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Facts of Japan - Karaoke

Updated on May 18, 2011

Karaoke is a combination of Japanese ‘Kara’ which means empty and ‘Okesutora’ that means orchestra. Karaoke is a form of entertainment in which artists sing along with a recorded music or some music videos. The lead singer’s voice will not be there. Some singer will be singing the lyrics which are usually displayed in the video screen. This is not lip sinking in which the artist sings along with the lead voice. Usually a popular pop song is used for this purpose.

This form of entertainment had been in vogue previously for a valid reason. If bringing the music troupe and the band together with the artist proves to be costly and impractical, the amateurs and other professional artists are brought to sing for the music video with lyrics.

Around 60s the demand for entertainers increased many folds that bringing the entire crew became almost impossible. So there was such an expectation for new entertainers as well. And it was at that time karaoke was introduced. There is still dispute as to who introduced karaoke but the common belief is that Daisuke Inoue, the Japanese musician from Kobe invented these karaoke style machines in 1971. Once it became so popular in Japan, it was introduced to other parts of the world.

It all started with the Japanese who were so fond of entertainment in a party or get together asked the musician Daisuke to provide them some of his recordings so that people can sing along. But Daisuke saw that there was potential business in this and he provided them a tape recorder that plays the song for 100 yen. In fact, instead of selling his karaoke machines, he leased them. The stores were not required to buy new songs as well. Though the money was considered high, it slowly became so popular in Japanese bars and clubs and karaoke spread throughout Japan quickly.

Interestingly, Daisuke never patented his invention. But in 1980, a Pilipino named Roberto Del Rosario had got the patent for his invention called sing-along system, ‘Minus One’ which was originally invented a decade ago.

The success of Karaoke forced dance floors and bars to use it with superior sound equipments. All the dance floors have Karaoke and it was played seven nights in many of the night clubs throughout Japan. The added attraction was the lighting effects in these clubs.

See how to start karaoke fun

Karaoke box.
Karaoke box.

The basic Karaoke machine has a microphone inputs, music player, an audio output and resources for altering the music or pitch of the music. Early machines had cassette tapes. But technological advances quickly surfaced and the Karaoke machines started to have CD+G, VCD, Laser Disc or DVD players with microphone inputs and a built-in audio mixer. Most of these machines also have a technology that electronically changes pitches to enable the singers to choose a pitch that suits their range. The original tempo of the song still can be retained.

The Karaoke happens mainly in two places in Japan. The Karaoke box and the snack bar. The Karaoke Boxes are also known as private boxes. They are made for a group and only for two persons as well.

There are video screens, microphones and Karaoke boxes in the room as well. After a hard day’s work, it is such a pleasant time to go into the box and after ordering a drink, just humming along with the Popular song is one of the great past time of Japan. The process is simple here. When the title of the song is entered using a remote control the video clip appears in the screen along with the lyrics. Though Karaoke is still popular in Asia, it did not get so famous with the American and Canadian Markets.


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