Karaoke is one hobby and interest that has spanned the globe and left an impression where-ever it went. Not always the same impression, mind you, but an impression. It all began in the United States in 1970 when a talent agent came up with the concept of recording music which could be sung to by singers in nightclubs. Japanese companies soon copied the concept, named it “karaoke” and began filling the world with the idea of singing along to un-vocalized recorded music. The first karaoke machine was invented by a Japanese man but the patent for karaoke was purchased by a Philippine man.
Karaoke spread quickly throughout East and Southeast Asia and has kept its popularity there to a large degree ever since the 1970’s. Today, in China, the elderly are quite fond of karaoke and sing along to recorded Cantonese Orchestra music. The karaoke concept traveled the globe and eventually made its way back to the United States, with mixed reaction. There are some night clubs and bars which have karaoke nights and even more popular are the karaoke boxes being installed in many locations. The karaoke boxes are sound-proof and people can go in, select their music and sing without an audience.
There is a varying degree of karaoke popularity and it seems to have had the most difficult time catching on in the U.S and Canadian markets. Europeans even enjoys karaoke more than the people in the United States. Since new developments are being made in technology and the music industry, promoters of karaoke are hoping they will find a bigger niche with North America. There is no doubt that the quality of music and karaoke machines themselves have increased. In fact, karaoke machines did become very popular in the U.S., but not for singing purposes. They were billed as television enhancers just before the “Home movie and Home Theater” market opened up. It looks like while Americans love music, they love movies even more!
Karaoke did find a niche when Chinese auto maker Geely Automobile was the first to equip a car with a karaoke machine that was a factory standard. The first “Karaokecab” hit the streets of London and received a lot of press. Still in England in Bolton, Lancashire and known as Clint’s Karaoke Cab, karaoke lives on.
Other Karaoke concepts and phrases are; Juhachiban, which is one song for which a singer is known for singing well. Movioke is used by people (usually actors) who replace their favorite stars in popular movies. (This became popular in 2003.) Hitokara is when a person sings karaoke alone. This trend has become popular with amateur singers in India and China.
Karaoke has been around and certainly made the rounds over the last 30+ years. Each time it is revived or improvised, it circles the globe once again to varying degrees of popularity. It will be interesting to see what new developments are in store for karaoke and if it will ever find a bigger part of American entertainment.