I’ve not only been a victim of bad karaoke singing over the past few years, I’ve been an instigator at various family parties (my younger son cannot carry a tune). While there are more than enough karaoke bars in the downtown areas of most cities, people usually rent karaoke machines and do their singing outdoors in the rural and suburban areas. Not all the time, of course. Karaoke singing is usually reserved for birthdays and other special occasions. Filipinos, however, can create special occasions if they really want to sing. In those cases, it’s usually something they do to go along with a session of heavy drinking.
The Karaoke Invention
Karaoke was invented in the US. AudioSynTrac (a US-based company) offered sing-along tapes and audio equipment in the 1970s. When some Japanese electronics companies saw the products introduced at computer and electronic shows, they copied the concept and then invented the word “karaoke”.
Roberto del Rosario, a Filipino inventor, holds the patent for what is commonly known as the “karaoke machine“. Following a court battle with a Japanese company that claimed to have invented it, del Rosario was issued patents in 1983 and 1986.
Karaoke Machine Rentals and Specialty Microphones
The karaoke machines people rent are huge boxes containing a television, audio equipment and a control panel that resembles something you would expect at a video game arcade (enlarge the picture to see what I mean – that’s one of my nieces). The speakers are included, but sometimes plugged in separately. A computer controls the song list and the video on the hard drive, which has thousands of sing along songs.
My wife bought a “WOW Magic Sing” karaoke microphone in 2006. That kind of microphone looks like any other microphone except that it has a control panel on one side. If you open it up, you’ll see places where song cartridges can be plugged in. The standard mikes have a limited number of songs included on the chip and the cartridges are a way to extend that number.
Filipino Karaoke Singing
I don’t have anything against people bringing out the karaoke machines and singing on special occasions. There are a couple of things that bother me though.
Nighttime is for sleeping, not for listening to others practice karaoke. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been kept awake by karaoke machines blaring in the neighborhood at all hours of the night because I lost count a long time ago. I can’t say that thoughtfulness and respect for the sleeping go hand in hand with talent, because it’s not always the case.
The most annoying thing is that a lot of people who have absolutely no singing talent can’t be helped by karaoke machines. Add excessive alcohol use to the mix and it gets even worse. Some people sing so badly that it actually hurts my ears. In fact, the men all start sounding alike (horrible) after a few hours of drinking.
I don’t know if my poor ears will be able to handle it if karaoke machines ever get as ubiquitous as regular televisions. Here’s an interesting and related blog post: In the Philippines, We Take Karaoke Seriously
Nevertheless, there are a lot of talented singers mixed in with the untalented and I really enjoy listening to them during the daytime. I’ve been told that I have a lot of singing talent (singing in Tagalog vs. English, no less) but unfortunately, I have to have a few drinks in me to loosen up enough to enjoy singing (and I rarely drink these days).
[Image Source: My camera. It's one of my many nieces.]