We’re back! Since I last checked in here, the count of countries on my World Karaoke Tour has increased from 27 to 30. It’s time to start recapping how that occurred. Okay, that recap is actually long overdue, since my latest trio of international karaoke appearances happened all the way back in May 2013 — three whole months ago.
During that month of May, the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, and Moldova became the latest stamps on my passport, as well as the newest U.N. member nations to be added to my World Karaoke Tour. My initial stop as I made my foray into the former Soviet Union was Russia, by way of its capital city of Moscow. After I landed at Domodedovo International Airport, my vacation was underway. (Domodedovo is one of two international airports serving Moscow; the other, Sheremetyevo, is the one in which Edward Snowden remained in limbo for several weeks before Russia granted temporary asylum to him in August 2013. Unlike Mr. Snowden, I’d obtained a Russian entry visa and I had no trouble making it through immigration. :))
RUSSIAN CITY NO. 1: MOSCOW
Highlights of my daytime hours in Moscow included Red Square (featuring the magical-looking St. Basil’s Cathedral that’s seen in the photo above, plus Lenin’s tomb); the Kremlin; and a tour of some of the city’s ornate and beautiful metro stations. Those and other Muscovite points of interest will be covered here in due course. But, in keeping with the mission of this blog, what truly made my sojourn in Moscow a success was the evening I spent singing at the Karaoke Boom Club (that’s Караоке Бум in Russian).
Originally I’d hoped to sing in a former Cold War-era nuclear bunker called Bunker-42 on Tangangka, which is located 65 feet underground. My internet research had indicated that in addition to being a historically significant site evoking the age of Mutual Assured Destruction, Bunker-42 offered karaoke. It certainly has a better backstory than most of the bars and restaurants in which I’ve sung; and its subterranean setting provides an additional dimension of uniqueness among karaoke spots. But upon arriving in Moscow, I learned that, disappointingly, karaoke at Bunker-42 is only available to groups of a certain minimum size. There’s no general karaoke bar on the premises where someone like me can just walk in and sing. So I frantically started googling for a replacement venue, and I ended up at the Karaoke Boom Club. While Karaoke Boom had not been my first choice, it worked out quite well.
Inside, as is my custom, my setlist took my geographic location into account (for instance, you may recall that last September, I sang “Walk Like an Egyptian” in Cairo). Thus, I went with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” as the opening song for my Russian karaoke debut:
It was really an easy decision — and one which I’d been planning for months beforehand. 🙂 In my experience, material by The Beatles is invariably well-received by karaoke audiences around the world; and choosing that band’s shout-out to the place I was visiting was a no-brainer. Among the more generic songs with which I followed it was “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, which you can watch here:
In between songs, I met some of the bar’s other patrons. I sat with Alex and his wife Natasha, who proudly showed me photos of their young daughter, Masha. Here you can see Natasha belting out a Russian-language song:
The show at the Karaoke Boom Club was entertaining and well-run. Anna, the hostess of the show, and Sasha, the technician, both did an outstanding job and made me feel welcome and comfortable.
And that is how, on Monday, May 13, 2013, the Russian Federation became the 28th country on my World Karaoke tour. That milestone brought me within one of the tally recorded by Brian Thacker, an Australian travel writer who’s sung in 29 countries.
RUSSIAN CITY NO. 2: ST. PETERSBURG
Although Russia was now in the books, my singing adventures within its borders were not over. Later that week, I caught the high-speed train from Moscow to the stunningly beautiful city of St. Petersburg. The journey took approximately four and one-half hours, and my means of transport was this sleek conveyance:
St. Petersburg is one of the leading centres of European culture. To name just a few of its amenities, it’s known for the State Hermitage (one of the world’s pre-eminent art museums); and the Mariinsky ballet and opera companies. It also boasts strong traditions in music generally, as well as in cinema, literature, science, and education. On May 16, 2013, St. Petersburg’s prestige was further burnished when it became the second Russian city on my World Karaoke Tour. 🙂 The venue was an establishment called “Fever.”
Inside Fever, upon initially taking to the stage, I sang Elton John’s “Rocket Man”:
I didn’t sing “Back to the U.S.S.R.” in St. Petersburg as I had in Moscow. However, my second song in Fever was another homage to the Cold War: “Russians” by Sting.
Enhancing my experience at Fever were Ruslan, the karaoke host; and Pasha, who handled the technical aspects of the show. They both contributed greatly to my having another enjoyable evening.
My World Karaoke tour would continue just a few days later in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine. My next blog post reminisces about the very special Monday night in Kiev when I tied the record for singing karaoke in the most countries.