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Celebrate National Karaoke Week

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Celebrate National Karaoke Week

Birds aren’t the only ones who will be singing as spring arrives!

Like many people, I have no issue singing along with songs on the radio. It frankly amazes me that I still know all the words to Don McLean’s classic, “American Pie.” (Yeah, showing my age.) But accompanying other singers when you’re alone in your car — or belting out favorites in the shower or for your dog — is a far cry from getting up on stage and singing while the eyes of the audience are on you.

It may not be for everyone, but karaoke— defined as amateurs singing along to the music of a song (no vocals), following the lyrics on a screen — seems to be here to stay. It allows us to let out our inner pop star!

Karaoke’s Roots

Believe it or not, karaoke has been around for almost 50 years. In 1971, Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue invented the first karaoke machine in Kobe, Japan, but he’s not the creator of the name “karaoke.” A Japanese entertaining group coined the name after an orchestra went on strike and a machine was used to play the music. “Karaoke” translates to “empty orchestra.”

According to an article on NEoN (North East of North), providing musical entertainment is a tradition at dinners and parties in Japan and Inoue’s guests regularly requested recordings of his music to sing along to. The president of a small company asked Inoue to record some of his keyboard music for him to sing along to for business clients. Inoue did so and it was a successful and enjoyable experience for both of them. Realizing no product existed in the market that allowed people to interact with and participate in popular music, Inoue created a tape-recorder machine (the Juke 8) that played songs when money was inserted.

At first, the market wasn’t interested, but after getting a better understanding of how the machines worked, demand rapidly increased. Two Osaka club owners decided to have the machines in their clubs, something that further catapulted the karaoke craze. Soundproofed karaoke boxes were invented and built on empty grounds all over Japan so people could enjoy the activity without fear of disturbing others.

Due to their love of singing, the Japanese have a very non-judgmental attitude toward listening to others sing. That’s probably why karaoke became such a success there. However, karaoke’s popularity quickly spread across the globe, to places including Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Europe. It’s become a popular interactive entertainment activity — with a global market estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion.

Today, karaoke is found in nightclubs and bars and you can even enjoy it from the comfort of your own home with karaoke-based games available such as Singstar, Sing it, Lips and Karaoke Revolution. Technological advancements even allow these games to rate your singing on factors such as how well you are in tune and timed. Many games also promote group singalongs and their success has led to the creation of instrumental karaoke games such as Rock Band.

The real appeal of karaoke is that it isn’t an activity just for those who can sing well — it’s an invitation to anyone to belt out a tune the audience will probably recognize and sing along with. It brings people together to appreciate music and creates a fun and connected atmosphere.

National Karaoke Week

Yes, National Karaoke Week is an actual thing; it’s celebrated every year during the fourth week of April — the 19th to 25th this year. Obviously, there will be no face-to-face activities due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit at home — especially if you know someone who has a karaoke machine or you purchase one online.

According to The Singing Machine Company, the #1 brand in karaoke, here are five ways to celebrate National Karaoke Week:

1. Prepare — Start the week by brushing up on your singing and breathing. Take deep breaths, in and out, filling your lungs all the way — and then emptying them completely with a whoosh sound. This expands your chest and warms up your diaphragm. A saltwater gargle can also help soothe your throat and improve blood circulation.

2. Dress-Up Karaoke — Dress up as your favorite singing star and turn your karaoke event into a costume party. You can give prizes for the best performance and best costume. This is a perfect way to celebrate with friends and family, including kids.

3. Host a Karaoke Competition With Friends — Invite your friends to join you for a sing-off. You can award points for excelling in different categories, i.e., song choice, technical performance, stage presence, etc. The winner sings an encore and wins a prize of your choosing.

4. Play Kamikaze Karaoke — This is a group singing game of risk where you only sing songs chosen by someone else. Each person in the group takes a turn having a song chosen for them. Don’t forget, you can always throw a curveball: when it’s your turn, invite your friends to sing a duet, or even put on a group performance.

5. Throw a Themed Karaoke Night — Pick a music theme and invite friends to prepare their favorite tracks within that genre. It could be a category such as Motown, show tunes or ‘90s pop, or you can be more selective and pick a specific band or artist such as The Beatles, Abba or Michael Jackson. So long as you have the music ready, you’re good to go!

You may be thinking at this point — we can’t do any of those things this year. Yes, we can’t be meeting in person, but how about using technology (Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.) to enable the celebration of National Karaoke Week to go on? Buying a karaoke machine might be a pretty smart investment right now, especially if you’re searching for ways to keep kids occupied.

This too shall pass. Try to look at this time as getting the opportunity to enjoy things you usually don’t have time for — like karaoke.

Got any amusing karaoke stories you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear them. And, please adhere to social distancing — it works!

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