Middle-aged Chinese women, known as dama, who have gained an international reputation for buying gold and annoying their neighbors by dancing outside, have moved their "battleground" to local KTVs where they sing red songs on the cheap during the afternoon.
The KTVs, seeing a business opportunity, have started to offer packages targeting older people including discount karaoke sessions, a range of teas instead of booze and even medicines for age-related diseases.
The Chinese public has seemingly gotten fed up of dama after repeated media reports about them blocking traffic by dancing in the road, keeping people up at night with pounding beats and even tussling with other residents over using open spaces as dance floors, but news of this KTV trend has been welcomed by many netizens as it can keep the dama off the streets while at the same time help the karaoke business.
Wu, 47, the head of a worker's union at a middle school in Southwest China's Chongqing, has become a regular visitor to local KTVs this summer.
"It's a healthy entertainment and a kind of self-appreciation for me, and singing also helps me express myself and exercises my lung capacity," Wu told the Global Times.
The local KTVs are very affordable during the day, with Wu only paying a few dozen yuan through online payment systems to sing for a whole afternoon, she said. She often invites teachers from her school, her friends as well as family members to sing.
"I love singing oldies from the 1970s and 1980s. My favorite is The Spirit of Your Eyes by Taiwan singer Tsai Chin," Wu said.
Another dama, Li Aiqin, 56, a retired theater worker in Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi Province, prefers revolutionary and patriotic songs.
"Red songs like Waves After Waves in Honghu Lake, romantic songs like Sweet Honey by Taiwan singer Teresa Teng, and even Chinese versions of Russian red songs, such as Moscow Nights are all on my regular playlist," Li told the Global Times.
"I used to sing on mobile applications, but I soon felt lonely and bored. Singing in KTVs with my friends is more fun, as we can catch up while entertaining ourselves," Li said.
Meanwhile, KTVs which have seen a drop in revenue in recent years have seen their fortunes begin to revive.
A KTV employee surnamed Chen in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that their daytime clients are all middle-aged.
"Sometimes, I serve over 100 dama in one afternoon," Chen said.
In Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, some KTVs even offer special services targeting dama.
"Since we launched packages targeting clients aged 45 and above a year ago, clients in 80 percent of the rooms are dama who come in groups," a Chengdu KTV employee surnamed Tang told the Global Times.
According to her, from 12 pm to 6 pm Tang's KTV offers tea rather than soft drinks and alcohol which most KTVs provide.
To cater to dama, the KTV updated their song library to include many red songs, and even stocks heart-attack pills in case any middle-aged singer gets too excited, Tang said.
Caring for the old
While most news reports about the latest dama trends are met with complaints online, this latest fad has been supported by netizens.
According to a commentary published by the People's Daily on Monday, complaints about the racket caused by square-dancing dama shows that the society should provide more venues to meet elderly people's spiritual and cultural demands. And KTVs offering discounts and pills showed that enterprises can care for the aged.
"Middle-aged people singing in KTVs is a normal phenomenon, and they are just bringing their habits of their youth to today," Zhang Yiwu, a professor of culture from Peking University, told the Global Times.
Most of these dama, born in the 1950s and 1960s, participated in cultural activities including singing competitions after China's reform and opening-up began 40 years ago, and they were also among the first group of people to enter the KTVs when they were introduced to China in the 1980s, according to Zhang.
Meanwhile, spending on KTVs also reflects the consumption power of middle-aged people. Unlike the elderly people of the past who advocated frugality, dama with cash in their pockets are not afraid of consuming to express their cultural personality, Zhang said.