February 25, 2011 by spcollins · Comments Off
By Meredith Carlton
Monday Omoregbee’s cab is anything but ordinary. Flashing lights stream from the trunk, a disco ball dangles from the ceiling, CDs decorate the interior and music bumps from the speakers. No, customers have not crashed a party; they’ve entered a karaoke cab.
Men and women, ranging from sober to beyond inebriated, come and go from the back of Omoregbee’s decked out minivan on any given night, every one of them greeted by sparkly curtains, wireless microphones and a book with over 6,000 song choices.
“I wanted my cab to be different from every other cab in the city,” said Omoregbee, whose cab is one of four in Dallas with a full-blown karaoke set up.
Upon settling in to one of the cabs, passengers choose a song, follow the lyrics that appear on a TV screen hanging behind the driver and belt their hearts out. Songs that filled the cab one recent Friday included those by The Black Eyed Peas, Ke$ha and 2Pac.
At about midnight, a group of female young professionals celebrating a birthday shuffled into Omoregbee’s ride on their way to lower Greenville. Upon closing the door, passengers yelled out a song of their choice ranging from “Teenage Dream” to “God Bless the USA.” After much debate, someone spoke up. “Can we get some Gaga,” someone yelled from the back and Omoregbee happily met the request.
“LoveGame” streamed from the speakers while the group attempted to sing like Gaga. Their four-minute performance ended in giggles but soon after, the genres changed significantly.
“Oh my God, Becky look at her butt. It is so big….”
Every passenger knew what song that was, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” The enthusiastic group singing died off after the beginning rap but some brave souls continued to belt it out until the door opened near their desired location.
Karaoke itself originated in Japan in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that it became popular in the United States, as clubs featuring the activity started to sprout in cities. With the rise of shows like “American Idol,” it may not come as a surprise that many enjoy belting out tunes whether they are in the privacy of their own home or singing karaoke in a club or car.
Dr. Pamela Elrod, director of choral studies at Southern Methodist University, believes the concept of karaoke gives the participants permission to make mistakes.
“I guess karaoke is sort of like being a kid again because you have that abandon,” she said. “You’re not judging and no one is going to judge you.”
Omoregbee has been in the karaoke cab business for a few years, but said there is no holding back for some of his customers. They range from those who are really good, to those who can’t even sing, he said. Good thing the microphone board is right next to Omoregbee, giving him the ability to mute any person’s microphone with the turn of a knob.
Although Elrod is a proponent of singing no matter the circumstance, she believes karaoke is supposed to be shared.
“I just feel like karaoke is something you want to do in front of people, particularly in front of your friends and sort of just get crazy,” she said. Passengers tend to agree.
Todd Hart, a single rider who had rode in a karaoke cab in the past, chose not to sing on his ride from an Uptown bar to an apartment complex in Dallas.
“If I had all of my friends here, and we were actually going out we would be singing the hell out of this place,” he said.
Another single rider, Cody Callaway, recalled the fun times he has had with friends in the karaoke cabs.
“He [Omoregbee] makes it happen in Dallas. Last time me and a few of my friends were in here. We just had a good time, he just like made it happen.”
Once an ordinary cab driver, Francisco Loaiza wanted to make his cab unlike others. At first, he decided to place a laptop, printer, scanner, fax machine and copy machine in the front of his cab as a convenience for customers in need of a boarding pass. This amenity was available free of charge, but Loaiza knew he could go beyond what he called “an office on wheels.”
Eventually, Loaiza made his way to New Orleans where he toyed with the idea of placing a DVD-style karaoke disk into a laptop, hooking the laptop up to the radio sound system and connecting a microphone to the laptop. It was from that idea that his karaoke cab company was born. After Hurricane Katrina, he relocated his company, Karaoke Cab LLC, to Dallas, where people of all ages have been able to experience the musical ride.
Dr. Robert Krout, professor and director of the music therapy department at SMU, believes music has a special impact on people of all ages.
“Music has the special ability to provide both a safe, familiar, comforting environment, for people to improve or maintain their physical health, mental health, emotional, motor, cognitive and all the different demands of learning,” he said.
Loaiza agrees. He described a time when he drove a customer to her doctor’s appointment. At the beginning of the ride, the customer was experiencing pain, but by the time they reached the doctors, the pain was gone. Singing is an activity that makes “the spirit go happy,” he said.
Customers are able to reserve the karaoke cabs for special occasions like birthdays, bachelorette parties or celebrations out on the town. Since there are only four cabs in Dallas, drivers say to book in advance. However, when Omoregbee and Loaiza don’t have appointments they operate like traditional cabs, causing some people to become passengers out of pure luck.
Contact Monday Omorebee’s Dallas Karaoke Cab Company at (817)-266-1071 and Francisco Loaiza’s Karaoke Cab LLC. at (214)-893-0613. Visit their websites at http://www.dallaskaraokecab.webs.com/ or http://www.karaokeyellowcab.com/