Karaoke nights [repeat] | Translation
► Join Deambulantes. We need to add 1,800 new people to our membership program before the year ends to ensure our stability. With your support we can keep telling the stories that deserve to be told.
►Lupa is our new app for Spanish learners who want to study with Radio Ambulante’s stories. More info at lupa.app.
Translated by MC Editorial
[Radio Ambulante Fest Pre-Roll]
[Daniel Alarcón]: Today we go to our archives for one of our favorite episodes. In a way, this story feels like an artifact from another era. We recorded it in December 2018, in a world very different from today’s. It was a world where closeness and hugs were often taken for granted.
And that’s why we want you to listen to it again. To remember what unites us, especially now that the Christmas season has begun and that we are relearning how to be together after being isolated for almost two years.
It’s an episode about friendship and about those places that made us happy, an episode full of nostalgia, yes, but also one that reminds us that there is a future that many of us gave up on, but that still awaits us.
Here’s the story.
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL PRIVILEGIO DE AMARTE” BY MIJARES Y LUCERO)
[Luis Fernando Vargas]: OK.
[Daniel Alarcón, host]: This is Radio Ambulante from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL PRIVILEGIO DE AMARTE” BY MIJARES Y LUCERO)
[Luis Fernando]: ¿Qué podré decirte? En el corto tiempo…
[Daniel]: And the man singing —if you can call that singing— is our editor Luis Fernando Vargas.
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL PRIVILEGIO DE AMARTE” BY MIJARES Y LUCERO)
[Luis Fernando]: Porque me has regalado el privilegio de amarte. Di lo que sientas…
[Daniel]: Luis Fernando is 26 and lives in San José, Costa Rica.
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL PRIVILEGIO DE AMARTE” BY MIJARES Y LUCERO)
[Luis Fernando]: Da lo que tengas y no te arrepientas. Y si no llega lo que esperabas…
[Daniel]: I promise: all of this is going to make sense very soon. Bear with us.
[Luis Fernando]: No te conformes. Jamás te detengas. Pero sobre todas las cosas, nunca te olvides de dios… I can never get that right, because my voice cracks.
[Daniel]: Just that? (Laughs).
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like karaoke and those who don’t. Luis Fernando is obviously in the first group. He likes it, a lot. You already heard him, and well, I’ll let you decide if that’s good news or bad news.
In fact, we got the idea to do this episode toward the end of last year, after Luis Fernando told the team that he and his friends were going to “inaugurate” the Christmas tree at the karaoke bar they go to every week, like you would inaugurate a bridge or a building. I mean, we wondered: Who does that?
We —at the Radio Ambulante team— know Luis Fernando really well. And I don’t’ think anyone was expecting that. It was like learning about a secret life: that your friend and colleague is a superhero or spy. I swear, if you saw him, you would never imagine him singing karaoke. Such a happy, social activity, let’s just say that it doesn’t make sense with Luis Fernando, our very own prince of darkness.
[Luis Fernando]: It’s weird because I… generally when people see me, I’m the most unpleasant person in the world. I have my dad’s face, the most unbearable face in the world (laughter). It’s like you see… you see my dad, and I don’t want to talk to that guy, and I have… I have the same face (laughter).
[Daniel]: He’s one of those people who always wears black. And when I say always, I mean always. Some days he might surprise you with a little dark blue or grey. Or if he’s in a really good mood, a brown t-shirt. And there’s a tiny detail that turns out to be a big deal if you like karaoke.
[Luis Fernando]: Well, I’m always embarrassed in front of a mic.
[Daniel]: Something he forgot to mention when he interviewed for this job. Obviously.
In other words, he hates the microphone. It makes him anxious. You can even tell as we record this interview. I ask him anything and he starts stuttering.
[Luis Fernando]: Ehm, the… I… I… I was told…
But, eh… what… what’s odd is that…
And… and… and… there’s a dark side to karaoke too…
[Daniel]: None of what our dear Luis Fernando just babbled made any sense.
