Young girl wearing red beanie, singing into karaoke mic, colourful lens flare in background
(Photo: EujarimPhotography via Getty)

Brace yourself for karaoke poetry

Let us introduce you to a very special hybrid. 

The CubaDupa street festival is on in Wellington this weekend and the best thing about it is karaoke poetry, which we’re pretty sure is a thing that’s never been done before*, or at least not like this. Yes, the idea is you get up on stage and belt out poems. Yes, there’s a clearfile folder to flick through, and classic karaoke mics. Yes there are awesome cheesy stock videos, up on a big screen, with backing music (if you want it) and a bad-ass sequinned curtain.

You don’t have to make up the poems. That would be very bad. Instead you choose from a solid list of 19 poems covering the spectrum from Shakespeare to Tayi Tibble, and featuring loads of locals: Joanna Cho, Mohamed Hassan, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Bill Manhire, Ashleigh Young, et all.

There are seven sessions across the Saturday and Sunday, all of them at Leftbank, that sweet little square off Cuba St. Each session will feature a performer to help break the ice (eg Cadence Chung, Eamonn Marra, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles) and each session will be MC’d. Saturday’s MCs are Jerome Chandrahasen, Brannavan Gnanalingam, James Nokise, and Rose Lu, and our own poetry editor and karaoke fiend Chris Tse is taking all of Sunday’s. His two great loves, on stage, hanging out! Plus sequins! Ye gods, the man might spontaneously combust. Please keep an eye on him for us.

Here’s an example of what you’re all in for – this is Vanessa Mei Crofskey’s poem ‘Something in the water’ by Brooke Fraser. (The music was composed by Riki Gooch, and the whole glorious concept was produced by Rosabel Tan, of Satellites.)

Hit Me Baby One More Rhyme: Interactive Karaoke Participatory Poetry, part of the CubaDupa festival, is free and the schedule is here

*Craig Ireson points out very nicely that he was performing karaoke poetry back in the early 2000s, and at the 2005 Fringe festival his show of same won Best Spoken Word and Best of the Fringe. But! Ireson’s show was a bit different to CubaDupa’s, in that he and a couple of others did all the performing, as opposed to inviting randoms on stage. Also, it involved performing poetry as pop music, then pop music as poetry. “Rustic and 2005-ey,” he remembers, fondly. 

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