Thanks to Stefan. From Flikr.
Thanks to Stefan. From Flikr.

If you have been in Taiwan even for a short amount of time, chances are either your classmates or your local friends have invited you out to sing Karaoke.

In Taiwan Karaoke does not mean standing up in front of the bar and belting out out-of tune ballads to a drunken audience (as the word conjures in Australia). Rather Karaoke is enjoyed in a private room with only close friends present. Usually friends go in groups, with rooms catering up to 20 people. As it is usually only close friends who are present, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and there isn’t the fear of singing in front of strangers. Nevertheless there is still the need to perform well – many Taiwanese spend hours practicing at home before going to KTV (Karaoke Television)!

If you decide to go, you will most likely be expected to sing. Usually at KTV each person selects a few songs to sing going in rounds. Since each session lasts around four hours each person would sing around 8-12 songs. If it is your first time you may not have to sing so many (unless you want to) but it’s still good to keep up with the rounds.

The next question is what songs to sing? While English language songs get radio airtime and Taiwanese youth love seeing their idols live, when it comes to KTV, Mandarin songs reign supreme. There is not a huge selection of English language songs and of those they have it is like stepping into a time warp to the nineties; artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and NYSNC dominate the English language selection. With such a paucity of choice this gives you the perfect opportunity to learn a few Mandarin songs and show off your singing (and Chinese language) skills.

KTV in Taiwan – choosing Taiwanese songs

The next challenge is choosing a song. The challenge at KTV is to choose a song that is catchy, but one in which the lyrics are not too fast. Going to KTV is also a good opportunity to show off your knowledge of the Taiwanese music scene. While there are thousands of Chinese language songs to choose from, since you are in Taiwan, choosing a Taiwanese artist will be appreciated. Apart from listening to hours of Taiwanese songs on YouTube, how can you know what is a good song to choose? The list below includes some Taiwanese songs that will see you the star of the KTV room.

Teresa Teng -鄧麗君

Teresa Teng was (and still is) the queen pop in Taiwan and even China. Her most famous song is The Moon Represents my Heart (月亮代表我的心) – which also happens to be the first Chinese song most learners of Chinese ever learn. The pace is slow, lyrics are easy to understand and the melody is surprisingly catchy, making it a good choice for both boys and girls.

Any of Teresa Teng’s other songs will also be a good choice and be warmly received so have a listen on YouTube for any other songs you like.

Jay Chou – 周杰倫

Jay Chou is an international superstar whose songs are still among the most played at KTV. It is the consensus among many KTV goers that his earlier songs were some of his best work. When selecting his songs to sing, try to choose those from his earlier days. While some of his songs can be quite tricky to sing (fast tempo, convoluted lyrics), below are some of his biggest hits that are also easily learnable and singable.

Simple love – 簡單愛

Sunny Day -晴天

Wang Lee Hom – 王力宏

Another international superstar! Before becoming a Mandarin singing pop star, Wang Li Hong couldn’t even write Chinese! Now he writes his own lyrics and music – a true inspiration to Chinese language learners everywhere. While his most famous songs tend to sing of love and relationships, Wang Lee Hom has a number of songs that also introduce Chinese culture and customs. Some of his songs can be tricky (‘Descendants of the Dragon’ (龍的傳人) is even a tongue twister) but some of his slower songs are quite manageable. If he can sing in Chinese so can you!

Heart Beat – 心跳

 

Still Loving You -依然愛你

JJ Lin

JJ Lin is very famous in Taiwan and China. He is now the face of many products in Taiwan so you will often see his face on the side of buses and subways in Taiwan. His songs are mostly sung at a slower tempo, making them quite a good choice to sing.

Practice Love -修煉愛情

Xiao Hung-Chi -蕭煌奇

Xiao Hung-Chi is a male artist who sings in Mandarin and Taiwanese. While not as famous as some of the male artists above, his songs are on high rotation at KTV. Prior to being a singer he was also a Para Olympian!

An easy song of his for KTV beginners is ‘The Last Train’ (末班車).

Alin

Alin is very famous in China and Taiwan. She mostly sings of broken hearts but the slow tempo and predictable vocabulary make her songs good for KTV singing.

We will be better off – 我們會更好的

五月天

One of the biggest bands in Taiwan (if not the biggest). The themes of their songs are deep touching upon all kinds of human experience. The tunes are not overly ‘pop’ music, allowing the band to find a broader audience. Mayday is universally loved in Taiwan and each KTV session will hear at least one of their songs without fail. These are some of their most popular songs. I would also recommend taking the time to read the lyrics because they all tell a story!

I won’t let you be lonely -我不願讓你一個人

Cheers -乾杯

Soda green – 蘇打綠

Another very popular band in Taiwan. The lead songwriter graduated from the Chinese department of the National Taiwan University and his studies have left a mark on the songs. The lyrics are meaningful and written in beautiful Chinese, making Soda Green songs a good choice for singers and learners of Chinese alike.

I miss you -我好想你

Duets

At KTV singers often choose duets to sing. The blue is for boys, red for girls and green for both together. It would be worthwhile to have a few duets tucked up your sleeve so if the room is one short you can jump in and sing a duet. Some common duets include:

Soda Green and Ella – You are Written in my Song (你被寫在我的歌裡)

Jay Chou and Lara – Coral Sea (珊瑚海)

Other points to note about KTV

There are many types of KTV rooms in Taiwan: these range from the simple TV and microphone in a room, to the more luxurious with all you can eat buffets, disco balls and maracas. The price of course depends on which type you go to and what time you go. Prices are much more expensive at the peak time between 5pm-12pm. The cheapest time is the midnight to dawn (12pm-6am) – apparently it’s a common thing! The most famous KTV companies in Taiwan are Holiday KTV and Cashbox.

As KTV is very popular you should book before you go. Once you arrive there is a large entrance hall with the food and the rooms located underneath the first floor. If you do get food, there is a lift service for your food. You put it on the elevator, you get a number and then you pick it up from downstairs. Alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase.

The rooms are set up in a lounge formation. There are usually two TV screens to choose your songs with the music video projected on a large screen at the front of the room. To choose your song you will need to use the BoPoMoFo Pinyin system (there is no Hanyu Pinyin) so when looking for Chinese songs it may be easier to ask your friends for help if you aren’t familiar with the Taiwanese phonetic system.

KTV is fun! Don’t be shy about singing in front of other people. KTV is not only a great bonding activity but also a fantastic way to increase your vocabulary and gain exposure to words that you might not read in a textbook. KTV is a ‘must do’ for those living or studying in Taiwan.

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Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus

Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus has lived in Taiwan for two years where she was studying and working. She speaks Chinese and French.

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