And if you find him in his natural state: staring off into space or working —in other words, not singing karaoke— you’ll never see him listening to Mijares, or Lucero, or LuisMi, or José José. His favorite music has… shall we say, a different aesthetic.
(SOUNDBITE OF “MR. SELF DESTRUCT” BY NINE INCH NAILS).
[Trent Reznor]: I take you where you want to go. I give you all you need to know. I drag you down, I use you up. Mr. Self Destruct.
[Luis Fernando]: Well, very aggressive, depressing, industrial music with a lot of internal demons, with lyrics that… It’s like very in your face.
[Daniel]: Well-known bands like Nine Inch Nails, or others from more obscure genres. “Noise” music, for example. I mean, disgusting music, to be honest. I just outed myself as an old man, but who cares. Listen to this from the band Daughters and tell me I’m wrong. Say it.
(SOUNDBITE OF “GUEST HOUSE” BY DAUGHTERS)
[Alexis Marshall]: I’ve been knocking let me in.
[Luis Fernando]: Really drawing on internal things, from: I feel bad, I don’t fit in. No so much about total lovelessness, but yes, I’m alone and all that.
[Daniel]: Or the band Have a Nice Life, which plays something he isn’t sure is a real genre, but it’s called “Doomgaze,” and Luis Fernando describes it as the soundtrack to the end of the world.
(SOUNDBITE OF “GUGGENHEIM WAX MUSEUM” BY HAVE A NICE LIFE)
[Daniel]: So, yes, he’s a music snob with obscure taste. So, it’s hard to imagine that Luis Fernando loves karaoke. But you already heard him, singing his heart out.
And the story of that love comes from a very particular place.
Here’s Luis Fernando.
[Luis Fernando]: My love for karaoke starts with my love towards Pancakes. And I’m not talking about the kind you eat, but rather a group of friends —my friends. There are 13 of us. We met in college and we talk practically every day, at least to tell a joke, give some news, or talk about some bit of nonsense. Pancake is the name of our WhatsApp group.
[Felipe Zúñiga]: Pancake is a group for companionship. It’s like a family.
[Luis Fernando]: This is Felipe, one of the Pancakes. You’ll hear from several of them in this episode, but for now, we’ll continue with Felipe.
[Felipe]: By now, we’ve known each other for more than seven years, and I don’t know… Once I read that after six years, people stay together for life. Obviously, I have no basis for that, no study, I just read it. Maybe it was a quote from the internet. But it seems chiva.
[Luis Fernando]: Chiva, or cool. And yes, it is chiva. This is Ale.
[Alejandra Vargas]: They’re those… they’re like unconditional friends. Like you could ask them for anything, and it’s not like: “Oh, you’ll owe me one or anything like that.” That’s just the way it is, like selfless friendships.
[Luis Fernando]: In the best moments of my life, they’re there with me. And in the worse too, they’re with me, supporting me. They’re the most precious, stable thing I have. I say that without a doubt.
A few years ago, one of your greatest adventures happened inside Will. Will was a car, Felipe’s car. A Nissan Pathfinder from the ‘80s, one of the one that can drive through mud on a mountainside, like in the commercials. Only this one couldn’t anymore, because it was old.
From the outside, it looked like a car that wasn’t taken care of very well, but inside you realized it was a trash pit full of empty juice bottles, old food, and dirty laundry.
When most of us Pancakes were in it, obviously we didn’t fit in the seats, some of us would climb into the very back. I got several bruises that way.
[Felipe]: There would be seven or eight people. It was against the law, but we would do it, and we would go to… I don’t know, a small restaurant or get a coffee.
[Luis Fernando]: Those small restaurants were generally bars, and the coffees were normally beers. And a lot of those trips in Will were to a bar that meant the world to us. It was our safe, secret place in the rough backdrop of San José, a somewhat dangerous, dirty, grey city. That bar was called Ko Zin, in Cantonese, it’s two words. It’s spelled: K-O and Z-I-N.
It was on a pretty secluded street, one of those where it feels like you could be attacked at any moment. It was far from the other bars where everyone would normally go out. Felipe discovered Ko Zin at 11 at night on a Monday in 2013 when he was driving around aimlessly, looking for a place to celebrate a birthday.
