Posts Tagged With: World Karaoke Tour

Country no. 35 on my World Karaoke Tour: singing in the Dominican Republic’s oldest karaoke bar

dominican_flagFrom swashbuckling pirates to beaches gleaming with white sand, the Caribbean is replete with both dramatic history and natural beauty. Yet until this year, my world travels had never taken me anywhere in that 1 million square mile region. For shame! Finally, during Memorial Day weekend in 2014, I made my long-overdue first foray to a Caribbean destination: Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. And it was there that the country often abbreviated to “DR” became the most recent addition to my World Karaoke Tour.

Getting to the DR proved a more arduous journey than expected for a trip that only involved a four-hour flight. My departure out of JFK International Airport on Friday night, May 23 was delayed — first due to thunderstorms passing through the New York City area, and then due to the need to wait for the pilots of my aircraft to arrive at the airport. You see, due to the initial weather-related delay, the crew that had originally been assigned to my flight would have exceeded the FAA’s permissible limit of working hours for one day if they had gone ahead and piloted the plane. So my fellow passengers and I from JetBlue Flight 810 had to wait for a new captain and first officer to make their way to JFK. As a result, my flight, originally scheduled to depart at 9:00 pm, didn’t end up pushing back from the gate until close to midnight. We landed in Santo Domingo at about 4:00 a.m., and I finally got checked in to my hotel at about 5:30 a.m.

Of course, the important thing was that now I had arrived; and the next night I would be able to do some karaoke!

Karaoke: chanting in Kantabar

The venue for my Dominican singing debut was a tavern called Kantabar. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Steven (who owns it) and Anais (who manages it), Kantabar was the very first karaoke venue in the Dominican Republic. It’s been in operation for some 20 years now. Continue reading

Categories: Caribbean, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Country no. 33 on my World Karaoke Tour: sinking my teeth into India

hbomb in delhiTwo days before I flew to India, I had a wisdom tooth removed in New York City. That emergency dental procedure was obviously unanticipated during the time, months earlier, when I was making the travel arrangements for my 2 1/2 week trip to India and Sri Lanka. When I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the Indian capital of New Delhi, I was still suffering intermittent mouth pain (and the soreness would continue to crop up periodically for the rest of the trip). Because I was recovering from oral surgery, and because there are certain precautions that any traveller to India is advised to take, I was carrying a small pharmacy around in my daypack: painkillers; an antibiotic to protect against the risk of infection; anti-malaria pills that my travel doctor had prescribed for me; and Cipro, another antibiotic that I would take if I were to contract the intestinal ailment that’s affectionately known as “Delhi Belly.” (Spoiler alert: I did indeed succumb to Delhi Belly before the trip was over.) But the presence of an open wound in my mouth didn’t prevent me from singing karaoke at my earliest opportunity after landing in a new country! Additionally, one of my trademarks when travelling is to seek out quirky museums; and I found a suitably offbeat one in Delhi.

(A note for my fellow geography geeks: Before I knew any better, I used the terms “New Delhi” and “Delhi” interchangeably. That usage was in error. New Delhi is actually a section of the much larger megalopolis of Delhi. New Delhi’s population is a mere 300,000, give or take, while the complete expanse of Delhi (which is also known as the National Capital Territory of India) harbors nearly 18 million residents at last count. However, New Delhi alone is the capital of the nation and contains all of the governmental institutions. Both the karaoke bar and the museum that are discussed below are located in New Delhi.)

Karaoke: Bringing the sounds of Billy Joel to India

My Indian karaoke debut took place at a joint called Harry’s Karaoke Lounge Bar. Harry’s is on an upper level of a sprawling shopping mall, and while the rest of the mall was deserted on a Sunday night, Harry’s was hopping. Continue reading

Categories: Asia, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

You can go home again: Revisiting my early childhood in Cleveland

10356504_mThe distance between New York City and Cleveland, Ohio is a mere 405 miles, as the crow flies. But when I journeyed between those two cities last month, I traversed more than the space between them on the map. I also went back in time.

