When most Westerners people hear the phrase ‘karaoke’ it evokes one emotion…fear. It conjures the image of a crowded bar, everyone’s eyes on you, watching, judging as you attempt to summon the courage to begin singing publically. Sweat pours down your brow as you hope and pray that you won’t clear the place out. It seems that the phrase ‘I couldn’t sing in front of people!!’ follows on from the notion of karaoke like a Pavlovian response.
Fortunately in Japan, most of Asia, and increasingly the rest of the world karaoke is done in a different way to the stereotypical neurosis educing nightmare scenario described above. Of course those public karaoke establishments still exist all over the world but often more popular are the ‘karaoke boxes’ (カラオケボックス) or private karaoke rooms. Before we delve into these though, let’s take a look at the history of karaoke.
Karaoke (カラオケ), which literally means ‘empty orchestra’, is the practice of amateur singers singing over backing tracks to popular songs that have had the lead vocals removed. The origin of the karaoke machine is debated, with Japan and the Philippines both claiming to have invented the practice, it appears karaoke developed almost simultaneously in both countries. The Japanese originator of the practice was Daisuke Inoue (井上 大佑) who invented the karaoke machine and began renting them to bars around Kobe, Japan in the late 70s. Since then the practice caught on like wildfire across Asia and began making an impact into Western culture in the late 80s through to the 90s; when it became common place to find bars holding karaoke nights. This is where the often cited nightmare at the beginning of this article developed. So what are these karaoke boxes and how do they differ from the karaoke bars of old?
Karaoke boxes (also known as KTV or K) are private karaoke rooms which often hold between 6 and 20 people, although 6-10 is probably the standard size of a typical room. There are usually multiple rooms within a single establishment so you and your friends can sing in private without the embarrassment of having to sing in front of strangers. The room itself usually contains sofas, a table, the karaoke equipment and microphones. Drinks and food are normally available as well to encourage a social atmosphere and to help with any anxiety you may have about singing, even if it’s just in front of your friends.
We at Geordie Japan can’t get enough of karaoke, it really is that much fun and once you get into it, you’re bound to be singing well into the early hours of the morning. It can look expensive at first but when you consider you will be splitting the cost probably at least 4 ways it becomes much more affordable. But where can you try these private karaoke rooms in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne?
Here are a selection of the karaoke rooms in Newcastle, let us know what others you would recommend in the comments below!
So why not give it a go, you never know, you might just enjoy it!