In front of Ko Zin, there was a mini theatre, the kind that puts on really bad plays, and there were also old houses, really old houses, that anyone would say are abandoned.
And on either side of Ko Zin, two parking lots. The bar was in a solitary, wooden, two-floor building: a symbol of resistance. It hadn’t given in and allowed itself to become a parking lot. And it stood out, but not in a good way. This is Roberth, another member of Pancake.
[Roberth Pereira]: It was like an old cantina —rural, you could say, made out of wood, where there are pigs nearby, right?— where you can smell a pig pen in the distance and contraband is sold , got mixed with a Chinese restaurant in San José.
[Luis Fernando]: I got a similar impression the first time I went: it smelled old, and stuffy, like something that had been stored away for many years. Everything looked terrible, sloppy. Going in grossed me out a little, honestly.
The entrance was a large wine-colored door, with beer signs and a chalkboard promoting meal combos. I remember the Cantonese rice, bread, and a soda for 2.000 colones. Less than four dollars —cheap, very cheap, too cheap. The kind of cheap that sets off alarms like: “Don’t eat here.” Something I never did. It was my only rule.
And well, the bar…
[Gabriela Fonseca]: It was really crazy because it was dark at… at the entrance and it had like a few little lights, or something.
[Luis Fernando]: This is Gaby.
[Gabriela]: And it was like an explosion of kitsch, I mean, it was that kind of bar: brilliant, with those little good-luck cats, also brilliant, with a calendar there with a bunch of sparkles, candles, lights, the TV was there all very small, with the fridge.
[Felipe]: A huge painting of a horse or a duck or a little house hanging on the wall. Tablecloths… checkered tablecloths with clear plastic on top. Napkin dispensers on every table. There were a ton of tables.
[Roberth]: That on top of the fact that maybe the bathrooms hadn’t been cleaned in about ten years.
[Luis Fernando]: Oof, the bathrooms. Better not get into that. It’s what you’re imagining, but worse.
The owner and the person who did everything at Ko Zin was a Chinese woman between 50 and 60 years old named Jessi.
[Gabriela]: She was thin, she had like a really tired face.
[Roberth]: She wore a hat and she wore the little hat. And she was always wearing a… a little floral sweater.
[Alejandra]: Jessi, well at first, she looks… she looks a little crabby, but if you’re treat her well, you can tell she was adorable.
[Luis Fernando]: She was always there, serving beers and shots, cooking Cantonese rice, taking people’s money and acting as the bouncer. She was all alone. Every once in a while you would see her husband helping her take care of things, but he never waited on customers because he spoke very little Spanish. He could barely say: “Hello, how are you?” Jessi, on the other hand…
[Alejandra]: She would try to speak and try to start up a conversation with you, even though you didn’t understand what she was saying.
[Luis Fernando]: Her Spanish was pretty rough. She had a thick accent, limited vocabulary, and sometimes she didn’t conjugate verbs correctly.
It was hard to communicate with her. You had to concentrate. You had to look at her directly and speak slow, using short sentences, sometimes repeating what you wanted to tell her.
When we started going more frequently, Jessi would greet us by name as we walked in and ask us how we were. Short, friendly conversations. Then, we drank. One New Year’s we spent there, she even gave us a little Buddha and some Chinese bread.
But we don’t know much about her. To us, she was always more of a persona than a person. And I think that she wanted it that way. Felipe, who’s a filmmaker, tried to interview her dozens of times and she never let him. Maybe she was camera shy, but I seemed like she wasn’t interested in opening up to us.
What we do know is that she came to Costa Rica when she was 16, looking for a better like, like a lot of Chinese immigrants who come to the country. We also know that she first worked with an aunt as a domestic worker and then at that very restaurant which —years later— she started to run along with her husband. They both lived there on the second floor. She has a daughter who went to work in the US, but here in Costa Rica, Ko Zin was all for them.
