While in Asia, do as the Asians and over here that means one thing: karaoke. Even in the most rural village in Vietnam, it’s almost impossible to walk down the street without hearing the distant sound of a tone-deaf k-pop aficionado, no Dutch courage necessary. Maybe it’s one of the better-known word origin stories but I couldn’t stay here without giving the continent’s favourite pastime a mention.

Karaoke comes from the Japanese words kara from karappo which means ‘empty’ and oke, a clipped from of okesutura which literally means ‘orchestra’. So karaoke is an empty orchestra because the songs are recorded without the voice of the singer.

The fad allegedly started when a singer failed to turn up to their scheduled performance in a bar in Japan. To solve the lack of entertainment, the bar owner played the backing track and encouraged the customers to sing along.

Others say that karaoke started in the 1970s when Daisuke Inoue, a Japanese singer, recorded his songs and recorded it for people to sing along too.

On the other hand, karaoke may come from Asia but the world record for the greatest number of people singing karaoke at one time, 120,000 people in fact, belongs to Robbie Williams in the UK and the record for the longest karaoke marathon of 1,295 songs, lasting 101 hours, 59 minutes and 15 seconds, was set by Leonardo Polverelli, an Italian. So it seems it’s not just Asians but the everyone else too who have a soft spot for a bit of a sing-song.


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