By Keisha Balatbat
On most nights if you walk by Ryerson’s on-campus watering hole, the Ram in the Rye, you’ll find a couple students hanging around knocking back beers and buffalo chicken wraps.
But on Tuesday nights, there’s the unmistakable sound of someone trying to power through ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. Behind a little audio visual setup is Samuel Soga, non judgmentally taking requests from Ryerson’s young karaoke crowd, while Mya Tran hangs out beside, singing on whoever has decided to brave the mic place in a little spot in front of the pub.
Tran and Soga have been hosting karaoke at the Ram for a while now. They try to start at 8 p.m. on Tuesday nights, but it usually ends up being later.
Tran hosts the night while Soga does audio-visual tech. They’ve been in the karaoke business together for about a year, while Tran’s been in the game for much longer. But if you want to catch a night hosted by the pair, you’ll have to do it soon. Outside the Ram, Tran and Soga perform as “The Indivisible Duo” and after December they’re leaving to perform on the Princess Cruise ship in Australia for five months.
It’s a big opportunity for them, and one that will take them away from karaoke, which they’ve been doing for a while.
Tran has been a karaoke host for five years, but she started by just being a frequent face at several karaoke bars. She began to host a couple of gigs and substitute for other karaoke hosts. She then became an assistant host and worked her way up to co-business partner.
After two years, she decided to build and run her own business called Karaoke Mayhem.
Tran and Soga met one day when Tran was preparing to host a show. She walked into Long & McQuade, where Soga works, looking to get a speaker for one of her shows.
They started talking while she was getting her equipment and she ended up inviting him to her gig that night. “He helped me expand on my knowledge,” Tran said.
Soga ended up attending and helped her pack up her gear at the end of the night. From there, an unspoken contract was born and the two started working together.
They found their way to Ryerson when they were contacted by Daniela Trozzolo, the restaurant manager for the Ryerson Student Centre, who asked them to host a work party at Oakham House last year.
It was a one time gig, but she reached out to them again later and offered them the Tuesday spot at the Ram. They’ve only been here for three weeks so far, but their contract extends to December.
The pair say they’ve seen a fair share of students in their time here.
“You can’t really predict who walks in,” said Soga recalling the time two groups of French people came to one of their events and requested a bunch of French songs they didn’t have.
Regardless of your song choices, Tran and Soga just want you to have fun. Tran says that they want to provide “an entirely inclusive space” for their karaoke attendees. Soga agrees and adds, “if you can sing, great. If you can’t, no one cares.”
The two are commissioned by Karafun, a software with a database of popular songs and throwback jam. They use that method to pull up the karaoke tracks as opposed to keeping a book, which they say is expensive to get and hard to maintain.
Participants go up to Soga and tell him what they want to sing and Tran will make a list and then input it into the program’s queue.
However, the pair are more than just karaoke hosts—they also have a musical partnership called the Indivisible Duo. They claim their sound is versatile spanning from pop, R&B, and soul.
Both Tran and Soga have been into musical theatre and the arts from a young age. Music is their passion, and for them, there is no other career option. “When you’ve been doing something your entire life and you can’t imagine life without it, you just know,” said Soga.
As a professional group, they call themselves the Indivisible Duo, named after their belief that “nothing can or should divide us when we create or listen to music.”
The duo said it’s hard to get a start in the industry because it is so competitive. “It can be difficult to find your footing,” said Tran.
The Indivisible Duo are currently working on their “Reach for the Light” EP which is set to drop sometime in 2019. They plan to work on it during their time in Australia.
Once in a while, Tran and Soga will take the mic back from the crowd and belt out a banger. Soga can pull off all the voices in a Disney track, Tran doesn’t need to look at the lyrics. Sometimes they pull out duets, giving the crowd a good show but also down time to consider a song that isn’t on the Mamma Mia soundtrack. When it comes to their own choices Tran’s favourite karaoke song is All Coming Back by Celine Dion. Soga’s is currently Pretty Brown Eyes by Mint Condition.
Soga characterizes listeners into two categories: those who listen to the lyrics and those who listen to the beat. He is a firm believer in music that spreads a message and tells a story. “If you can’t tell your story with your art, stop,” Soga said.
Tran finds karaoke a great way to get in touch with jams you forgot about.
“It has a nostalgia factor and it’s a fun and great way to explore other music,” said Tran.