Ko Zin perhaps doesn’t sound like the best place for a night out to you, and I don’t blame you. In a way, you’re right. For example: the beer tasted weird, like flat and it was never really cold to begin with.
That was because Jessi would turn off the refrigerator late at night when they closed, and she would turn it back on the next day.
[Felipe]: That process, going from cold to hot to cold, was very bad for the beer. Well, it was also interesting, it was a unique beer in the world. (Laughs).
[Luis Fernando]: I mean, in a way, Ko Zin was a failure as a bar at the most basic level: with alcohol. Still, us Pancakes were in love with it right away. To some, it may be skunky beer, but for us it was artisanal. There was something so broken and imperfect in the whole bar —combining the kitsch and Jessi’s personality— that made it charming. Felipe, Gaby, Roberth, and Ale started going several times a week. So did the rest of the Pancakes.
But there was one problem. Well, a problem for me.
(SOUNDBITE Of “AHORA TE PUEDES MARCHAR” BY LUIS MIGUEL)
[Pancakes]: Aléjate de mí, no hay nada más qué hablar.
[Luis Fernando]: Karaoke.
(SOUNDBITE Of “AHORA TE PUEDES MARCHAR” BY LUIS MIGUEL)
[Pancakes]: Contigo yo perdí, ya tengo con quién ganar. Ya sé que no hubo nadie que te diera lo que yo te di.
[Luis Fernando]: Something a music snob like me hates the most.
[Daniel]: But if Luis Fernando wanted to continue being a Pancake, he had to face the music he hated the most.
We’ll be back after the break.
[Squarespace]: This message comes from NPR’s sponsor Squarespace, the website builder dedicated to providing customers with easy-to-use, professionally-designed templates. Join the millions of graphic designers, architects, lawyers, and other professionals using Squarespace to establish their online presence. Go to Squarespace.com/NPR for a free trial and when you’re ready to launch, use the offer code NPR to save ten percent off your first purchase of a website or domain.
[CarMax]: This message comes from NPR sponsor, CarMax, and the Love Your Car Guarantee. Car buying can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. CarMax gives you the time you need to make the right choice. Take up to 24 hours for your test drive. Once you buy, enjoy a 30-day money back guarantee, up to fifteen-hundred miles. Learn more and start shopping at CarMax.com. The new Love Your Car Guarantee from CarMax. Car buying, reimagined.
[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante, I’m Daniel Alarcón. Before the break, Luis Fernando was telling us about how he fell in love with Ko Zin, such an old, run down and strange bar. But there was one problem: karaoke.
Before they learned about Ko Zin, the pancakes usually went out and danced to ‘80s music. Which is almost a cliche, really. When it comes to dancing, there are hundreds of millions of Latin American living frozen in time: Soda Stereo, Los prisioneros, Depeche Mode, The Cure, etc.
But with the discovery of Ko Zin, the Pancakes’ weekends changed. Now the plan was to sing. And not that ‘80s music, but love ballads.
Here, with a lot of feeling, is Luis Fernando.
[Luis Fernando]: At least Felipe, Alejandra, Roberth, Gaby and others half knew these songs because their families played that kind of music at parties. Alongside drunkenness and hugs or arguments between aunts and uncles. So they were ready to sing, no problem. I was the one who was screwed. In my house, we don’t have parties. I didn’t know any of them, I could only half sing the chorus of “40 y 20” by José José.
(SOUNDBITE OF “40 y 20” BY JOSÉ JOSÉ)
[José José]: 40 y 20. Es el amor lo que importa y no lo que diga la gente.
[Luis Fernando]: Which I know think really grosses me out. Calm down, you skease.
But, well, I only remembered that little bit because my mom played a cassette of José José’s Greatest Hits when I was little, while she was doing office work at home.
But my anxiety gave me this need to participate and be good. I didn’t want to be the wet blanket, the person who sat off to the side with his arms crossed, side-eyeing the others for singing. In other words, being the snob and bitter person I was. That’s what I’ve always done, and I wanted to have a good time with them.
