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Karaoke's Definition and History Karaoke's Definition and History

What is Karaoke?
The Japanese word stems from the words kara, meaning "empty" and oke which is short for o-kesutora, meaning "orchestra". The words together make a contraction literally meaning "empty orchestra". Karaoke music tracks includes only the song's music, and not the vocals.

History of Karaoke
In 1950, before Karaoke Music was invented, a firm new to the just- introduced world of the long-playing record, LP as it came to be known, released the first sing-along recordings in this new medium. The label, Music Minus One, while specializing in classical repertoire, had at the head of the company a fervent jazz fan, and in the company's second year, in 1952, he recorded three different all-star rhythm sections performing great standards of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. Intended primarily for jazz improvising, they also offered vocalists a wonderful opportunity to sing with a band. These recordings proved very popular, sold in the thousands and were purchased throughout the world.

The karaoke industry started in Kobe, Japan, in the early 1970s when singer Daisuke Inoue (Inoue Daisuke) was asked by frequent guests in the Utagoe Kissa where he performed to provide a recording of his performance so that they could sing along on a company-sponsored vacation. Realizing the potential for the market, Inoue made a tape recorder that played a song for a 100-yen coin. This was the first karaoke machine. Instead of selling karaoke machines, he leased them out, so that stores did not have to buy new songs on their own. Originally it was considered a fad which was lacking the "live atmosphere" of a real performance. It was also regarded as somewhat expensive since 100 yen in the 1970s was the price of two typical lunches. However, it caught on as a popular entertainment. Karaoke machines were initially placed in restaurants or hotel rooms; soon, new businesses called Karaoke Box with compartmented rooms became popular. (See below "Public Places for Karaoke" and Terms of Karaoke" for a description of karaoke boxes.) In 2004, Daisuke Inoue was awarded the tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke, "thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other."

Early karaoke machines used cassette tapes but technological advances replaced this with CDs, VCDs, laserdiscs and, currently, DVDs. In 1992, Taito introduced the X2000 that fetched music via a dial-up telephone network. Its repertoire of music and graphics was limited, but the advantage of continuous updates and the smaller machine size saw it gradually replace traditional machines. Karaoke machines connected via fiber-optic links to provide instant high-quality music and video are becoming increasingly popular.

Karaoke soon spread to the rest of Asia and then to the United States in the 1990s. Facilities such as karaoke bars or "KTV boxes" provided the venue, equipment and software for amateur singers to entertain (or "torture") each other.

Its popularity has spread rapidly to the United States, Canada and other Western countries. Some people still regard it as "hokey" and simply a method for the intoxicated to embarrass themselves, but as the novelty has worn off and the available selection of music has exploded, more and more people within the industry see it as a very profitable form of lounge and nightclub entertainment. It is not uncommon for some bars to have karaoke performances seven nights a week, commonly with much more high-end sound equipment than the small, standalone machines noted above. Dance floors and lighting effects are also becoming common sights in karaoke bars. Lyrics are often displayed on multiple TV sets around the bar, including big screens.

Technology behind Karaoke
Most common machines are audio mixers with microphone input built-in with CD+G, Video CD, Laser Disc, or DVD players. CD+G players use a special track called subcode to encode the lyrics and pictures displayed on the screen, while the other formats natively display both audio and video. In some countries, karaoke with video lyrics display capabilities is called KTV.

A karaoke game was initially released for the Nintendo Famicom but its limited computing ability made for a short catalog of songs, and therefore reduced replay value. As a result, karaoke games were considered little more than collector's items until games saw release in the higher-capacity DVD format. Karaoke Revolution, created for the PlayStation 2 by Konami and released in North America in 2003, is a console game in which a single player sings along with on-screen guidance, and receives a score based on his or her pitch, timing, and rhythm.

Karaoke Reviews
AsiaFinest.com will review local karaoke places in major cities starting in New York soon. Stay Tune! In the mean time, feel free to discuss your favorite karaoke place at our local area forum chat.

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