Language is no barrier to singing karaoke at Escorza’s Mexican Restaurant in Wantagh, where a bilingual version of the international singalong trend has been drawing boisterous crowds every other Friday night.
At Escorza’s bilingual karaoke night, on-screen lyrics can be requested in English for American pop, or Spanish for Latin pop. Amateur crooners — some fluent in both languages — take turns at the portable microphone, belting out golden oldies like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and the mariachi standard “Cielito Lindo.”
On a recent Friday evening, Claudia Fuentes, 47, of Seaford, was among karaoke fans raring for a turn at the mic.
“I’m an ’80s girl, so I like ’80s music,” says Fuentes, who grew up in Valparaíso, Chile, and is fluent in Spanish and English. Fuentes says she often requests hits by Maná, the Mexican pop group. But tonight she’s in the mood to sing a Neil Diamond hit, “Sweet Caroline.”
“Singing karaoke brings back memories of the 1980s, when I was living in Chile and my husband and I used to go out together to clubs,” Fuentes says. Nowadays, her husband, Andres Gonzales, 52, is Escorza’s disc jockey.
Fuentes’ friend Maria Castillo, 52, of Lynbrook, sitting across from Fuentes sipping a margarita, says she likes to cover hits by Mexican singer-songwriters Ana Gabriel and Alejandra Guzmán.
“Karaoke relieves my stress,” Castillo says.
Rene Escorza, 43, of Central Islip, who is also the chef-owner at Escorza’s Mexican Restaurant in Levittown, says about 80 patrons fill the restaurant’s 21 tables on a typical bilingual karaoke night.
Escorza, who emigrated from Mexico City at age 16 and serves traditional Mexican food made using recipes from his mother, Juana, says karaoke night caters to Long Island’s increasingly bilingual population.
He began offering bilingual karaoke two months ago. “Most of the customers who come in are from a new generation . . . who understand both English and Spanish,” Escorza says. “It’s great to see that people have the courage to get up and try to sing in their native language.”
Whichever language is your forte, fancy cocktails made with passion fruit or tamarind juice help lubricate vocal cords.
“After drinking tequila,” Escorza says, “Anybody can sing.”
Sombreros are piled on a table for appropriate headgear when singing songs from Mexico.
T.J. Colvin, 26, of Bethpage, sitting at the bar eating a chicken quesadilla, says Spanish-English karaoke is helping him communicate with a girlfriend who is originally from Ecuador.
“It’s good to come and learn her language by seeing it on the screen,” Colvin says.
Other native English speakers in the crowd say they already speak a little Spanish, which can come in handy in a pinch. Theresa Muldoon, 58, of Bethpage, a speech pathologist who moonlights as a steel drum player, had wanted to sing a karaoke version of “Volare” in Italian. “I know the Italian lyrics by heart,” she says. But when the lyrics instead flashed in Spanish, she quickly switched to the language on screen.
Says Muldoon, “The fun part is, I’m able to sing karaoke in a language that I’m not even that fluent in.”
Bilingual Karaoke Night
WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Jan. 12 and Feb. 2, then every other Friday at Escorza’s Mexican Restaurant, 3463 Merrick Rd., Wantagh