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History of Karaoke : Care to Sing Along?

We all know what fighting over the mic, belting out wrongly timed lyrics and anticipating our turn with the karaoke machine. Karaoke songs are typically music reproductions of songs without the singers’ voice  Who doesn’t love karaoke? Originating in Japan, the word is composed of ‘kara’ from ‘karappo’ meaning void and ‘oke’ from ‘okesutura’ or orchestra. It’s said that it started in the 1970s, with a certain Daisuke Inoue who recorded his songs and sold it to people to sing along with. This is when the first karaoke machine was created, and started cropping up in hotels and bars. Before the world knew it, it went viral.

Karaoke became something between a sport and a gimmick, a way to have more fun while ordering another round of drinks. In the 80’s karaoke boxes came into existence- now people could sing to their hearts content in a small private room- this now meant singing loudly and badly, without the embarrassment of performing for strangers, bringing all they shy bathroom singers out into the bars.

By the end of 80s, laser discs became hugely popular, and with it came the advent of lyrics on a monitor. This revolutionized the karaoke fever, reaching heights in the ‘90s. This simple idea of singing to a soundtrack in front of a live audience became an irrefutable part of the American bar culture in the 1990s, so much so that there are karaoke music awards in San Francisco. From booths to bars to a distinct culture, the rhetoric of karaoke reached manic pitch in the USA, and then-like everything else, it spread to the metropolitan and suburban world of everywhere else. In India karaoke has been popularised in bars in the ‘80s, with Indian karaoke songs being enjoyed by people all over the world.

Most Karaoke machines for home come equipped with an extensive list of music. The old world charm of classics mingles seamlessly with contemporary Bollywood, and now housewives have the opportunity to relax after a long day throwing their arms up and just singing without a care. Type ‘Sunidhi Chauhan’ in your YouTube search and be amazed by the multitude of karaoke instrumentals that will pop up- a singing sensation in one click, sounds appealing doesn’t it? Now in the today that we know, the karaoke bar is a culture singularly by itself.

It’s a niche industry of the tightrope walk between art and commercialisation. Karaoke can also be seen as a replication of generations and generations of the human race indulging in oral tradition and keeping folk and oral tradition alive. Keeping aside the fact that it is in fact a sociological and anthropological phenomenon, karaoke is simply a Good Time. It means an evening of eclectic, participatory and liberating well, ‘masti’. (Besides being the only space you can publicly scream badly sung Kailash Kher unabashedly) Karaoke is that one shot for everyone to be star, even if just for five minutes- as Nickelback says, we all do really just wannabe rockstars after all.

Wish-fulfilling, entertaining and engaging, that’s karaoke. It gives full grown adults a space to escape to and be silly. You have nothing to lose but your inhibitions! (And you may get heckled for being terribly off-key, but if you’re willing to take a few gleeful insults, you’re okay) The people watching too get live entertainment, so it’s a win-win for everyone passive and participatory alike. Not only is singing fun, it’s an actual stress buster- some say it has corporeal benefits of improved health because of continual singing. and karaoke is an ingenious creation for the enjoyment of literally anyone. Why, even famous stars and singers like Adam Levine and Lana Del Ray, are known to enjoy some light-hearted karaoke.So go ahead, buy that Shaan and Falguni Pathak Karaoke CD’s you’ve been eyeing- there’s no shame. If you’re feeling trendy and particularly brave- maybe risk an Arijit Singh sing-along. Training or no training, whether you are any good at it or not- life with a microphone in hand is just better than without. Karaoke is here to stay, care to sing along?

This article was featured in our July 2017 issue:


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