Karaoke-on-wheels a big hit in Indonesia
AN INDONESIAN rickshaw fitted with a karaoke machine blasts loud music next to a row of food stalls, as revellers sing and dance enthusiastically.
The musical pedicab is among a wave of new innovations helping Indonesians indulge their love of singing wherever they can, from specially equipped trains and buses to services that bring karaoke to their homes.
Once considered a morally questionable pastime that went hand in hand with drinking alcohol and prostitution in the Muslim-majority nation, karaoke has cleaned up its image in recent years and is now a mainstream form of entertainment, as in much of Asia.
While the most popular venues for the activity remain karaoke bars, where groups typically sing in private rooms, the new options are helping crooners belt out tunes in more unlikely settings.
Among the new karaoke entrepreneurs is Rudi Hantoro, who has equipped his pedal-powered rickshaw with a powerful sound system and a small screen that displays videos and lyrics.
"This is karaoke for everyone - bus drivers and housewives, students and taxi drivers," the 65-year-old said, as a tattooed man sang a rock ballad while his friends danced.
Mr Hantoro operates his Karaoke Bike in the city of Depok, on the main island of Java, cycling to people's houses when he receives an order, or setting up at a street corner.
One of his regular spots is next to a minibus depot and train station, where he has a loyal band of followers, mainly bus drivers.
The price is reasonable - three songs for 5,000 rupiah (50 Singapore cents) or seven for 10,000 rupiah.
His offerings include Indonesian rock, English-language classics and dangdut, a type of local pop music famed for its lewd lyrics and raunchy dance moves.
"When I have had a fight with my wife, I sing sad songs here," said minibus driver Abdul Haris Jamaludin, 28.
Not all the new karaoke innovations are that affordable.
Some are aimed at a growing army of consumers whose wealth has increased in recent years on the back of economic growth.
One such option is train carriages fitted with karaoke systems. They can be rented by groups who want to hold a party on the move, for 20 million to 40 million rupiah.
There is a choice of 20- to 28-seater carriages which used to be part of a presidential train.
After the booking is made, the carriage is attached to a train that is already making a scheduled journey across Java.
Over in Jakarta, a party bus, Royale VIP, is available for hire. It boasts a karaoke machine, two poles for dancing and laser lights so revellers can party as they battle through the capital's traffic jams.
For those wishing to enjoy a spot of crooning at home, there are several offerings in the capital, including Splash Mobile Karaoke.
The service was set up two years ago and business is booming, said founder Benny Navaro. He provides music for events such as weddings, birthdays, farewell parties and family reunions.
"Indonesians can be shy at live music events, but when they are given a big screen with lyrics, they push aside their worries about sounding out of tune," he said.