In July 1973, when I was three years old, my family moved from Champaign, Illinois to University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. There we remained for approximately two and one-half years. In January 1976, about two months shy of my sixth birthday, we relocated to New Jersey. I would grow up in the New Jersey town of West Orange (graduating from West Orange High School), and would attend university and law school in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, respectively. Then I would settle in New York City, where I’ve resided ever since. For over 38 and one-half years after my family left Cleveland, I didn’t return there.

On a weekend in August 2014, I finally made it back to “the Cleve.” Before that weekend was out, not only would I have a fun time exploring the city; but I would make it to my childhood home in University Heights! Needless to say, karaoke would be involved in the festivities as well. 🙂 Continue reading

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Karaoke in Ireland: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Me with Jimmy JoyceAlthough I’ve sung karaoke in 35 countries as of this writing, there’s a handful of nations that I’ve visited without singing while inside their borders. Perhaps the most surprising place to end up on that short list is Ireland. I mean, it’s a fun country, right? Not to mention that it’s a land with a rich musical heritage. But that musical tradition doesn’t yet seem to have translated into abundance of karaoke — at least in the capital city of Dublin, which is the only Irish locale that I’ve visited to date. Although I’ve now been to Dublin on two separate occasions — most recently, at the start of 2014 — I have yet to sing into a microphone on Irish soil. Many of my posts on this blog concern the circumstances of how particular countries were added to my World Karaoke Tour; however, this article will recount how Ireland failed to become a part of the tour.

Visit no. 1: the early ’90s

Over 20 years ago, Ireland became the third foreign country in which I ever set foot (after the United Kingdom and Canada). That trip occurred between late December 1991 and January 1992, as I rang in the New Year in Dublin. Two indications of just how long ago we’re talking about: I hadn’t yet even entered law school, and Bill Clinton had yet to be become President of the United States. (My enrollment in Georgetown Law, and Clinton’s first Presidential election victory, would both occur during the ensuing twelve months.)

Back then, karaoke wasn’t really a thing yet in most parts of the world outside of East Asia. I myself had just taken up karaoke singing during the preceding year while living in New Jersey; and my aspirations to go global with my new avocation lay many years in the future. Looking back from 2014, I have no idea whether any karaoke venues even existed in Ireland in the early 1990s; but in any event, I made no attempt to search for any during my initial visit to that country. Continue reading

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Country no. 32: a man, a plan, a karaoke bar in Panama

My singing appearance on a Friday night in Panama City was probably my most enjoyable evening in the history of my World Karaoke Tour. Yes, it may even have surpassed the amazing times I’ve had behind the microphone in such cities as Paris and Frankfurt. 🙂 Here’s how it went down:

I’d flown from New York to Peru on Copa Airlines, the flag carrier of Panama, and in fact had a layover in Panama City’s airport when I initially flew to Lima. For the return leg of my trip, I’d decided that rather than just change planes in Panama again, I would take advantage of the opportunity to spend a weekend in Panama City. Among other things, I was eager to take a boat ride on the Panama Canal, one of the engineering marvels of modern times.

Another consideration, of course, was that a multi-day stay would make make it possible for me to do some singing while on Panamanian soil. 🙂 Peru had just become the 31st country in which I’ve sung, and now it was time to increase the total to 32! I didn’t waste any time taking care of business; on my very first night in Panama, I went to a karaoke bar called The Green Room in Panama City. Continue reading

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Country no. 31 on my World Karaoke Tour: doing it my way in Peru

During some recent overseas appearances on my World Karaoke Tour, I’ve tried to perform songs that relate, in some way, to the country in which I find myself. For example, who can forget that time I sang “Walk Like an Egyptian” in Cairo? Or my decision to include “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on my setlist in Moscow? Conversely, although more than 20 years have passed since I sang in Vienna, I still regret passing up the chance to sing “Edelweiss” in that Austrian capital. Giving a shout-out to my host country is a unique opportunity that I like to take advantage of when I’m “on tour.”

