Many enjoy going to a karaoke lounge with their friends where they get to sing along to their favorite music, artists, and songs. Karaoke nights are extremely popular since it's a serves as a party where people can show their singing voice, laugh, and sing along to their favorite songs and artists; whether it is in English, Spanish, or any other language.
But, behind each karaoke party and all the fun, there is a wide history that you probably didn't know about. This musical form of entertainment was originated in Japan around the 1960s and 1970s.
The meaning of the word karaoke comes from Japanese, kara is empty and ōke is short for ōkesutora which means orchestra. From this, we can understand that karaoke is literally called an "empty orchestra" which implies the goal of the karaoke machine. There is a device that will provide the instrumental part of a song (or a selection of songs) and any person sings the lyrics as the music plays.
If you are looking for more articles with information, check out our article about the History of Karaoke.
The invention of audio-visual machines
During the decade of the 60s, there was a popular series called Sing Along with Mitch. The show had a characteristic song and lyrics on the bottom part of the screen to invite others to sing along with Mitch Miller, the host of the show. This karaoke-like TV show introduced the idea of having an audience singing along to songs by putting lyrics on the screen or video.
As technology developed, the need for a portable system of music grew, and with this the availability of music in everyday life. Between the 1960s and the 1970s music became a huge part of life which would ultimately build a pathway to create a sort of entertainment unit and turn sing-along fun into an actual party with karaoke machines.
Read more about this topic in one of our articles titled, Where is Karaoke From.
The Karaoke Machine
To this day, there are many disputes as to who came up with the name first. The popular belief is that the first machine was invented by a Japanese musician called Daisuke Inoue in Japan in 1971. During this decade karaoke became very popular in Japan and after, during the 80s, it spread to Asia and then to the rest of the world.
Inoue was a very popular Japanese musician and he used to perform at a bar called Utagoe Kissa. The frequent customers asked him if he could provide recordings of his performance so that they can sing along at home or on work trips and more. With the potential of a new market, the musician made a tape and then rented out the machines.
At first, buyers weren't much into the idea simply because it was too expensive to rent out a machine, and also singing along at home wasn't the same as the cool atmosphere of a live performance. Although, with time, they started to appeal to restaurants and hotel rooms and in no time a new business called karaoke boxes emerged.
In 2004, Daisuke Inoue was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke under the idea that it created "a new way for people to learn to tolerate each other".
Learn about the Benefits of Karaoke by reading one of our articles.
Patents for the Karaoke Machine and the 1990s
As we mentioned above, there are disputes around the word karaoke and this is because Inoue never bothered to patent his invention (if he had he would have become a really rich man).
In 1975, an inventor from the Philippines, Roberto del Rosario, developed a sing-along system and patented it in the 1980s. He then named it "Minus-One" but now it is known as the karaoke machine, a patent that del Rosario now owns.
The "Minus-One" system became very popular in the Philippines mainly because Filipinos liked to take their music wherever they went, which meant that if they traveled, the machine would travel with them too.
Del Rosario fought many battles in court but his quick action to have been the first to create the patent was of huge help and each time the lawsuits ended up awarded in his favor.
Karaoke soon became very popular in Asia (South Korea, China, and more) and then its popularity spread to the English world: United States, Canada, Australia, and other Western countries.
Although, as soon as the novelty passed, the machines started to lose popularity in the US and Canada. This is why they adapted the karaoke machines and turned them into theater systems. These home theater systems were a huge hit in the market and karaoke went on to become a side feature in the machines.
After this, there was a huge market that took notice of the karaoke machines, and these are the owners of nightclubs and bars. Today, karaoke boxes, bars, and nights are very popular around the world, where goers can have some fun and become singers for one night by singing to their favorite lyrics displayed on a video as the music plays.
You can also read about the places in the world karaoke is popular here.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the origins of this musical form of entertainment and that the next time you go out with friends to a karaoke night you will be able to throw some of these fun facts their way.
As we could see, karaoke was not about a person with a microphone singing a song, but it was about a musician wanting to be closer to his audience and finding a way to sing with them, literally.
Karaoke has enabled a whole generation of talented singers to go from unknown and singing in their showers to singers that have no problem picking up a microphone and performing their favorite tracks in front of their families, friends, and ultimately strangers at a bar.
As we could see, karaoke was such a cool form of entertainment that it soon left Japan and later South Korea and it conquered the world literally one song at the time.
We hope that learning about the meaning of the word will help you bring out the singer that lives within you the next time you are enjoying a karaoke night at home or out at a lounge.