So I started singing in the background, following the others, trying to memorize the melodies for the next time the song played. Grabbing the mic from time to time, after listing to a song enough times and as long as someone was singing with me. Always with the help of some —many— beers.
Of course, like everything at Ko Zin, the karaoke was… modest.
[Roberth]: It was all analog. It was all on DVD, it was all discs, you know? You… you couldn’t search things on the internet. No. It was a TV, that’s what you had, and a remote.
[Alejandra]: A TV set with those squares like before.
[Luis Fernando]: Where the song lyrics would come up…
[Felipe]: And two microphones that had a piece of PVC pipe attached. It didn’t make sense. I don’t know. I still don’t know what it was for. I guess it was so you didn’t break the cord. But it made it very special, singing because you sang with a hose in your hand.
[Luis Fernando]: The song selection was in two binders that combined the songs on three DVDs: two in Spanish and one in English. One of the Spanish DVDs had modern songs, from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and some others from the 2000s. And the other had country songs from the ‘70s that none of us had ever heard in our lives. The English DVD had everything from David Bowie and Queen to Linkin Park and Blink 182.
And to request a song, you would shout the code in the binder to Jessi.
[Felipe]: 18-42, 20-90, 88-16.
[Luis Fernando]: She would put it on the DVD’s remote control as you said it. And the turns? It was free for all.
[Felipe]: So if you said eight songs in a row, you sang eight songs.
[Luis Fernando]: It was a terrible system, seriously. But it was also about community, based on the trust that you’re not going to steal someone else’s song, based on the solidarity that you would let go of the mic when it was time to give it to someone else.
And if you wanted a song from another DVD, you had to wait a while —sometimes a long while— until everyone got bored and stopped requesting songs from that disc so you could change it. Because it was a whole ordeal for Jessi, who was the only person who could do it: she had to stop the whole bar, change the DVD, and wait for everyone to look at the new book and decide what to sing so they could give her a list. For Jessi, it was honestly annoying…
We went to Ko Zin so often and sang so often that I got used to karaoke. It went from being something I hated to something normal. And then I understood.
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL SOL NO REGRESA” BY LA QUINTA ESTACIÓN)
[Alejandra y Gabriela]: No es que sea el alcohol la mejor medicina. Pero ayuda a olvidar cuando no ves la salida. Hoy te intento contar que todo va bien. Aunque no te lo creas
[Luis Fernando]: There’s a connection that’s born among friends when your voice is lost in a sea of voices. All of a sudden, your pain is everyone’s pain. And so is your joy. We were never more united as a group than when we went to Ko Zin and sang.
That’s something I had never gotten about music. That unity. Music —my music— always isolated me. It separated me from the world. It sent me to my room, in the dark, with my headphones, to be alone with all the overwhelming things I was feeling.
And for me it was a surprise, those themes of isolation and pain in my music were also part of the karaoke music. In the end, we all experience the same things, just with different melodies.
I also learned to love karaoke watching Jessi. If you came to Ko Zin early —around seven or eight at night— especially during the week, when no one was there, you would find her behind the bar singing “Ángel,” by Cristian Castro.
(SOUNDBITE OF “ÁNGEL” BY CRISTIÁN CASTRO)
[Cristian Castro]: Ángel que das luz a mi vida…
[Luis Fernando]: I don’t have any recordings of her, of course. But I remember her perfectly. And she wouldn’t use the hose microphone, but a special one just for her, with a lot of reverb. She sang in a very very high pitch. It gave it an angelic touch.
It’s hard to describe, but it felt as if Jessi was disconnecting from what was going on around her, the burden of running a bar by herself. All of a sudden, she didn’t look tired, she didn’t look shy or crabby. She looked… moving, amongst all the glow and Chinese decorations.
When she finished, we would applaud. She would smile faintly and continue working, calmly, without saying a word. You could tell she had an intimate connection with that song. As if it had helped her overcome very hard times: leaving a country, learning a new language, starting a new life in a culture that’s completely contrary to your own. Who knows. She never told us.
Seeing her showed the power of karaoke: that ability to disconnect from everything. It’s just you, the lyrics, and the melody. And you can say how you feel with words that would maybe never occur to you, without anyone judging you.
But there’s something more important. And it’s that Ko Zin and its karaoke came to our lives at a very special time: It was five years ago when we were between 22 and 23. We had just gotten out of college, most of us were either unemployed or didn’t have steady jobs. Even today, a lot of us still don’t know what to do with our lives or how to live them, but at that time, the instability was suffocating. It was classic middle-class young adult anxiety. But that anxiety was very real.
And we survived that instability between karaoke songs.
(SOUNDBITE OF “COSAS DEL AMOR” BY ANA GABRIEL AND VIKKI CARR)
[Alejandra and Gabriela]: ¿Cómo puedo hacer? Entrega todo. Todo se lo dí. Inventa un poco. No es posible que se pueda querer más, pensando así lo perderás.
[Luis Fernando]: Because we learned to sing karaoke amid our fears, uncertainties, loves, and heartbreaks. And there is nothing more freeing than screaming —no, not singing— screaming out all that stress and all that anxiety. We learned to love karaoke because we weren’t singing alone: we were singing as a group of people who loved each other and who all felt just as lost as the others.
Ko Zin was special to each pancake in a different way, but we all went through periods of transition, of change in that place. Felipe remembers heartbreak. So does Alexandra. Roberth remembers putting his prejudices against romantic music to the side. Gaby started to consider going to study in Cuba…
I started dealing with my depression and anxiety in between my trips to Ko Zin. While some people go out and party to have fun and end up getting drunk along the way, I was going to parties to end up getting drunk and rarely had a good time. I was the kind of drunk who ends up crying in the bathroom or who gets mad and becomes brutish or aggressive. What we call a “guaro vaquero” here. Sometimes both in the same night.
That was my way of dealing with everything: forgetting it. Between trips to Ko Zin, I decided to stop drinking and start going to therapy and taking antidepressants. Maybe the people around me didn’t notice because I was good at hiding it, but I was really afraid at that time. I was miserable; the medications had horrible side-effects.
I suffered depersonalization —that’s when you feel like your body doesn’t belong to you and you’re trapped inside of it. It was like everything was a fog. I wasn’t able to think clearly most of the time. I had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. I was unemployed, and I couldn’t work because of the condition I was in. I felt hopeless.
My safe place was those trips to Ko Zin with my friends to sing. It was the high point of the week. And look, I was singing sober: completely conscious of how tone-deaf I was… I am.
For a shy person like me, just the idea, at the start, was hell. But I started building up my courage —little by little— and I was singing a little harder each time, feeling a little more comfortable with myself, setting my anxiety aside. I still have a long way to go, but I moved forward a little thanks to Ko Zin.
And singing… singing is therapy, I say. Nothing did more for me at that time than going to Ko Zin, ordering a Coke —diet, of course— and singing “Un beso y una flor” by Nino Bravo.
(SOUNDBITE OF “UN BESO Y UNA FLOR” BY NINO BRAVO)
[Pancakes]: Más allá del mar habrá un lugar donde el sol cada mañana brille más. Forjarán mi destino las piedras del camino. Lo que nos es querido siempre queda atrás.
[Luis Fernando]: “Beyond the sea, there will be a place where the sun shines brighter every morning.” It’s powerful. You feel very intense things when you sing it. But as the wise Nino Bravo said, that which is dear to us is always in the past.
Ko Zin closed in early 2017. After we went there religiously for about two years, almost every week. It was out of nowhere. Felipe was in France for work, and someone sent him a picture of Ko Sin with the door closed, with a Ministry of Health sign that said it was closed. He told the WhatsApp group.
[Felipe]: I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it! I was in shock. I posted on Twitter too many times: “Please, someone verify this information: Is Ko Zin really closed? Please, someone go, knock on Jessi’s door. Ask what happened.” And, yes : they had closed because of structural defects. It wasn’t even because of basic health: structural defects in the building. There needed to have it remodeled, somewhat… somewhat badly.
