Pop CultureMay 6, 2016

‘Think Singstar on wheels’ – The simple genius of Māori TV’s Sidewalk Karaoke


Madeleine Chapman watches Sidewalk Karaoke, the new homespun singing competition by Māori TV.

Sidewalk Karaoke, the latest release on Māori TV, is exactly what you would expect: karaoke sung on the sidewalk. Think Singstar on wheels. Think cracking highs when sober. Think shopping mall talent quest outside the mall.

The budget is shamelessly sparse – no judges, just a machine – which is right in line with the show’s premise. Sing a song, receive a score of over 70 from the machine, and win $100. Sing another song, score over 80, and by gosh you get $200. Pick a random singing partner from the crowd that has gathered, sing a duet that scores over 80, and I’ll be damned if you don’t take home a crisp $1000.

Host Te Hamua Nikora keeps it simple. He looks like he just loves karaoke and knows all the words to every song, even when the contestants don’t. He rolls the ‘r’ in “karaoke” and pronounces it with flair so it becomes “Kah-rah-aw-keh”.


The contestants’ backstories only go as far back as what they were doing when they saw the Sidewalk Karaoke setup. One was out with her kids, one had gotten a text from a friend, and one was a fire dancer apparently looking to profit from his new business competitor.


The first contestant in Sidewalk Karaoke history was Natasha Baldwin, who chose to sing ‘Take It Easy’ by The Eagles. Give her the grand prize for her song choice alone, I say. She scored a 75 and was so stoked about winning $100 that once again I say just give her the grand. Instead she wisely chose to take the money and buy a feed for her kids. You go, Natasha, and don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.


Fire dancer Rory performed his dance worryingly close to a lot of electrical equipment before announcing that he had never sung karaoke before. As it turned out, he wasn’t great but hey, you can’t knock the hustle.


The big winner of the premiere show was Roland Williams, a storeman and 2009 winner of Homai te Pakipaki. His first song choice was ‘Dance With My Father’ by Luther Vandross. THEY ALL DESERVE A THOUSAND DOLLARS AND A JOB AT THE BREEZE. Unsurprisingly he nailed it, then nailed the second song, then found a duet partner in 10 seconds and nailed the final song. Ten hundred dollar bills to Roland and one bloody good show for all the viewers.


Sidewalk Karaoke is so simple it’s genius. There’s no nastiness or focus on those contestants who don’t win – and there are a lot. Instead it’s a goodnatured show that leaves you wanting everyone to win a thousand dollars. I can already see the very same idea being used on The Tonight Show and watched millions of times on Youtube. Except Jimmy Fallon will pronounce “Karaoke” as “Carry-okey” so it won’t have that same spark.


Sidewalk Karaoke airs on Māori TV, Thursdays at 8.30pm. Click here to watch it on demand.

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