When I visited Peru in November 2013, I took a slightly different approach. Continue reading

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Singing in Seattle: the sounds of H-Bomb on the Puget Sound

H-Bomb at the Space NeedleI gallivant all over the world, but some of my favourite karaoke adventures have come in my home country, the United States.  For example, this past summer, I had an incredible time visiting, and singing in, Seattle.  Although I was in town for less than 24 hours, I made every second count.

It came about as follows: in July I spent several days in Alaska. My return itinerary from Anchorage to Newark included a connecting flight in Seattle; and never having been to that city, when I was booking the trip I’d made my layover there into an overnight stay. This would enable me to add a new city to my World Karaoke Tour. 🙂 My arrival in Seattle was planned for a Saturday night, and I knew that would be a prime night for singing opportunities. Also on my agenda were seeing some of the distinctive architecture for which the Emerald City is famous; and feeling the vibe of a town that’s often regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.

Seattle joins the World Karaoke Tour

Naturally, karaoke was my very first activity after I rolled into town on Saturday evening, July 6. After landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I rushed to my downtown hotel to check in and change into a fresh set of clothes for my karaoke appearance. Then I headed to the Hula Hula Lounge, a tiki-themed bar in Seattle’s Queene Anne neighbourhood that I’d pre-selected for the occasion based on its very promising Yelp reviews. Continue reading

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Country no. 30 on my World Karaoke Tour: mayhem in Moldova

When my taxi driver from the airport dropped me off at my hotel in downtown Chișinău, he shook my hand and wished me a good night. His friendliness was typical of the people I would meet in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova. I found the inhabitants of that city to be extremely welcoming — with the notable exception of the two bouncers who tried to keep me out of a karaoke bar.

That bar was called Art Club Karaoke; and my encounter with its overzealous gatekeepers occurred on Friday, May 24, 2013. I’d been excited to enter Art Club, as I was embarking on the most significant evening to date in all of my karaoke travels. After my singing appearance in the Ukraine the previous Monday, I could say that I’d sung in 29 different countries — thus tying me for the distinction of having performed karaoke in more nations than anyone else on the planet. But I wanted that record all to myself. 🙂 I looked forward to making Moldova the record-breaking 30th country. But as soon as I entered the foyer that led into the bar, the bouncers gleefully informed me that their establishment was closed for the evening. Continue reading

Categories: Europe, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Country no. 29 on my World Karaoke Tour: I was not a chicken in Kiev

Acccording to the ratings on TripAdvisor, the no. 11-ranking attraction out of 228 things to see in Kiev is a statue of a hedgehog. That’s right: in a city whose origins may trace back to a settlement in the 5th century A.D. — a metropolis that abounds with architecturally spectacular monasteries and churches — one of the most popular sights is a sculpture of a spiny mammal. That’s the kind of quirky and charming place that Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, is. And it was in such a setting that I tied the record for singing karaoke in the most countries.

The aforementioned monument (see photo at right) depicts the protagonist of an animated short film from what was then the Soviet Union, released in 1975, entitled “Hedgehog in the Fog.” While you may not have heard of that particular cartoon, in 2003 it was named the best animated movie of all time in a survey of animators and film critics from around the world. But you don’t have to take that survey’s word for it; you can view “Hedgehog in the Fog” right here, complete with English-language subtitles!


The statue that immortalizes the star of this cinematic masterpiece was erected in 2009 in a small public park. It was created by Ukrainian artist Constantine Skretutsky. Sadly, I learned today that just this month, the sculpture was destroyed or damaged by vandals, and the pedestal on which it had stood is now empty. I don’t know what kind of sick bastards would do such a thing. Anyway, Mr. Skretutsky will restore the beloved hedgehog, and it’s expected to be reinstalled in the same park in May 2014. I feel fortunate that I got the chance to see it in person.

UPDATE (July 1, 2016): I’m pleased to report that at some point, the hedgehog monument was fully rebuilt!

A historic night for my global tour

Paying homage to the most legendary hedgehog in cinema, by visiting its statue, was one of the top items on my itinerary for Kiev; but of course, it wasn’t my highest priority. What I was most looking forward to was achieving a special milestone in my karaoke travels. Continue reading

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Country no. 28 on my World Karaoke Tour: meeting new comrades in Russia

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). Continue reading

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It happened. I met another H-Bomb.

