An Off-Key Calling: My Experiences With (and the history of) Karaoke
For as long as I can remember, my family has heavily indulged in the loud, festive, and typically off-key activity that is karaoke. In fact, my childhood was filled with parties dedicated to singing our hearts out, where we would eat home-cooked goods and coerce even the most stubborn relatives to perform at least once. These parties are now held less frequently than they were 10 years ago, but my family still drags out our newest setup from time to time (in true karaoke enthusiasm, we’ve gone through around 3 different machines). Though its presence in my life has persisted throughout, it took a while for me to realize that such eager passion for karaoke wasn’t limited to my family, and that the recreation is incredibly widespread among Asian households.
The popularity of karaoke within Asian communities can likely be attributed to the general cultural values of Asian countries – namely, the emphasis of family and community bonding. Following its creation in 1970’s Japan, karaoke machines quickly became a highly sought-after item that would find a place in millions of homes throughout the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and China for the next few decades. Soon after, karaoke rooms emerged, proving popular for people to visit on late nights with friends or after shifts with coworkers. With the large influx of Asian immigrants coming into the US during this time period, so too did the karaoke machines, and it has only gotten more popular since. While it’s difficult to distinguish exactly how karaoke rose to such immense adoration throughout Asia, it has somehow found a way to transcend global borders and become a widely loved pastime.
For me, a recently fond memory regarding karaoke occurred a couple of weeks ago, right as I was about to fall asleep. As I laid in the comfort of my bedsheets, I heard the familiar sound of our karaoke machine turning on in the living room, which was subsequently followed by a “Check, mic check” from my dad. Seconds later, the iconic intro to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You blasted from the speakers, my parents boldly attempting to hit each high note. Despite it being 12:00 AM on a Tuesday night, they continued with more and more songs, and I fell asleep to their music and laughter shortly after they began. Being in the midst of the holiday season, karaoke is a great way to connect with loved ones, whether it be at a party, in the car, or even during the middle of the night. The joy that arises from collectively bad singing is a feeling that I hold near to my heart, and is one I hope everyone can experience for themselves.