Tu Ching Liang adjusts his novelty yellow hat, as the disco lights bounce off the medical mask on his face, and he speeds up his taxi.
“Nobody is as lucky as me, running out the door every day to go to work and not making money,” he laughs.
It is a cold day in central Taipei. Three weeks of near-constant rain have worn peodown, and and they splash grumpily in shallow puddles and wrestle with their umbrellas against the wind. But inside Tu’s yellow cab, identifiable from the outside by a neon pink star on the dash, ihot, and and we’re hearing a previous passenger gleefully chirpDespitecito.
In a city that loves to sing, you can find karaoke anywhere, even in numerous taxis. The local taxi app even has “karaoke” as an option along wiEnglish-speakingking driver” or “wheelchair accessible.” Stumbling off the curb and into a car, you might find a microphone in your hand and an iPad ready to play Youtube clips of any song you can think of, with lyrics.
But you, 57, will tell you that he is famous.
“I’ve been driving a taxi for 27 years, giving money [as rewards for singing karaoke] for eight years and filming vi” hes for six years. I’ve shot 10,000 vi” hes, ”he says.
“I was on TV shows from 10 different countries.”
Getting in Tu’s taxi is making a deal. Sing for your driver. If you don’t sing, you don’t get a discount and you can’t win any prizes, or start recording an interview for The Guardian … I panic and I can’t think of a song, so You choose for me and it’s a punishment: My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion.
You say a lot of people are ashamed to sing, but he pushes them anyway. “It is to train your courage. To train them to become a s” herstar, ”he says with phenomenal optimism.
Only occasionally do you notice that the speakers are on the outside of the car and too loud.
If you like the effort of a singer, he will discount the trip and sometimes give them a cash prize. Generally, people tip you more than you would have been entitled to.
What started almost a decade ago as a game, offering passengers a discount if they could guess the title of a song, has grown into something of a social media empire. The cameras inside Tu’s car capture every performance – the good, the bad, the shy, the drunk – that is uploaded to YouTube. Some have been viewed more than 2 million times.
“I’m an international influencer,” he says, bursting out laughing again.
As we drive through the eastern districts in search of passengers, Tu scrolls through some of his favorite and famous passengers. He claims to have discovered the singing career of Edward chen, a Taiwanese actor and heartthrob who Tu claims (with some creative license) received a recording contract after his karaoke performance by taxi.
“People pay to go to concerts and see people sing, but here they pay me to sing,” he says. His dream is to one day have Ed Sheeran as a passenger.
The car pulls up outside a bar and Tu takes out the microphone. “Does anyone want to be on television? Nobody? You can get in the British media. You want? It can sing?”
It is mid-afternoon and there are no buyers. “People at night are braver,” he says.
In these pandemic days, life in Taipei is comparatively normal by international standards (as of last month, there had not been a case of local transmission since April), but there are no tourists due to border restrictions. Tu says it hasn’t affected him too much even with circulating competitors, and he relies mainly on local businesses.
“Taiwanese love to sing,” he says. “So it is normal that there are many [taxis with karaoke]. But it is difficult to film and sing, like what I do. And the police can fine me for the speakers outside. That is also difficult. “
At the end of the day, Tu agrees not to post my murder of the Titanic song on the internet, but he can’t help but laugh one last time, and as he chases away the recording blasts through the cab’s external speakers. Maybe it’s discouragement brought on by the weather, or maybe everyone is used to seeing Tu in traffic, but thankfully no one seems to notice.
Additional reporting by Pei Lin Wu.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism