The World of Wedding Parties

There is a fine line between matrimony and showbusiness. Anyone who has organised a wedding could easily produce a Broadway show, complete with pyrotechnics, big band numbers and a freestyle wrestling match.

A friend confided that he was approaching his wedding in this spirit because it was the one occasion where he would have “complete creative control”.

And at a wedding in a sun-streaked Dinas Powys last weekend a celebration climaxed with a groom – previously best known for his support for anarchist economics – performing a pitch-perfect (ie, glass-shattering) rendition of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive. Nobody else was doing karaoke, but this now very happily married man was going to enjoy his every second in the limelight.

Clutching a microphone and singing at a point on a tonal spectrum normally only frequented by bats is an activity which delights multitudes. The Japanese may have been mocked for pioneering the technology in the early 1970s, but is it really so different from standing up at the end of an Edwardian dinner party and reciting Virgil for half an hour?

I would like to think that at UN summits world leaders draw the curtains, flick on the karaoke machine and sing an international medley of greatest hits. Earth would seem a less terrifying place if Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hillary Clinton together belted out Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five, but alas I fear this is unlikely.

Part of the appeal of karaoke is the experience of shedding one’s own identity and for a few minutes getting to “be” Bob Dylan, or Bob the Builder. It is essentially a moment of theatre, and the instinct to act draws on imagination and empathy – two qualities any society should welcome.

A healthy multicultural country abounds with opportunities to gain new perspectives on this shared planet. In the 1980s the experience of “eating with chopsticks” delighted a Britain of fork-users, and the arrival of the curry house has done to the country’s cuisine what the electric guitar did to popular music.

Just as the union of two families in marriage is an event worthy of noisy celebration, so the collision of cultures need not lead to the dilution of identity but can make the boldest colours shine brighter.

It would be a shame worthy of much crying if the rigours of globalisation and the outrages of extremists made us nostalgic for the drab uniformity of Spam-from-a-can monoculturalism. The challenge is to rediscover the glory of cities and nations which are crossroads of civilisations, where hearts beat to the rhythms of instruments we have never imagined.

A Thursday column