten days since my last drink on Monday evening) and I certainly needed something to tide me over while I decided how long to stay or go. So I opted for a half-pint of diet coke, which, I can tell you, is not an adequate substitute for liquid courage.

I waited around for about half an hour more, thinking that I'd probably head up by 9.30 pm if nothing happened.

Then, at 9.15 pm, this guy strode onto the stage. The usual host, Mark, was unavailable, as he was working in Tokyo, so MC Booty Champagne was taking over for the night. He ran through the rules (1. Everyone goes f***ing mental because The Social is a friendly place. 2. No boo-ing allowed)  and introduced the very first singer, a big English lad by the name of Ronan, who wanted to give us all a dose of UK Hip Hop, and dove straight into Roots Manuva - Witness.

Interesting choice. Certainly not something I'd choose to sing, because it's so intense and heavy, and, man, after the Jay-Z concert on Wednesday night, I'd realised just how many words there are in each and every tune. Ronan did a great job, referring to the lyrics sheet as and when he needed to, but he certainly got into the spirit of things and got things going.

Then, next was a Hip Hop Karaoke regular, Amber MC. He certainly looked the part of a regular, and he'd opted to do Pharoahe Monch – Simon Says, which is certainly one hell of a spirited tune, with its regular occurrences of "Get the f*** up!" The audience was definitely into the song; the crowd right in front of the stage was dancing and singing along, while the guys at the back (where I was) were indulging in some more exuberant dancing. Amber MC sounded the part of a regular MC too, right when he went "West London! Get the f*** up! East London! Get the f*** up! North London! Get the f*** up! South London! GET THE F*** UP!"

And that pretty much set the tone of the night. There were some Hip Hop Karaoke virgins, as Booty Champagne described them, but they all sounded pretty decent. Some of them didn't even have to look at the words at all. And when they did forget the words or couldn't figure out how to get in (as one guy did because his brother signed him up without his knowledge), the ever-helpful audience would sing all the words for you, so it didn't really matter as long as you weren't embarrassed to get up there, and had someone around for moral support.

Still, at 10.15 pm, when they took their first break, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Sure, I was having a good time just watching, but I'd been feeling rather self-conscious for the last hour that I was obviously by myself at such a social event. I'd been trying to psych myself into realising that it takes courage to get out there and do things, and that I really need to give myself more credit for the things that I do, rather than ragging on myself for the things I end up not doing, but wasn't able to do so.

So I left, resolving to come by one day with a friend.

I don't know what compelled to leave when I did. Certainly I felt a little lame, leaving after just the first set. But, once I got out onto Oxford Circus, I was to find myself amply rewarded.

When I turned onto the main road, I heard sounds of drumming and cheering. Intrigued, I walked towards the source - coincidentally, right next to the tube exit - and found not only a busker drumming skillfully on his set of buckets, but a dance-off in progress. Several men - more like boys - were taking turns showing off their moves, and what made it cooler were the different styles on display: popping, locking, breaking and jazz. Naturally, there was a certain characteristic to the jazz dancers that one just knew they had to be gay (whether it was in the way they kicked their legs or how they paired a bright purple t-shirt with cyan trousers) , but, man, they could move.

This went on for about ten minutes before the busker ended his set. I dug around my very full bag for my wallet for several minutes, and, again, this delay served me well. The dancers and their friends persuaded the busker to start playing once again. By this time, I'd managed to overhear some snippets of conversation among the dancers and managed to figure out that there was an entire class of these guys here, all from the renowned Urdang Academy.

The drumming recommenced... And so did the dancing. This time, the girls joined in, showing off their stuff. I'm not sure how I'd classify their dancing - it's the kind where you half-squat, butt sticking out, thighs parallel to the ground, and you shake your butt for what it's worth, coupled with some impressive kicks, spins and leaps - but it looked just as skilled as the men's, even if not as in-your-face. They even did what can only be called the diva strut (where you walk with one hand on your waist and the other hand snaps and you circle your shoulder back very quickly) incredibly well. If I were to learn it in class, I'd look incredibly silly doing it, but these girls did it with style and attitude. And again, the poppers and lockers did their thing.

Another ten minute jam session and it was time for me to go home. And just as I thought the night couldn't get any better, I saw a fox. I couldn't tell if it was a mister and it looked very little and young, but it certainly was fantastic!

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