There are many things I will find hard to miss when I leave Rwanda. I can’t see myself grimacing as I ease myself into a hot bath, and I doubt my mouth will curl up in disgust upon cheesecake passing between my lips. The mere thought of buying a bunch of carrots without an audience excites me. But there is one thing that is sadly lacking from British culture and if only I could, I would transport it in less than a jiffy.
How often do you wince when you realize it is “karaoke night” in your local back home?
Not here. Never here.
Rwandan karaoke is a joy to behold. I say behold rather than listen to because that is where the absolute joy resides. No screeching from enthusiastic, plump wanted-to-be’s with bleached hair. No groups of red-eyed football lads on a boozy night out who see inebriation as a passport to self-embarrassment. No, Rwandan karaoke is all about miming, looking chic and having a good dance routine.
Slick turns, impossible hip jiggles, bendy bodies and dress changes are at the core of this profession. The funniest part must be the seriousness of it all. I guess it really is a job, but since the songs generally revolve around the playlist of the National Rwandan Appreciation Society for Enrique Iglesias, Westlife, Celine Dion and Cheese in its Purest of Forms it does sometimes appear slightly weird to watch these muscular guys gyrating away to a British pop ballad.
It is a shame in a way that you can’t pick up a laminated floppy book of “songs we do”, lying on the bar and sign yourself up with those weenie pencils to communal humiliation as in normal karaoke. This is all performance – no amateurs allowed unfortunately. How I would like to shimmy and shake my stuff on stage for the pure hilarity of it all. You wouldn’t catch me doing it back on the Isle of Wight, but out here people stare enough as it is...
Now personally I think there would be far fewer groans from locals come Karaoke night if the inebriated football boys had to strut their stuff to a Westlife theme tune and try to retain some dignity at the same time. You might even have trouble finding a table.