Friday, July 16, 2010

Berliners flocking to death strip karaoke

A former part of the Berlin Wall's death strip is now attracting thousands of people each week eager to belt out often lethal karaoke versions of Michael Jackson and Britney Spears hits.

Just over 20 years ago, this part of Berlin echoed to the wail of alarm sirens and the howls of attack dogs guarding the Wall that split the German capital, the uneasy front line in the Cold War.

But these days Mauerpark, or Wall Park, part of the death strip once dividing the city, hums to the sound of people butchering pop hits as thousands of Berliners turn up here every Sunday to enjoy a huge open-air karaoke show.

One spring Sunday in 2009, Joe Hatchiban, a 36-year-old Irish courier living in Berlin, fired up his laptop and a microphone and held an impromptu karaoke competition with just a scattering of people sitting in the park.

"I live here around the corner so one Sunday I just came round here and set up the sound system. I just started singing a few songs with just five or six people," he told news agency AFP.

The five or six participants on that first Sunday quickly became hundreds, then thousands. And more than a year later, what was impromptu has become an institution, a "must-do" event among Berliners.

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