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Manakara is another nondescript town on the south-eastern coast of Madagascar.
During the day, most of its 60,000 residents either work on rice or coffee plantations, or go treasure hunting for bits of gold and sapphire in rivers and mountains that surround this modest town.
But its at night that Manakara truly comes alive—and the 7-odd karaoke bars spread across town burst into life.
Singing here and across most of Madagascar—starts at a young age and is deeply entwined with Malagasy culture.
So, young mothers with their babies pack into the small bars, jostling for space with lone teenagers mouthing words and stealing an occasional drink.
The bars themselves are perfumed with the smell of sweat mingling with smoke, and alcohol. Cheap Chinese LED lights flash in the corners, large white screens accompanied by an out-dated 90’s old computer. In dark crevasses, extra chairs are piled up waiting for more patrons.
Elsewhere, groups of friends catch up over, as a cascade of music, ranging from Mariah Carey to local Malagasy, Nothing is left unsung.
"I like singing, specially with my close friends,” says Messiah, a 35 year old man who is looks like he has dropped out of a rap video from the mid nineties, his job is to paint buildings for a living. “Singing helps me put on an armor and deal with life.”
It also happens to be “his favourite pastime,” claims Messiah, trying hard to convince that he’d come to the bar even if there was, no alcohol involved.
“Singing here in Manakara is a very popular hobby, a normal bar cannot open without karaoke,” explains Tipo Arnold Stephano, the owner of a La Terrasse a local bar, which started with a modest six tables and had to add fifteen more within six months.
“Music is a way to express yourself, specially if your shy and karaoke is a way to meet new people,” Stephano adds.
Some of the establishments are tiny with only four tables with people continuously rubbing shoulders and bumping into each other; others are slightly larger and have plans of expanding. Malagasy beer and flavoured homemade rum flow late into the night without any restrictions of time.
“The police are our friends, and are often here themselves,” says Madame Felena, a portly quirky woman in her mid forties and the owner of ‘Karaoke Be Miditra’.
Mankara’s karaoke bars sometimes even transcends the mundane demands of indulging in a hobby or the love for music and alcohol.
"Couples even come to my bar to resolve fights singing songs of their choice,” adds Madame Felena.
It may be a little hard to believe but, in one of Madagascar’s poorest corners, Mankara’s rocking karaoke bars are nothing short of magic.
full story at : https://qz.com/518446