In the late 1970’s, Karaoke, as we now know it was introduced in Japan, some twenty- five years later.
The word “karaoke” comes from the joining of two Japanese words: ‘ Kara'(empty) and ‘Okie’ (short for orchestra) Rather than including both vocals and music, karaoke music tracks included only the song’s music. The vocal were provided by a live person, not a professional, who holding a microphone, sings while following the words displayed on a screen or in a lyric book.
While most people in Japan agree that karaoke started in Kobe, Japan, in the late 1970’s , the actual origins of Karaoke music are obscure. One story claims that a snack bar owner, when a performer failed to appear, put on tapes of music and asked people in the restaurant if they wanted to sing. From such insignificant beginnings, Karaoke as an entertainment form has spread throughout Japan and the world. The term ‘karaoke’ has been accepted into common language usage.
Originally available only on karaoke cassette tapes, karaoke moved into CDs, finally incorporating videos and graphic images along with on-screen text prompts for those unsure of the song’s words (lyrics). The fad spread into bars and restaurants. If the person singing wasn’t very good, they were still applauded at the end of their performance. The supportive atmosphere for performers brought the people at the venue together in a new and communal way.
Many attribute the Japanese public’s typical reserve to the reason for Karaoke’s extraordinary success in that land. Japanese businessmen would flock to drinking places, featuring karaoke music facilities (microphones, amplifiers and lyric screens) to release their inhibitions. This made going to a ‘karaoke bar’ a perfect way to end a long day at the office.
Now the karaoke music boom has spread beyond Asia to the U.S.A., Europe, South America, and just about any place where people gather at day’s end to celebrate with friends by singing.
American spent over $200 million on karaoke equipment and music in 2002. Technological advances continue to add to the Karaoke enthusiam that has permeated every public place where people gather and singing has become as endemic as drinking, at most of the nation’s bars and taverns.
It is said that since the popularization of records, radio and TV, people had become passive receivers of entertainment. Karaoke has stood this theory on its ear and gone a long way to re-involve the public in the making of music. It also signals a great contribution to the history of musical entertainment.
And what about that mid-twentieth century company, Music Minus One. In 1985, the originator of Karaoke, an American, proceeded to provide sound-alikes of every song of the last century in the karaoke format. It was an undertaking that produced in the following 19 years, over 12,000 songs, from every decade of the century. Pocket Songs was the name given to the “Karaoke” offshoot of Music Minus One. They company even began offering Opera Arias with full symphony orchestras.
Pocket Songs was one of the first company’s in the field to adopt the new CD+G format, which provides a sub-strata lyric text on each compact disc. This is decoded and comes up on the home stereo system when using a special CD+G machine. Now, hand held lyrics were replaced by lyrics on a screen that could be viewed by all the people in a room. The tavern entertainment entered the home.
In the past several years, literally millions of CD+G machines have entered the market place. The CD+G format has become in the U.S.A the favored format for ‘singing’ with recordings.
And what became of that original individual who created the first ‘karaoke’ recordings in 1952. He was acknowledged by the American music industry in 1995 as “the father of karaoke”. His name is Irv Kratka, and believe it or not, he is still at the helm of Pocket Songs, recording the hits and the new artists that appear each year in music.