Empty Orchestra

October 16, 2008

By Mike Landry
A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

Maiko Tanaka’s earliest memories of karaoke involve late nights, laughter and adults acting shockingly un-adult-like. Tanaka and her brother, unable to sleep from the noise, would sneak to the stairs and watch the scene below through the banisters wondering what was going on.

Her parents had immigrated to Canada from Japan, and had brought their love of karaoke along with them. Young Tanaka was introduced to the strange Japanese country-sounding songs by other Japanese immigrants crooning in her living room. Her new exhibition Empty Orchestra, which she co-curated with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival art director Heather Keung, examines the impact of karaoke from her home to her neighbourhood, across generations and borders.

“I’ve been doing [karaoke] since high school—probably 300 times. I can’t get enough of it. It’s really the most fun communal activity you can do with your friends,” says Tanaka. “I also love shameful pop music.”

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