The Oxford English Dictionary now recognizes the word karaoke.  Its definition of karaoke is:

"A form of entertainment, originating in Japan, in which a person sings the vocal line of a popular song to the accompaniment of a pre-recorded backing tape, and the voice is electronically amplified through the loud speaker system for the audience; also, the audio (and video) equipment used for this. Freq. Attrib., esp. as karaoke bar, music."

Karaoke is a Japanese word that is formed from two other words.  Kara, which means "empty".  The other word is oke, and is a shorter version for the word okesutura, or "orchestra".

The history of karaoke tells us that it was formed in a snack bar located in Kobe City, Japan.  The common belief on how karaoke started goes something like this... A strolling guitarist in a snack bar in Kobe City became sick and could not put on his show at the bar that night.  The proprietor of the snack bar came up with a solution of playing popular songs that had the singer's voice removed.  The people in the bar began singing along with the music and having a good time.  This led the owner to have these "karaoke nights" more often as they grew in popularity.

Prior to the arrival of karaoke in Japan, people would listen and sing along with popular songs while they were out socializing.  They would also sing along with songs being played on the radio and would often call the radio station requesting their favorite song.  Many of the bars would turn the radio up so the patrons could sing along with it.

It is said that the Japanese people truly feel more natural singing themselves rather than listening to others sing.  This all changed with the appearance of karaoke.  Something about holding a microphone and singing along with background music made these karaoke singers feel like they were professionals.  The people sitting in the crowd, who prior to karaoke coming along did not enjoy people singing, would now applaud these karaoke performers.  This has inspired many people to get on stage and perform whether they are on key or not.

When karaoke was first created, it was aimed primarily towards business people.  It quickly became a hit and spread all over the world.

As the technology for karaoke has advanced it has allowed karaoke to become more popular than ever before.  It is no longer just for the bar scene.  Many restaurants have karaoke nights geared towards the entire family having fun and singing. 

In Japan, they have what is called a karaoke box, which is basically a closed door facility containing speakers, microphones, a karaoke machine, and places to sit inside a sound proof box and sing.  These boxes are primarily a roadside facility and move from one area to another with ease by placing them on a trailer. 

Around the world there have been businesses that open shops housing several sound proof rooms along with the karaoke equipment.  This allows the karaoke singers to sing as loud as they want without disturbing anybody.  These types of facilities quickly became a hit with families who enjoyed singing.  It is a fun night out for the whole family and is fairly inexpensive.

As music videos became more popular, this helped karaoke grow in popularity because the music was reaching a wider audience base, thanks in part to channels like MTV.

The technology that is used for karaoke has changed drastically over the years.  In the beginning, it was just records and tapes that had the vocals removed; there were no words on a screen.  With the invention of the laser disc, came the first version of karaoke that had the lyrics displayed on a screen.  The equipment was quite expensive and not readily available for producing your own karaoke songs.  People's choices for song selection was limited to what the producers of the karaoke discs released.

With the invention of compact discs, karaoke began to grow rapidly.  As more computer owners purchased CD recorders, the popularity of CD+G (compact disc plus graphics) grew immensely.  CD+G is a compact disc that includes the karaoke song and also includes the lyrics and usually some kind of background images displayed with the lyrics.  These are played on karaoke machines, many computers will play these, and an increasing amount of home DVD players will play CD+G discs.

CD+G  is now the most popular form for producing karaoke songs.  There are a number of programs that allow the home user to download karaoke songs and add the lyrics to them, thus creating a CD+G file.  One of the most popular programs is called WinCD+G®.  This program combines the audio file which is usually in mp3 format, and the lyric file that the user has created, into a .bin file which the user then burns to CD with their favorite CD burning application.

CD+G files can be found in many places on the internet, such as websites and newsgroups.  The swapping of CD+G files is very popular among karaoke buffs.  If the material is copy written, it is illegal for you to download these files for free, just like any other mp3.  However, if it is music you have created and is your own, you can share it freely.  Ebay has a wide variety of karaoke CDs for sale.

An added benefit that has been noticed in small children who sing karaoke is that it is improving their reading skills, since it is something that they enjoy doing.  They don't realize they are actually improving their literary skills.

Home karaoke machines are now relatively inexpensive.  It is no surprise, when having a family gathering, to see somebody bring out the karaoke machine and have the whole family and friends singing along.  Many entrepreneurs saw this as a money making opportunity, since the equipment is so portable, they could have a karaoke night at a different location every day of the week. 

My friend, Kris, started using his computer to put on karaoke nights in bars.  He books himself not only to bars, but for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and other special events.  Even though this is just a side business for him, it has become a very profitable business.  He now has three people that he has hired due to the overwhelming demand.

gn0sis says re Karaoke: 'kara' means empty by itself. karappo is a colloquial adjectival form.


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