Shown here is my most recent international singing experience, in Mexico City in May 2011. The scene depicted in this photo occurred at a bar called “Pedro Infante no ha Muerto.” The name of the bar means “Pedro Infante hasn’t died.” In case you’re wondering who Pedro Infante is, Wikipedia states that “José Pedro Infante Cruz . . ., better known as Pedro Infante, is the most famous actor and singer of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.” Wikipedia also tells us that notwithstanding the optimistic outlook of the bar’s proprietors, Señor Infante departed this world in 1957. Anyway, I think that “Pedro Infante no ha Muerto” is a pretty cool name for a watering hole. What wasn’t cool was how, when I was trying to get back to my hotel at the end of the night, my cabdriver robbed me, forced me to get out of the taxi, and left me in the middle of nowhere. But that’s a story for another time.
Hello and welcome to H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke! This site was created to document my ongoing World Karaoke Tour. I have sung karaoke in 23 countries on six continents, plus Easter Island; and within the United States I’ve performed at karaoke venues in 12 states plus the District of Columbia. You may have noticed that I mentioned six continents, one fewer than the total number that the Earth has. The missing continent — for now — is Antarctica, but I will get there eventually.
Yes, there’s a place to sing in Antarctica. Gallagher’s, a bar located on the scientific research base McMurdo Station, offers weekly karaoke nights. It’s not easy to get there; most tourists who visit Antarctica arrive by sea, and McMurdo is on the opposite side of the Antarctic continent from the place where you would alight if you arrived on a cruise ship from South America. So transportation is a challenge, to say the least. And it’s no easier to find lodging for such an extreme destination. There are no hotels on Antarctica — let alone at McMurdo Station — that you can book through a site like Expedia or Orbitz. Well, to be more accurate, there are no hotels at all. But despite such daunting obstacles, singing on the seventh continent is absolutely a bucket list item for me. I will find a way to make it happen.
I sing karaoke under the stage name “H-Bomb.” I’ve been performing under that nom de guerre since the fall of 1992. Back then — in the mists of time, when the United States was the only country in which I had ever done karaoke — I was a first-year law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. On Thursday nights I would sometimes go out for karaoke at an establishment called the Jennifer Street pub, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood where I was living. My actual name is Harvey, and so naturally I would write that name on the song slips that I handed to the KJ. On one such Thursday evening, the KJ didn’t care for my singing. Each time that it was my turn to sing, when he would call me up to the stage, instead of calling me by the name I’d written down, he would summon me as “H-Bomb.” He meant it as an insult. But I immediately saw the possibilities of becoming a weapon of mass destruction. Despite the origins of the sobriquet, I readily embraced it, and I’ve been singing as the H-Bomb ever since. My identity as the H-Bomb has permeated my life; my handles on internet message boards usually begin with those letters, and even at work, it is not unusual for colleagues to refer to me as the H-Bomb.
I said that I’ve been singing as the H-Bomb since 1992. And that is mostly true. But there is one exception: In 2008, when I visited Japan, I thought that to sing under the name of an atomic bomb might not show sufficient respect for cultural sensitivities. : ) So, at those Tokyo karaoke bars, I sang as “Godzilla” instead.
My next scheduled international trip will take me to Lisbon, Portugal for New Year’s weekend 2012. I also am scheduled to travel to Egypt in February 2012 for a cruise on the Nile (I was originally supposed to go to Egypt in February 2011, but as you probably know, a revolution erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the early part of that month. Egypt’s version of the Arab Spring resulted in the cancellation of my tour, and I went to Morocco instead, while rebooking the Nile cruise for one year later. As my delayed Egyptian vacation approaches, the political situation in Egypt continues to be unstable, and I am monitoring it closely). I hope to fit in some singing during both of those upcoming excursions. As I add additional locations to my World Karaoke Tour, I will post updates on this site — with photographs and videos!
And the updates will not only be about my singing. My karaoke wanderlust is about satisfying two of my great passions: karaoke and travel. So when I am on the road, I will blog about the sights that I’m exploring during the daylight hours, as well as the venues where I grab a mic in the evening.
Between trips, I will use this site to report on my karaoke adventures on the home front; and in the beginning while we’re getting caught up, I will reminisce about my international karaoke experiences to date. Much has happened since the magical night in June 1993 when an outing to the Duke of Argyll pub in London made the United Kingdom the first foreign country on my World Karaoke Tour. : ) I will also blog about my general thoughts on all things karaoke.
I envision this blog being interactive. I’m generally very good at finding karaoke spots in my travel destinations — usually well in advance of my departure. But sometimes, especially in non-English-speaking countries, finding a singing venue is quite challenging for me. I look forward to a time when my readers in far-flung locales will advise me — and each other — on where to sing in every corner of the globe. Maybe I’m being unduly optimistic, but that’s the way I roll.
Last week, I visited the Louis Armstrong house in the Corona section of Queens, New York. This unassuming brick edifice (seen in the photo on the left) is the actual home in which the great Satchmo lived with his wife, Lucille, for the final 28 or so years of his life (Lucille was actually his fourth wife, but by all accounts she was the great love of his life). You can see the rooms of the house, preserved as they were several decades ago when Mr. Armstrong was in residence. It was a fascinating tour. So, the tour guide was mentioning how Mr. Armstrong was the first musician who traveled all over the world to perform. That tidbit has provided further inspiration to me as I continue with my own, much more humble musical wanderings. And another thing: the guide claimed that Mr. Armstrong appeared on “every continent.” However, I strongly suspect that he never made it to Antarctica. So if I can make it down there, I have an opportunity to do something that even the legendary Louis Armstrong was unable to achieve. : )
Well, that should suffice for an introduction. Thanks for your visit, and I hope to see you back here soon! And I apologize for kicking things off with one of those cliched “hello, world!” posts. I promise that some exciting new content is coming soon. This is only the beginning!