It’s a universal phenomenon. Bathroom singing is. Spread worldwide. Transcends everyone. Why, Kishore Kumar was recognized as a good singer only after when SD Burman heard him sing in the shower.
Apparently, there’s a bathroom in Nrityagram called the Singing Bathroom. It has no door, just the privacy of a walled spiral path to it, and so the user sings to inform unsuspecting others of his/her presence.
Now there’s also a contest of that name.
Various reasons why people sing in the shower. One school of statistics says that the number of bathroom singers went up after the Liril ads. I remember a neighbor who might or might not have belonged to that category. Our houses were incredibly close, and I used to “listen” to Mayamruga, Dandapindagalu, and a whole host of Kannada serials. Every morning, this girl, just a few years older than me, used to sing in the shower. And much to my ire, she happened to be a good singer with a great repertoire ranging from Michael Jackson (that was when girls were swooning over him, and sound effects like “Aoowwwww” were übercool) to MS Subbulakshmi. My ire, because ma constantly cited her (good) example.
Back then, my ten-year-old mind failed to grasp the whole concept of singing in the shower… it seemed so… unnatural! This I mentioned in a scornful tone, to Mona at school. Now Mona’s that goodie-good girl who all the teachers like, and every student is supposed to emulate. “Hey, I also sing ya!”, she said, shocking the hell out of me. There she stood, tarnished in my mind, she who could never make a mistake. Why did she sing in the shower? “Sometimes I feel scared ya, that’s why”. Okay, double PR error there. Mona wasn’t invincible – she felt scared taking a bath, even! The story spread far and wide, and Mona stock fell steeply in the next few weeks. Aided by Mona submitting her homework diligently when the rest of us slacked off and had to stand outside the class.
I’ve come a long, long way since then. There was a summer camp I attended, where our leader was this cheerful twenty-year-old who sung Madonna and Christina Aguilera in the showers – I must say her Lady Marmalade was unbeatable… along with all us kids chorusing Mocha Chocolata yea yea. I grew slightly music-mad at age thirteen, and Radiocity came along, keeping me company throughout my day at age fourteen. Rohit Barker and Vera Malkani played awesome music in the mornings [Tell me you’ll be back, but that will take some time, I’m wa-a-aitin’], and I sung along [I’m wa-a-aitin’, yeaaah, yeaaah] while preparing for school. The karaoke livened up my mornings, woke me up properly, and left me in a more upbeat mood.
And at NITK… it’s a community phenomenon. Everyone sings. And it also serves the additional purpose of warning the others that you’re there, using the bathroom, coz the power-conscious activists’ll otherwise just snap off the lights.
And the small space ensures maximum reverberation…. sounds like a recording studio, according to some folk here, thanks to the tiles and echoing. And it sometimes becomes a community singing session… people in adjacent bathrooms, the ones doing their laundry, people whose rooms are close by….
Yeah, so it’s a feel-good thing, everyone does it, it’s enjoyable, it’s sometimes used in voice training, and people who have absolutely no musical talent in the real world somehow seem to come alive within the four walls of the bathroom.
Well, so I was in the middle of a rendition of Nazia Hasan, when Nazia Hasan’s voice suddenly started echoing from somewhere. No, no, it wasn’t her spirit come back to punish me or anything for rendering it a cappella, it was one of those ubiquitous iPods.
It took me a while, but I realized that people were using the iPods to select their bathroom singing playlist! You read right. Bathroom Singing is now a competitive sport!
So I sing Norwegian Wood, and I hear I’m With You echo across the place. And then began a Request Show! Of all things! And the most agonizing thing was, it consisted of Himesh, Kailash Kher and other nasalists (a la novelist, or saxophonist, or keyboardist) and assorted people all prefixed by DJ.
I assume these girls must come from places where singing in the shower is taken heck seriously, and in their showers, there probably will be jingchak speakers that look right out of Star Wars, with a specially chosen playlist, probably some sophisticated algo that chooses the next track which will be a function of the temperature of the room, the temperature of the water, the time of the day, the current rating of the song on Magnatune, iTunes and Napster, the age of the singer, the age of the bathroom singer, and other assorted criteria which may or may not include the raag of the song and the romantic history of the bathroom singer , and where lyrics flash across the walls of the room… I mean, some people find it hard to get the yeowwwws right when they sing MJ.
I really admire the determination of these people to get ahead of the rest of the pack in this realm… it takes determination to consent to bring your iPod to such a bog, especially one where your soap and shampoo compete for space on a precarious ledge, and your good days are ones where you don’t trip over your soap when it hits the floor.
But, oh, well, I guess maybe bathroom singing isn’t meant to be as impromptu as I thought it was…. maybe you need to practice, be the best ever bathroom singer there ever was.. Maybe some people have ambitions that reach that high. I mean, people practice to win rock-paper-scissors tourneys.
As for me, it’s just the place where I sing all those songs which I can’t sing in the room coz my roommate’s asleep, or at home coz Ma thinks Elvis is Evil.. and I don’t think there’s any place that’ll let me give a full rendition of Pettai Rap, or sing the Top Gun theme a cappella.