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According to Wikipedia, “Karaoke” is derived from the Japanese words “kara” which is short for karano, meaning “empty,” and “oke” which is short for okesutora, which means “orchestra.”

The words combined literally mean “empty orchestra” which implies the function of a karaoke machine, music minus one (to borrow a phrase from jazz practice nomenclature)–musical accompaniment without the singer.

Who Invented the Karaoke Machine?

Daisuke InoueIn 1999, TIME Magazine named Daisuke Inoue, the inventor of the karaoke machine, to its list of “The Most Influential Asians of the Century.”

Karaoke, whether you love it or hate it, is a multi-billion dollar industry. So, Mr. Inoue made a mega-fortune, right?

Uh, no. Unfortunately, Inoue failed to patent his device and made virtually no money from its subsequent world-wide popularity. By his own admission, the inventor of one of the most popular forms of entertainment in history (much to the chagrin of performing musicians!) was never good on the follow-thru of his ideas. He told TIME, “After I make something, I always become the worst at it. I’m good at nurturing and training others, but my students always end up surpassing me and making more than I do.”

In the case of the Karaoke Machine…A LOT MORE.

Inoue’s invention grew out of his and his bandmates frequent live accompaniment of “middle-aged businessmen who wanted to sing traditional country [in clubs].

One client, the president of a small steel company, grew especially devoted to Inoue’s slow, follow-along style, which showed off the executive’s out-of-time warblings to perfection. When he asked Inoue to play for him on an overnight trip to a hot springs resort, the drummer–unable to leave his job–obliged by providing him with a tape of his accompaniment…and karaoke…was born. —TIME