A Love Letter to my Karaoke Night
by Maya Eilam, age 35
Everyone who knows me knows I Karaoke every Thursday night OF MY LIFE. I’ve been going to the same spot for years. It’s the spiritual center of my week. It’s where I’m most myself, and where I feel the most love. I’ve made close friends there. And tomorrow I will attend my second wedding for a Karaoke friend!
Before I landed in this Karaoke night, I was very into exploring my voice in all different ways. In 2014 or 2015 I would find pockets of time at home alone to let my voice go off-leash and make any sounds it wanted. A time when NO SOUNDS WERE OUT OF BOUNDS. It was very healing. I could express things without words. Just giving the feelings inside a chance to come out in sounds, and I would try not to control them.
That was when a friend of a friend invited me to this Karaoke night at a Brooklyn queer bar, Branded Saloon. I think it was my first time in a mostly femme queer room. The vibe was deep and soft and I don’t remember exactly when I fell in love with it. But I do remember when I first felt complete permission to let my voice go.
Jared Gniewek, the KJ (karaoke jockey) who runs the night with heart and cheers on each singer, finally got up on stage and sang a song. Or more accurately he SCREAMED a song in a one-of-a-kind voice somewhere between boat rudder and Muppet. It could’ve been Celine Dion "It’s All Coming Back to Me.”
I still know exactly the feeling, like an invisible hand is holding my heart very still, right in the center of my chest, and everything else disappears into gray mist. I don’t even want my BREATH to move me, I just want to be pinned and watch.
. * • * .
When Jared sang like that, I knew instantly, with a serious solemnity:
I can sing however I want.
. * • * .
What I had been practicing privately, I could now do publicly. It’s a big moment. It’s hard to realize. The endless amounts of strangeness inside me, the unexpected sounds that would surprise me when I let go by myself— I could do that here. It was okay.
Have you ever felt a change so big it was ALMOST TRIPPY? It was like reality had shifted invisibly when I wasn’t paying attention. Like my life had automatically downloaded a bizarre, beautiful update and installed it seamlessly and now I’m noticing things work differently (in the best way possible) and I almost can’t believe it.
So I started going once in a while, and then regularly, and now UNSTOPPABLY. I’m like 4 years deep into this Karaoke night and I love it with everything I’ve got. It’s where I discover who I am this week. It’s where my heart is the most open. Where I need to be.
I could write eighty million more things about this Karaoke night: the people, the songs, the little moments, the banter, the outfits, the times the whole room has ignited by sing-along, the surprise hits, the games, the tambourine chronicles, the conversations I’ve had, the things people have confided in me, the ways I have loved and been loved by pure witnessing and dancing and acting out the lyrics of a song, the jokes, the mind-blowing duets, the sore throats the next day that are ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS worth it. I could tell you a million bazillion things about the vortex of love that this night has become in my life and in the shared experiences of the people who come.
Here’s what I want to tell you: I want you to feel love. I want you to feel permission. I want to experience you feeling free and loved. And my pinned, stilled heart will watch.