OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – A cold Saturday night and the Oklahoma City Community College auditorium has packed in a couple of hundred fans and participants for a unique competition organized by a local heart specialist named Dr. Riaz Sirajuddin.
It’s been several years now since he borrowed his teenage daughter’s karaoke machine and never gave it back.
“When my daughter was 16 she wanted a karaoke machine for her birthday,” he recalls. “Before that I didn’t even know what karaoke was.”
You might be familiar with Bollywood movies, made in India, big budget affairs, containing lots of music and dancing.
Riaz and his wife started hosting a few get togethers with other couples.
Then they organized a friendly competition in 2017.
“In 2017 we had 6 people participate,” laughs Riaz.
During the Covid shutdown the good doctor moved his karaoke parties online.
That’s how Ashwani Buratti, from Wichita, KS, joined.
“We grew online and grew our networks and relationships, and now we’re here onstage.”
That idea kept growing, and Riaz continued enthusiastically.
Covid restrictions finally lifted so he decided to invite all his virtual friends, hundreds of them, to Oklahoma City to compete in the 1st International Desi Karaoke Challenge.
One competitor came from Atlanta, another from Jamaica, another from Canada.
Riaz chose the songs and drew up the rules.
The winner was a competitor from Edmond, Bhavi Shah who hadn’t even planned to compete.
“But Riaz worked his way into my mind. He said, ‘you have to do this’ and I said ‘fine then. if we’re going in then we’re going all in’.”
Bollywood songs can be difficult to sing and performing them live on stage is always different from singing in the comfort of your living room so there were competitors who bowed out early.
But for the people who made it through Covid isolation and opening night jitters, using a one-word summation from Dr. Riaz himself.
It was “amazing”.
The Surajuddins are planning to continue their competition in years to come.