All Japanese people love to sing. People of all ages and professions. No wonder that karaoke was invented 40 years ago in Japan. Until now, it is one of the most popular forms of entertainment, thanks to which people can make their dreams about singing come true.
Everyone can choose their favorite songs and just sing. When the Japanese drink alcohol, at some point they end up on karaoke and they drink a lot with co-workers after work or on weekends. So they go to karaoke quite often. They also have karaoke equipment at home, so this entertainment also accompanies them during family gatherings. It is a way to have fun together, but also an anti-stressing method. Whether they can sing or sing out of tune, all Japanese love karaoke.
The word ‘kara’ means emptiness, and ‘oke’ is a type of abbreviation from the word orchestra that is used in the sense of singing with musical accompaniment. It comes from the time of radio programs, which quite often could not afford a band that would play live music for singers, that’s why recordings were made on tape and it became known as an empty orchestra or karaoke. Originally it was intended for professionals, nowadays everyone want to use karaoke.
Types of places with karaoke
The karaoke market in Japan is huge and has a value of over 800 billion yen per year. This is basic japanese entertainment and there are two types of karaoke places available. The first one is Karaoke Snack. These are small bars with karaoke facilities that can be used by their clients. You can have a drink there and sing a song. Just tell the bartender which song you choose. In such bars you sing in front of other clients, so if you’re good you’ll be noticed. There is also an unwritten rule, you cannot sing more than one song at a time. You need to wait until other customers have their turn.
The second place is called the Karaoke Box. These are usually karaoke chains that are placed even in skyscrapers. There are rooms equipped with karaoke equipment that can be rented for as many hours as you like. You sing only in front of your friends, so you do not have to be ashamed of strangers. The customers operate the karaoke device themselves, you can choose different effects, for example, convert your voice to the voice of the anime character. The room has a telephone that allows you to contact karaoke staff, you can order food or drinks in this way. The room itself is also equipped with additional effects, such as flashing and colorful lights. The Japanese are regular at karaoke also because even in Tokyo the metro stops driving around midnight. Taxis are very expensive, so if you party longer, it’s cheaper to spend an hour or two on karaoke than organize a taxi to home. So Karaoke is a place to wait until the subway starts again. If you want to see what the karaoke box looks like, look at the movie ‘Lost in translations’. It perfectly shows how karaoke looks like in Japan as well as many other Japanese customs and characteristic places.
Who and how creates karaoke songs?
On average, about 1,000 new songs are added each month, and in each karaoke place you have around 150,000 songs to choose from. In Japan it will be a lot of songs in Japanese, also songs from Japanese anime or movies. However, these are not original soundtracks nor original music videos. They are made by karaoke professionals. The music specialist creates music from scratch, no audio data is taken from the source material, and phonographic companies also do not provide any sheet music.
To create karaoke songs, the only thing professionals can rely on is their ears. First they listen to the original song again and again, and they remember the song music and its structure. Then they start to create their own version. Bits and sounds of many commonly used instruments that are installed on the computer are used. With many options they choose sounds that match the original song. They use them to create their version of the song.
Karaoke technology is constantly evolving to meet the needs of customers. The way people use karaoke is becoming more and more diverse. In recent years, the form of single karaoke is becoming more and more popular. For some people it is a way of relaxing, they don’t need to worry about the presence of other people, so they can sing straight from the heart. Other people record their performance with a camera and upload to the Internet. If some user likes their performance, he can propose a duet. It is virtual cooperation, but you can make friends in this way. For older people, karaoke is a way to be active. They meet in traditional bars and thanks to that they are still a part of society. Karaoke is part of the Japanese culture that everyone loves.