kar·a·o·ke n. 1. An
audio-visual system that plays an accompaniment to a song performed by
following the words on a video screen. 2. The performance of such music.
[Japanese: kara, void,
empty + okesutora, orchestra (from English orchestra).]
According to several
sources, Karaoke originated approximately 30 years ago in the urban city
of Kobe, Japan. The myth and legend is that a small restaurant in that
city had a strolling musician come in to entertain customers. At times
that he did not show up, the enterprising restaurant owner would play
taped music. This encouraged the customers themselves to sing along. And
so, Karaoke is born.
But truly, the Spirit
of Karaoke has been with us for much longer, and has always been much
more widespread than only Japan. When I say the Spirit of Karaoke, I am
speaking of the urge to get up and sing, to entertain friends and strangers
alike, and to be a part of the gathering, whether up singing, or being
in the audience.
This is nothing new,
it is universal. Take the caveman for example. Their life was full of
experiences nothing like ours, but we can certainly picture a group of
cave men and women lounging around the campfire. (After fire was discovered)
Their bellies are full of venison or saber toothed rabbit, listening to
each other telling stories of bravery and love and true to life mishaps,
like the time that Ugg stepped on a sharp rock, cut his heel and had to
cruise on back home.
Their songs might
not have had electric guitar, and of course, no one was singing 455 Rocket
or Pink Cadillac, but it was nearly the only entertainment that they had.
(Except for spin the leg bone, and just think, that is still around too,
evolved in the 20th century as spin the bottle.)
Later on, the Kings
and Queens of Europe would have court jesters (AKA Karaoke Hosts) provide
entertainment. If they weren’t any good, they would be fed to the wolves,
just as they are now days. But Court Jesters took pride in their work
if they were worth a hill of beans, and provided the best entertainment
and sound that they could achieve, considering the lack of technology
at the time.
In Scotland and Ireland,
they had and still have Ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) which is a Gaelic
word meaning "gathering of friends". During these Ceilidh, members of
the clan take turns to get up and entertain the rest, whether it be a
song, a dance, a story, or a bawdy poem, there are still similarities
between this and Karaoke. We take turns, some more patiently than others,
and we each have our own favorites, and instead of hearing "Hey, Mac,
whyn’t ya play Amazing Grace on yer bagpipes this night" we hear, "Hey,
dude, sing that Santana song for us tonight!"
All of us are familiar
with the Gypsy wagons, and the folklore of gypsy dancers and storytellers.
And then there are the African dancers, with their exotic drumbeat and
words that we can only guess. All around the world, there are examples
of this spirit.
So, as for Karaoke,
what does it matter that the background music is provided with modern-day
technology? The person getting up to sing is a real live fellow human
being, with his or her own talents to share. They are no different than
the rest of us. Part of the clan, as it were. We all share part of ourselves
when we get up to sing, in the form of our voice and the music that we
choose. The Karaoke Clan is no different than the Clans of old, reaching
out and applauding the efforts of others.
originated in Japan, and I thank the inventors for their contribution.
Without Karaoke, many of us would only be spectators. Karaoke allows us
to return to our past, and join each other in a camaraderie that is hard
to find in an increasingly distant and callous world.
The Spirit of Karaoke
has always been with us, and hopefully will remain for many years to come!
.................Karen Beth Stack