Most people credit the invention of karaoke to Japanese businessman Daisuke Inoue in 1971. Awarded the Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard in 2004 for ‘providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other’, his acceptance speech included a karaoke rendition of ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ which won the longest standing ovation in the history of the awards.
Inoue doesn’t own a patent on karaoke, so he’s never made any money from it. However, he has patented a cockroach powder that specifically targets infestations in karaoke machines.
Analysis of the skeletons of our Neanderthal ancestors suggests that far from being the grunting cavemen of popular legend, the high position of the larynx meant they probably had high-pictched feminine voices that they used for singing. Steven Mithen, professor of archaeology at the University of Reading, believes the Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens, danced and sang to communicate complex emotions long before word-based language evolved. Called the 'Hmmm' system of communication, he thinks they may have evolved an even more sophisticated sense of melody and rhythm than modern humans. Interestingly, the hunter-gatherer Mbuti people from the rainforests of central Africa - one of the oldest ethnic human groups on the planet - still use song, dance and mime as their main forms of social expression: visual art is almost unknown.
The oldest form of singing in harmony still performed comes from Laberia, a province in Southern Albania. Little is known about the early inhabitants of the region, except they were warlike sheep-herders who wore white woollen kilts and large puffy sheepskin hats (still popular today). Said to be the same music Homer listened to 2,700 years ago, Laberian singing was also compared to 'sheep bleating' by later Greek historians.
The ritual use of song is described in the Odyssey: when Odysseus is injured whilst out boar hunting, the sons of Autolycus dress his wounds and then sing incantatory songs to stop the bleeding.
Karaoke divides humanity into two groups: those who don’t want to sing and shouldn’t be compelled, and those who do and shouldn’t be allowed.
In the Philippines, at least 6 people have been murdered after singing 'My Way' since 2000. Some karaoke bars now refuse to play the song as it causes too much trouble. Local media refer to the attacks as the '"My Way" killings' and singers are cautious about their song choices. Karaoke singer Rodolfo Gregorio said: 'I used to like "My Way" but, after all the trouble, I stopped singing it…You can get killed.'
In Thailand, the song to be wary of is the John Denver classic, 'Take Me Home, Country Roads'. In 2008, a gunman shot dead 8 of his neighbours after becoming enraged at the noise from karaoke parties at which they sang it.
A 2009 UK government poll of 2,500 adults found the karaoke machine to be the most unpopular gadget ever invented. Kane Kramer, of the British Inventors Society, said in response to the poll: 'When people sing karaoke they are enjoying themselves, but as a member of the audience you are watching somebody who can't perform - and isn't particularly pleasant to listen to - for as long as you can bear it. It is antisocial.’
There are more than 100,000 karaoke bars in China.
Karaoke is abbreviated Japanese for ‘empty orchestra’.
At the 2010 Karaoke World Championships in Moscow, the prize was one million dumplings.
If a thing isn't worth saying, you sing it.
The 4th week in April is National Karaoke Week.
Some karaoke machines in Japan tell the singer how many calories were burnt during their performance.
In Japan you can a hire professional coach to improve your karaoke performance.