A Brief History of Karaoke: Where did it All Come From

If you’re into karaoke, then you’ve probably wondered at some point where it all actually came from. Here’s a brief history of karaoke, how it was invented, by who, where and how it became so popular. 

Karaoke Timeline

history of karaoke

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What Country Does Karaoke Come From?

Karaoke is said to have originally come from Japan and simply refers to an amateur singer singing along to an instrumental of music. It’s rumoured to have first originated at a snack bar in Japan where there was a performer booked in but was unable to perform. So the snack bar owner instead played some recorded instrumentals and invited customers to sing instead. 

Why is it called Karaoke?

Since karaoke originated in Japan, it’s no surprise that the word is derived from two Japanese words. 

  • “Kara” comes from the word “karappo”, which means empty or void.
  • “Oke” comes from the word “okesutra” which means orchestra. 

A Japanese entertainment invented the word karaoke after their orchestra went on strike and a machine was used to play the music instead. 

Who Invented the Karaoke Machine?

So we know that karaoke was first invented in Japan by a snack bar owner, but who actually invented the karaoke machine?

The Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue invented the karaoke machine in Japan in 1971. Inoue was a keyboard artist who used to play drums and piano as backing music in  a club so singers to sing alone. He was invited to join someone on a trip to play music, but declined the invitation and sent an instrumental tape so they could perform alone. He then went on to inventing the first karaoke machine called the 8 Juke. It features a stereo, amplifier, coin machine and microphone. 

So why do people think that it was a Filipino invention?

Well, the Karaoke Sing Along System, the first patented karaoke machine, was invented by a Filipino, Robert Del Rosario. The well-renowned inventor, who had 20 patents to his name, actually patented the karaoke machine in 1975. 

Unfortunately, the original creator Inoue never patented his idea, so was not credited with it’s initial invention financially. However, he did receive an IG Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for his invention. He was also named one of the “Most Influential Asians of the Century” by Time Magazine. 

When did Karaoke Become Popular?

The karaoke machine became a huge hit in Japan in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, after huge companies like Toshiba, Polydor and Columbia began to produce karaoke material. It then became popular in America following the opening of the first karaoke bar in LA in 1982. 

Karaoke became more popular at home following the invention of video cassettes by Pioneer in 1982 and compact disks from Sony. However, in Japan, they did not have adequate sound proofing to be able to perform at home properly. Consequently, they started to build Karaoke Boxes, which were rooms specifically designed for karaoke with better sound proofing. More professionally made Karaoke Boxes were then introduced into bars in the 1990’s. 

Modern Karaoke

The popularity of karaoke has grown over the world since then. The growth of brands like Singing Machine, Karaoke USA and ION audio has facilitated a huge development in the quality of karaoke machines, particularly for home use. 

There has also been a revolution in terms in the karaoke instrumental formats, transitioning in the last decade from CD+G to online solutions like karaoke apps and YouTube.  Karaoke has become even more popular due to this development in technology that has led to more advanced ways of playing karaoke at home using just smart devices and all-in-one karaoke microphones. 

Karaoke World Championships

Karaoke has become so popular since the start of the millennium that there is now a Karaoke World Championships! It originated in Finland in 2003 and involved 7 countries but has now grown to 30 countries. 

It’s held annually and begins with national trials in every country and the winners are then put forward to the international finals. There were 2 awards given until 2017, for the best male and female singer. Now there is also a duet category and the gender categories have since been removed. There was also a junior category in 2017. Interested in competing? Here are the participating countries. 

  • Australia
  • Angola
  • Azerbaijan Republic
  • Belarus
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Estonia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Latvia
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Moldova
  • Myanmar
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Panamá
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Sweden
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States Of America
  • Vietnam

Fun Karaoke Facts

Now you know a bit about the history of karaoke, here are some fun facts!

  • The most requested karaoke song of all time is Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.
  • There are more than 100,000 karaoke boxes in Japan. 
  • The Philippines has the most at home-karaoke boxes in the world.
  • There are over 100,000 karaoke bars in China alone.
  • The world record for the longest karaoke performance ever was 456 hours, 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
  • Leonardo Polverelli holds the world record for the longest karaoke session lasting 101 hours, 59 minutes and 15 seconds where he sung 1,295 songs in 4 days straight. 
  • The largest number of people performing karaoke in a group at the same time was 160,000. 
  • The Karaoke World Championships were established in 2003 and originated in Finland.
  • The global Karaoke market is worth approximately $10 billion.

What are the Most Popular Karaoke Songs?

There are plenty of karaoke songs that we’ve heard a million times before. Here are the most popular karaoke songs of all time. 

  • Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
  • Dancing Queen by Abba
  • Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
  • Angels by Robbie Williams
  • Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
  • I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston
  • Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
  • Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
  • Wannabe by the Spice Girls
  • Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
  • Like a Prayer by Madonna
  • Hey Jude by the Beatles
  • Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen
  • Love Shack by the B-52s
  • I Love Rock N’ Roll by Joan Jett
  • Summer Nights by the Grease cast
  • Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

Now you know a bit more about the history of karaoke! Thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:

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