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The ability to laugh at oneself, mixed with a hefty dose of vanity

When karaoke meets the Greek temperament, albeit temporarily, the results are very interesting. «Greeks, as with other Mediterranean peoples, are uninhibited and unself-conscious about singing their joys and sorrows among their peers, where anything goes,» said Giorgos Piperopoulos, professor of sociology, psychology and communication at Thessaloniki University. «On the other hand, the old concept of a steady group of friends no longer exists, nor is there the supportive sense of collectivity in musical expression. However, what does exist to an extreme degree is supposed talent. Technology itself has been used to promote beauties with supposed singing talents at our nightclubs, where loud music drowns out out-of-key singing. My personal view is that karaoke is a substitute for the real values of personal or collective expression with a guitar or an accordion, just as TV fills up a lonely hole in the hearts of Greeks of today. The biggest victims here are children who identify or imitate, encouraged by their parents’ hidden, unfulfilled longings.» Late in coming «It is no coincidence that karaoke was late in coming to Greece,» said Aphrodite Panayiotakou, a musicologist specializing in cultural management. «Naturally one can’t judge it using musical criteria, but only as a sociological phenomenon, since it has nothing to do with any kind of musical training. So from that point of view it is extremely interesting, since it includes two diametrically opposed concepts: self-deprecation and self-admiration. «Greeks are not accustomed to making fun of themselves in public. We are all children from small communities, where one’s image is important.» «Nevertheless, karaoke by its very nature presupposes the participation of all concerned, and also humor, since anyone can take up the microphone, no matter how good their voice is. So on the one hand one is forced to break with one’s idealized public image, but with the right attitude one could even be applauded,» adds Panayiotakou. Amusing kitsch Karaoke also involves some vanity. «There are a lot of people who think they can sing, and karaoke suddenly gives them an audience and the hope they will be discovered,» says Panayiotakou. «However, karaoke does not help the really talented. The music is usually badly orchestrated on a synthesizer, with idyllic scenes projected onto a screen. The whole atmosphere is one of outrageous kitsch designed to amuse. Personally I think what would really take off in Greece are karaoke collections of folk songs.»