How to deal with neighborhood karaoke | Inquirer Opinion
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How to deal with neighborhood karaoke

What is Christmas if it were not also for unrestrained karaoke? The word “karaoke” combines two Japanese words—“kara” which is a contraction of “karappo” which means empty, and “oke” which is a contraction of “okesutura” which means orchestra.

Karaoke started exactly 50 years ago in Kobe, Japan, as a cost-saving measure by a bar owner who paid singers accompanied by “minus one” tapes instead of a band. Soon, customers discovered and got addicted to the self-entertainment mode.

The problem with karaoke as a Japanese export is that it was not accompanied by the Japanese temperament and social discipline that translates into low levels of karaoke-induced conflict. In the Philippines, the passion for karaoke without the equivalent guardrails of Japanese self-restraint has resulted in bizarre “My Way” homicides spanning decades.

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There is no national law specifically addressing karaoke noise disturbance. In 2015, House Bill No. 1035 to regulate the use of videoke and karaoke systems within residential areas was filed but has not been passed into law. Nevertheless, the bill presents some proposed norms: (1) videoke or karaoke from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. only; (2) there is a prima facie violation if the sound can be heard 50 feet from its source; and (3) violations merit a fine of P1,000 or imprisonment of at most six months or both.

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The continuing karaoke pandemic has spawned organizations like the Anti-Noise Crusaders of the Philippines who describe themselves as a “group of simple people who are victims of noise disturbance from different cities who are now fighting for their rights.”

It is understandable but unfortunate that karaoke is primarily viewed from the eyes of victims rather than those of citizens concerned about civic consciousness and the quality of citizenship of Filipinos.

The problem of dealing with neighborhood karaoke is a problem of lack of social and civic engagement. If there are no thick friendly relations with the neighbors before the karaoke problems arise, it will be difficult to take any action at regulation of abatement without social or even legal conflict.

Solving potential disputes with neighbors requires positive trust-building strokes, such as inviting them over during special events, or if they beg off, sending over food and snacks during special events. Better civic engagement by neighbors in pursuing community goals is a stronger foundation.

Trust-building is particularly crucial when you or your neighbor moves into the neighborhood. It is so easy to imagine the actions of neighbors as slights when none were intended. It is necessary to treat relations with neighbors like a bicycle—keep pedaling, otherwise it will flounder.

In the Philippines, it is not karaoke if it is not extremely loud. Filipinos consider karaoke as their primary freedom of expression.

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Many of us are not conscious of the nuisance we create when we sing karaoke.

How to deal with intrusive neighborhood karaoke? If I am adversely affected but do not have social capital with my karaoke-prone neighbor, I need to create the foundation for a win-win solution before I take any kneejerk action. Impulsive action will sour our relations that might take forever to resolve.

Meantime, the stress I create between my neighbor and me will be more damaging than the karaoke sessions that triggered it.

I would begin by understanding the restrictive “legal envelope” as a benchmark and then mark out the wider and more permissive or tolerant “social envelope” for my response.

Understanding the norms of the neighborhood or village. If these are fuzzy or unwritten, I will encourage the homeowners’ association or barangay to arrive at a broad consensus on periods, duration, frequency, loudness, and other parameters of allowable karaoke sessions.

If there should be any process for dealing with karaoke complaints, they should be addressed through mediation by trained mediators.

This human resource needs to be built at the village or barangay level. Suitable volunteer mediators from homeowners themselves can be trained for purposes of neighborhood
conflict resolution.

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We need an inclusive and sustainable approach to karaoke because it will remain with us so long as amateurs need no license to sing. Amateur singers are allured by the contrived magic of karaoke. As sociologist Erving Goffman tells us, individuals in situated cultural settings assume identities and perform public roles that await them and “confirm expressively [their] acceptance of it” with passion and abandon.
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