Saturday, March 13, 2010

Follow the Bouncing Ball...

A history of Karaoke

Since the dawn of man, people have loved to sing. However, up until the industrial revolution most music was folk music. Melodies were simpler, lyrics straightforward, and everyone (or at least most) could join in.

Ironically, the rise of modern music certainly put an damper on impromptu singing. Attempts to imitate modern songs without accompaniment are generally not pleasant to hear. If you disagree, sing any top 40 song (A capella) on your next subway ride at the top of your longs. If you're still alive afterward, I'll still say "Told you so." Modern music, instead of being accessible and repeatable, emphasizes individual style and inflection. This makes imitation more prone to disaster, which (as we all know) is great for true Karaoke.

But, anyway, the first mass medium for singing popular music was actually the singalong. On American TV in the early to mid sixties, there was apparently a show called "Sing along with Mitch." I have no clue who Mitch was (I don't much care) but he must have been a hit to eke it out for five years.

The same mass music media that displaced local folk music was used to create karaoke. The first "Karaoke machine" consisted of a cassette player, along with recordings of an unaccompanied live band. This originated in the Philippines, but really made a splash in Kobe, Japan.

Urban legend has it that the band failed to show up for their engagement at a nondescript sake bar, so the manager asked if anyone there would like to sing. The rest is history- karaoke spread throughout Japan. Interestingly enough, the purported inventor of the first karaoke machine, Daisuke Inoue, never thought to patent the device. A filipino by the name of Roberto del Rosario ended up cashing in. From Japan, karaoke spread throughout the west by the 1990's.

And now, just a few comments concerning "Kah-ray-oh-kay." I would argue that everyone is good at karaoke (provided they know the words) because it's not about style or proficiency, but the confidence that really wins over a crowd.

In the same vein, it's essential for the crowd to be positive and inviting to every person who works up the nerve to step up to the mike. Whether a first timer or a semi professional, it takes guts (and cajones) to sing in public. Any good faith effort deserves at least some applause. That's how you can tell a good crowd from a bad one-if they're only there for themselves, you can tell pretty quickly by their ambivalence to 'strangers.'

I was inspired to write about this becasue I am going karaokeying in a few hours, and look forward to a pleasant evening.

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