Actually, it’s happened twice now.

I’ve been singing under the sobriquet “H-Bomb” since 1992; the story of how I acquired that nickname can be found here. It’s rare to find another karaoke singer who uses any stage name, let alone mine. But occasionally I’m alerted to the presence of another H-Bomb in the karaoke world. When that occurs, I feel compelled to meet my namesake.

This is the story of how a world traveler like me ended up in the unlikely locations of Poughkeepsie, New York and Murfreesboro, Tennessee — and how establishments in those places, as well as in the larger Tennessee city of Nashville, became some of the most rewarding additions to my World Karaoke Tour.

April 2009: Poughkeepsie, New York

The town of Poughkeepsie in upstate New York is best known as the home of Vassar College, an elite liberal arts institution that was once known as one of the “Seven Sisters.” In 2009, that town landed on my radar screen for a reason that had nothing to do with higher education. A friend who lives nearby had driven by a local establishment called Planet Wings, and she reported that its marquee sign was advertising a “KARAOKE . . . BY H BOMB” show on Thursday nights.

Planet Wings sign

The marquee sign outside Planet Wings in Poughkeepsie, in April 2009.

So, on Thursday night, April 2, 2009, after work, I took a commuter train from Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal to Poughkeepsie. Continue reading

Categories: North America, Uncategorized, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Country no. 27 on my World Karaoke Tour: a Turkish delight

Stock photo of the Turkish flag.As 2012 drew to a close, I jetted off from New York to make my first-ever visit to Istanbul. The city that was founded as Byzantium in the 7th century B.C. certainly lived up to my expectations of it as an exotic destination that can be appreciated on many levels. Of equal interest for this blog, less than 24 hours after I stepped off the plane at Atatürk Airport, Istanbul became the latest stop on my World Karaoke Tour!

Klub Karaoke: The tour rolls on

It happened at a venue called Klub Karaoke. That particular “Klub” is located just off Istikal Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare that’s known for its abundance of nightlife. I’d found Klub Karaoke’s website via a google search while planning my trip; and I was particularly impressed that the bar makes its songlist available for perusal online. That was a big plus for me, since it enabled me to confirm in advance that I would find my desired songs there.

Istikal Street, late on a Friday night.

Istikal Street, late on a Friday night.

Most of the bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that draw revelers to the Istikal Street area are actually found on side streets that intersect Istikal rather than on Istikal itself, and that was true of Klub Karaoke. Here’s what Klub Karaoke looks like on the outside: Continue reading

Categories: Europe, travel, Uncategorized, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

L.A. Story, Part I: Off the beaten path in the City of Angels

This past Labor Day weekend (a holiday weekend in the United States that falls in early September), I visited Los Angeles for a few days. Prior to September 2012, I’d been to that city four times. I therefore had already experienced many of the area’s signature attractions, such as the La Brea Tar Pits, the Griffith Observatory, the Universal Studios theme park, the Getty Center museum, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This time around, I focused on investigating some of L.A.’s lesser-known treasures. Of course, as with just about any H-Bomb vacation, I also searched for karaoke. 🙂

Somehow, even though over three months have gone by since that trip, I haven’t yet blogged about it. It’s time to get caught up already! This will be the first of two articles recapping that weekend.

I arrived at LAX late on Friday night and headed to my hotel in Hollywood, near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and North Highland Avenue. I really like staying in that area. In contrast to much of the sprawling, freeway-centric metropolis that is Los Angeles, that section of Hollywood is easily walkable — an important consideration for me, since I refuse to drive ever. Even in California. 🙂 It did help, though, that I have friends with cars who live in the area and were nice enough to take me around town. At the same time, it was good to be able to walk around on my own in the vicinity of my hotel.

