I observed how much people loved to sing. I noticed how many great singers never had an audience. That's how it started.
So I thought, "what could be better than hanging out with friends and folk over coffee and bites crooning away by the sea?". And if one could also learn to sing and record their own songs, all under one roof; that would be so end to end!
Located on the beach at the far end of First Seaward Road, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai; Kafeoke was a karaoke-cum-coffee lounge I started as a karaoke lover and gospel singer. I wished for good singers to have a place where they could sing and get noticed, for average singers to get better with training, and for the tone deaf to be able to hold a note.
- Swapna Abraham
What Was So K About It?
The name Kafeoke was chosen from an opinion poll of 25 to 30 names by a Sri Lankan friend in the UK. Instead of having a ‘c’ I decided to go with a 'k' and thus the name Kafeoke came about. Kafeoke to me was a singing cube. The schema unfolded a need, fulfillment and fruition in singing; with a holistic and professional touch.
Kafeoke was launched on September 16, 2007 after three months of research, ideation and preparation. The ground floor boasted of a garden café, and the café itself that was on the first floor could be reached by an open staircase. The thematic rooms of Kafeoke - Western, Indian, beach view and open air sit-out would be occupied by both family and youth according to their choice. Every room was different from the other; the western room had lounge style sofas and the Indian room was painted a tinted orange with cane furniture adding to its ethnicity. An exciting place with a vibrant interior, the stories of the great-greats with their immortal images adorning the walls (that came up much later) added to the nostalgia. At the far end from the door was a large screen for the karaoke, where the words of the songs would appear for the singers to follow. Each area also had a flat screen TV, so one would not necessarily have to go in front to sing if they were shy. It was Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil songs in the Indian lounge and English songs in the other; with the guests featuring solo, duet or group renditions. The cost of singing a song was 30 rupees and on completion the score would get displayed on the screens! With a capacity for 120, Kafeoke was invariably jam-packed on the weekends.
There was a separate studio where anyone could go in and record their singing more specially for the Kafeoke songwriting students aspiring to make their own songs, costing 600 rupees an hour. Furthermore, the sound-proofed rooms ensured no disturbance for any of the spaces from the adjacent ones. Customers were welcome to bring in their musical instruments and add to the karaoke performance. Saturday evenings would have leading bands in the city perform at the weekend's highlight called "Jam In The House" with a winner at the end.
It was a natural outcome to have some interested in vocal training. I conducted singing and songwriting classes in western music for beginners and singers, charging 450 rupees for an hour.
The menu ranged from chicken burgers and tuna sandwiches to podi idli and pasta. The drinks, a range of mocktails going by song names, as well milk shakes, floats, tea and coffee.
Kafeoke was that unique cafe, the talk of the city. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and melodious sounds wafted the space, blending and impressing, and leaving no one disappointed.
After a year, four months and two weeks, the singing cafe on the beach shut down as a result of a business decision.
Lessons learnt, the format crystallized as a karaoke cafe for western music. I still conduct a masterclass in singing and songwriting.