Before “America’s Got Talent,” there were people singing in their showers, joining in group sing-alongs and following a bouncing ball as they sang karaoke. For some, karaoke has become a popular mainstay. In other nations, it’s simply a fad that rises and falls.
In America, there is the concept of the “one hit wonder;” in Japan, this is called “juhachiban.” A certain singer might have the perfect voice for certain lyrics or tunes. Everyone knows the lyrics and can sing along.
But, where exactly did karaoke originate? Is it named after someone named karaoke? Learn the history of karaoke here.
A brief History of Karaoke
According to Wikipedia, the roots of the word “karaoke” are the Japanese words “kara” meaning “empty” and “okesutora” meaning “orchestra.” Therefore, the term refers to the absence of a live band or orchestra. Karaoke can be a sing-along for one or several amateurs, who try to mimic popular professional singers.
Sing-alongs have existed since the dawn of time, so no one really knows who invented that genre. Therefore, the dawn of karaoke really began with the manufacturing of something that looked like a tape recorder, which was connected to a microphone. This first karaoke machine was invented in 1971 by a Japanese drummer, named Daisuke Inoue, who leased it out to amateur singers.
Unfortunately, Daisuke Inoue never patented his invention. This enabled a Filipino inventor named Roberto del Rosario to patent a sing-along machine called “Minus-One” in 1983 and 1986. Throughout the 1980s, musical technology and the advent of MTV allowed for the spread of karaoke across the globe.
Clarion was the first commercial manufacturer of karaoke equipment. In the 1990s, people could download karaoke songs. KaraOK and ROXI added karaoke to computers. Circa 2010, karaoke games became available on smart phones.
Terminology of the “Karaoke Culture”
Generally, Asia is the home to the most passionate karaoke fans. This singing genre has become part of their culture. Here are some of the most common karaoke terms:
- Beauty Leopard = Chinese Geely automobile includes karaoke machine
- Daisuke Inoue = Inventor of karaoke
- Hitokara = Japanese term for one man singing karaoke
- Juhachiban = One hit wonders
- Kabeoke = London private hire karaoke equipped vehicles
- Karamovie (or Movioke) = Amateurs replace actors in movies
- Karaoke Callout = Game for Nokia Series 60 phone
- KarOK = Cloud based streaming device
- KJs = Karaoke jockeys
- KTV = Karaoke box
- Noraebang Taxi = South Korean cabs equipped with karaoke machine
- ROXI = UK home music system
As the singing phenomenon has become more popular, the East and West have experimented with different systems.
The basic karaoke machine includes one or several microphones, a music player and speaker (audio output). The music might be in CD+G, Laser Disc, VCD, DVD or MP3 format. Simple systems do not have extravagant video displays. The most advanced technology might have lyrics on the bottom of a screen with a bouncing ball hitting each word, so the amateur can keep pace.
High end systems allow for the amateurs to choose the pitch; these systems can modify the original song to better mirror the amateur singer’s vocal range. Some karaoke systems have “voice suppression” technology so that only the amateur’s voice is heard. Others are aimed at mobile KJs with wheels on the bottom for easy movement.
Numerous karaoke games have been developed, including “Kamikaze Karaoke” and “Karaoke Roulette.” PlayStation 2 created “Karaoke Revolution.”
South Korea has karaoke taxicabs (called noraebang taxicabs) with a sound system and microphone. England has kabeokes.
A global Phenomenon
Karaoke has become deeply ingrained in many Asian nations, particularly Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.
South Korea might be the most passionate karaoke centre in the world. The country has medium-sized “noraebangs” (song rooms or karaoke boxes), which people can rent for 30 minutes to an hour. These private rooms might have sound-proof walls with musical equipment, microphones, remote controls, video screens, disco lights, tambourines and couches.
In Cambodia, China and the Philippines, a karaoke box or booth is called a KTV. Taiwan establishments might have multiple television screens around a room, just like a sports bar would. China has “mahjong-karaoke” combination rooms – mahjong for the old and karaoke for the young.
Westerners might add a karaoke machine to a restaurant, club, disco, lounge, casino, hotel or bar, instead of creating a karaoke-only room. Australia saw a big karaoke boom in the 1980s, but this has since then fizzled out. Western nations were more likely to market home theater systems with karaoke as an additional benefit.
Large cities, such as Toronto, New York City and Aberdeen have a few karaoke bars, especially if there is a Korea town. Otherwise, the West offers fewer private sing-along establishments.
No matter whether you are a good singer or bad, karaoke can be an enjoyable social activity. It has become a mainstay in South Korea, Japan and China. Technology continues to expand its offerings.
Noraebang taxis (karaoke taxicabs) are a great idea. Who knows, maybe Uber will add karaoke too?