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Culture Shock - Understanding Karaokes in Jakarta

By Jakarta100bars
Karaoke and KTV bars in Jakarta are used for a multitude of purposes. Singing is one of them, but it is definitely not the only reason. Commonly, they are used for prostitution, drugs, private parties, striptease and sometimes orgies.

As a foreigner, it took me several years to understand what was truly going on behind those doors. It is only after discussing with girls, clients and club owners, that I finally realized what karaokes were for and why Indonesians are so crazy about them.

The main appeal of karaoke in Indonesia is the need for privacy. The Indonesian society is quite hypocritical in the sense that it is officially religious and traditional, but in real life, many people (especially in Jakarta) behave in a liberal way. A good illustration is the lawmaker from PKS Arifinto, a conservative Muslim who was caught watching porn during a parliamentary session. If you've lived in the country long enough, that should not surprise you a lot.

This clip is from the movie Iseng (2016) and it gives a pretty accurate description of how parties end in some karaokes in the red light areas of Jakarta:
Many Indonesians love to party, but they need to hide this because it is not considered appropriate by the rest of the population. Karaoke bars and clubs are the perfect places for that because they are ambiguous. Unlike a bordello or a massage parlour, you can never be sure of what happens inside unless you are also inside yourself.

Not all karaokes have prostitutes and drugs though. You will find two broad kinds of karaokes in Jakarta:

Family Karaokes (Karaoke Keluarga):
As the name indicates, these are legit venues for clean fun between colleagues, friends and family members.

Nothing really special here. People are sitting in a room, requesting songs and singing. Usually they can order food and drinks as well.

There are 3 famous companies in Indonesia with locations everywhere: Happy Puppy, Nav and Inul Vizta. Nav is usually the cheapest with fewer songs and fewer eating/drinking options. Happy Puppy is in the middle. Inul Vizta is the most expensive with the best locations in mid-to-high-end malls. They also serve alcohol (at least in the outlets I've visited).

You also have several smaller chains and boutique karaokes. For instance, X-KTV in Senayan City, Diva Karaoke, T-Rex Karaoke in Grand Indonesia, Zodiak KTV in Citywalk and The Boutique KTV in Arcadia, etc.

To my knowledge, there is not one mall in Jakarta that does not have a family karaoke inside or at least within walking distance from it.

Adult Karaokes:
More adult karaokes are numerous and diverse. You will find them everywhere in the city, even in central Jakarta where I can count at least 10.

The customers range from government officials (recording their spendings as "entertainment expenses") to business people looking to entertain their clients. An ex-boss once told me he spent 8,000$ on a night out in Kota to impress a CEO who was 70 years old.

How does it work: Rooms
You either pay for the room a certain amount, or you have a minimum spending for using the room. For instance, in Alexis hotel, the President VIP Suite costs IDR15M for 3 hours, which means you must spend at least 15M on drinks and girls to be allowed there. If you spend less, for instance 10M, you have to pay an additional 5M.

In high-end karaokes, you must generally spend at least IDR2,5M to 5M for 6 hours for a room that can accommodate up to 8 people.

How does it work: Girls
The karaokes will provide guests with lady companions, also called hostesses or Public Relations (PR) or Guest Relations Officers (GRO) or models. Girls are usually ranked by desirability, which includes beauty, age, personality, singing skills, or flirting skills. The more desirable the girl, the more expensive she is.

Some places allow you to choose the girl you want through a contest, meaning all available girls will come to see you and you can pick the one you prefer. Some do not allow you to choose, but you can give your preferences to the mamasan who will then suggest someone for you. 

The price of a girl also depends on what she agrees to do or not. In North Jakarta, most guests want a girl who is willing to take ecstasy and drink alcohol. Girls will get a commission on drinks, but also on the number of pills she takes.

There are several types of naughty karaokes in Jakarta:

- Hostess Karaokes: These are all the karaokes with lady companions but without any rooms nor any arrangement for guests to have sex with the girls. It does not mean that girls are not available for sex and it does not meet that sex is not possible. It depends on the willingness of the girl, which is influenced by how nice you are, how many ladies drink you buy her, and how much tip you give.

- Japanese and Korean Karaokes (KTV): They are hostess karaokes targeting those specific communities. You can usually find them in South Jakarta, particularly in Jalan Melawai (Little Tokyo) and Dharmawangsa. Girls know some Korean/Japanese songs and they will usually look younger (between 18 and 22). 

- Bordello Karaokes: Most karaokes are hidden bordellos where sex is on sale. You will find the most famous ones in big one-stop entertainment complexes that also include spas and clubs. If you take girls and pay the right price, you will get an attached bedroom. The most luxurious may also have a jacuzzi inside.

- Clubbing Karaokes: Within the karaokes listed above, some of them cater especially to clubbers. It is what Indonesians call "open room". This is one of the most interesting aspects of Jakarta nightlife.

Even though it is still called a karaoke, people are not paying to sing, but to party with their friends. They ask for a specific mix or they get a private DJ included in the price of the room.

There are several reasons for people to party within a karaoke room. One of them, as I mentioned before, is the need for privacy. Some people do not want to be seen inside a club drinking alcohol, taking drugs or flirting with prostitutes. This is especially true for married men, VIPs and government officials. Surprisingly, I also know some girls wearing jilbabs who only party with other girls in karaoke rooms as they do not want to go to clubs.

Another reason is that some karaokes have very flexible opening hours. Some are open 24-hour like in Mille's and therefore attract all the hardcore clubbers, usually those who take ecstasy. Those open in the afternoon may attract young jakartans who are still living with their parents and have a curfew. They will pretend to go to the mall, and instead drop a pill in North Jakarta.

Drugs are usually easy to buy from the staff or from the security, but you won't get the same protection everywhere. For instance, Illigals and Paragon have the reputation to always pay the police to avoid razzias, but Mille's does not.

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5 comments to '' Culture Shock - Understanding Karaokes in Jakarta "

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  1. I just asked by my friend to join as a GRO then i found your web. Thankyou so much for explained the detail. I will not join with this job :)

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  2. ARE NAUGHTY KARAOKES OPEN TO FOREIGNERS?
    JOHN

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  3. The 3rd picture with 2 naked girl is which karaoke?

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  4. As a foreigner, it took me several years to understand what was truly going on behind those doors. It is only after discussing with girls, clients and club owners, that I finally realized what karaokes were for and why Indonesians are so crazy about them.

    The main appeal of karaoke in Indonesia is the need for privacy. The Indonesian society is quite hypocritical in the sense that it is officially religious and traditional, but in real life, many people (especially in Jakarta) behave in a liberal way. So bad to hear that! And the girls are come from?

    ReplyDelete