[Luis Fernando]: In short, the building was uninhabitable. It wasn’t all that surprising: You could tell that Ko Zin didn’t meet the safety standards for a public place. But it was very hard for us. Especially because we couldn’t say goodbye.
[Roberth]: By that point I was like depressed, I think (laughs). By the time we found out it wasn’t going to open again because there was no other karaoke place.
[Gabriela]: It was really crazy because I got sad. Seriously I was sad. And yes, I was also being a little self-centered, it was like… the bar where I felt most comfortable. All of a sudden I felt like: “No, now what are we supposed to do on weekends, late at night?” But also, then it was like shit. What about Jessi? Because, she was this lady who was really breaking her back working, and she really kept us company. In a way, I feel like she felt like we were keeping her company too.
[Luis Fernando]: At least I hope she felt like we were keeping her company.
On January 5th of this year —2019— we learned from the news that the building had burned down. Felipe went and sent us pictures. Ko Zin was completely destroyed: the bar, the tables, everything. Jessi lost her home. The pain, then, became indescribable. Now it was certain that Ko Zin and Jessi weren’t coming back.
When Ko Zin burned own, we lost a part of the Pancakes, but it also reminded us of why we sing: Because we’re better when we sing as a group when we’re one.
Jessi always told us that Ko Zin meant “onward” in Cantonese. Like a lot of things about her, I don’t want to refute that.
[Daniel]: Of course, the great absentee in this story is Jessi. Since we first broadcast the episode, she has communicated with Felipe, Luis Fernando’s friend. She is fine, healthy, and continues to sing karaoke. This story is dedicated to her.
And please. If you are going through depression or have suicidal thoughts, ask for help. Talk to your friends and family, and consider seeking professional help. And if you think that a loved one is in a similar situation, ask them, listen to them, and support them.
Many thanks to Jaime García, from La Vasconia, for letting us record the karaoke audios at the bar.
Luis Fernando Vargas is an editor at Radio Ambulante. He lives in San José, Costa Rica. Karaoke bars have not opened there, and that makes poor Luis Fernando very sad.
This story was edited by Camila Segura and me. The music and sound design are by Andrés Azpiri and Rémy Lozano.
The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Paola Alean, Nicolás Alonso, Lisette Arévalo, Aneris Casassus, Xochitl Fabián, Fernanda Guzmán, Camilo Jiménez Santofimio, Ana Pais, Laura Rojas Aponte, Barbara Sawhill, Elsa Liliana Ulloa, David Trujillo and Desirée Yépez.
Emilia Erbetta is our editorial intern.
Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.
Radio Ambulante is a podcast by Radio Ambulante Estudios, produced and mixed on the Hindenburg PRO program.
Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.
And now, my worst nightmare comes true.
[Luis Fernando]: OK.
[Daniel]: But, OK, one: I’m a bad singer. Two, I’m… I’m a gringo. I mean, I grew up in the US. My pop culture, for example, when it comes to romantic ballads —or José José or Vicente Fernández— all those singers you mentioned… I don’t know them. So we have to sing something I know, of course. Alright.
[Luis Fernando]: OK. One, two, three.
(SOUNDBITE OF “ESTOY AQUÍ” BY SHAKIRA)
[Daniel and Luis Fernando / Shakira – Estoy aquí karaoke version]: Ya se que no vendrás/ Todo lo que fue/ El tiempo lo dejó atrás/ Sé que no regresaras/ Lo que nos pasó/ No repetirá jamás/ Mil años no me alcanzaran/ Para borrarte y olvidar/ Y ahora estoy aquí/ Queriendo convertir/ Los campos en ciudad/ Mezclando el cielo con el mar/ Se que te deje escapar/ Se que te perdí/ Nada podrá ser igual/ Mil años pueden alcanzar/ Para que pueda perdonar/ Estoy aquí queriéndote/ Ahogándome/ Entre fotos y cuadernos/ Entre cosas y recuerdos/ Que no puedo comprender/ Estoy enloqueciéndome/ Cambiándome un pie por/ Cara mía/ Esta noche por el día/ Y nada le puedo yo hacer…