A MACABRE MUSEUM, A QUIRKY HOUSE, AND A BREATHTAKING VIEW

The Museum of Death

On Saturday I began by hoofing it to the Museum of Death, which is located on Hollywood Boulevard. Continue reading

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8 things I’m looking forward to in the next 12 months

One year ago today, I launched this blog by sending my first post into cyberspace. Having never operated a website before, I really had no idea of what I was getting into. But it’s been an incredible year. Portugal, Egypt, and Germany became countries no. 24, 25, and 26 on my World Karaoke Tour; I enjoyed writing about my international karaoke experiences and other travel adventures; and I discovered an amazing and inspiring community of travel bloggers. Along the way, I’ve connected with some very cool people. Learning from them has already helped to make my travels more fulfilling.

There was a rough patch during the early part of 2012 when I got sick and suspended my blogging for over three months. Let us never speak of that dark period again, except to say that getting through it provided me with a renewed sense of purpose, and even a sense of urgency. The realisation that I can’t take my health for granted now motivates me to enjoy life to the best of my ability, and to prioritise seeing as much as I can of the beauty and wonder in this world — while getting to know the people who live in it.

As I commemorate the first anniversary of this website (an occasion that’s also known in the vernacular as my “blogoversary”), I’m eager to embark on the next 12 months! I’ve got some exciting plans lined up for the second year of H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke. I’m especially anticipating the following events:

1. Santacon in New York City

One of the annual highlights of the holiday season for me is Santacon: a celebration held on the same day in various cities around the world, during which large numbers of people dressed as Santas and other seasonally appropriate characters cavort around town, make merriment, and (of course) consume generous quantities of alcoholic beverages. New York City’s Santacon is usually the biggest, featuring thousands of participants; and it’s just generally a really fun time. Here you can read my blog post about last year’s edition of Santacon. Santacon 2012 will be held on December 15 in at least 37 countries! It’ll be my fifth consecutive year of hanging with the Santas. (In case you’re wondering, I do not, myself, don a Santa outfit, beyond wearing the red hat with white trim. But hey, someone has to document the proceedings on the internet. So I still make a vital contribution. :))

2. Istanbul for New Year’s

I typically spend my New Year’s Eves overseas, and the dawn of 2013 will be no exception. On December 27 I’m heading to Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents; that’s where I’ll be as the world rings in yet another year! Continue reading

Categories: Europe, South America, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Country no. 26 on my World Karaoke Tour: singing at an Irish bar in Germany during Oktoberfest

On my way back home from Egypt this past weekend, I stopped in Frankfurt am Main, Germany to do some karaoke singing. While my stay in Frankfurt was brief, it was over 2 1/2 years in the making; it was as integral to the plans for my trip as singing in Egypt itself (to say nothing of visiting the pyramids). 🙂

To reach Egypt from my home city of New York, I arranged to fly via Lufthansa from New York to Cairo, connecting in Frankfurt; and for my return voyage I reversed that itinerary. I deliberately scheduled an overnight layover in Frankfurt during the return journey, in order to afford me a long-awaited opportunity to sing karaoke in Germany. The country that’s been bestowed with the sobriquet of the Land of Chocolate had hitherto been a glaring omission from my World Karaoke Tour, but that would finally change! (I’d been to Germany before, having spent several days in Berlin during my summertime romp through Europe in 1993. But although I’d sung in three countries during that same trip, Germany hadn’t been one of them. This was during the dawn of my World Karaoke Tour, and I wasn’t focused then, as I am now, on searching for karaoke in every city I passed through.)

Once those plans were in place, it took an unexpectedly long time to bring them to fruition. My Egyptian holiday was originally scheduled to happen in February 2011; but 18 days before my departure date, a revolution erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, culminating in the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the installation of a democratically elected government. Given the chaos and danger that attended the uprising, my Egyptian tour — which I’d begun planning nearly a year in advance — was canceled by the tour operator. So I went to Morocco instead (a trip that will be covered in one or more future articles on this blog) and had an amazing time; and Casablanca, rather than Cairo, became the first African city on my World Karaoke Tour. I rescheduled my Egyptian vacation — including the overnight stay in Frankfurt — for one year later, in February 2012; I assumed that the situation on the ground in Cairo would calm down by then. Continue reading

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