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Karaoke progenitor’s legacy remains in Vietnam

Karaoke progenitor’s legacy remains in Vietnam

Sunday, March 31, 2024, 12:20 GMT+7
Karaoke progenitor’s legacy remains in Vietnam
Shigeichi Negishi, the progenitor of karaoke -- one of Asia's favorite pastimes, standing with Sparko Box, the world’s very first karaoke machine. Photo: Kotaku

The man known as the progenitor of karaoke, a pastime popularized all over the continent of Asia including Vietnam, Shigeichi Negishi recently passed away at age 100, although his legacy, both the good and bad, lives on.

On March 16, Japan announced the death of Negishi, an engineer who was credited for building the first karaoke machine in the world.

It was reported that his death resulted from the sequelae of a recent fall.

Karaoke culture in Vietnam

It was not until 1990 that karaoke came to Vietnam following this country’s developing relations with Japan.

A man (R) sings karaoke while a group of other men sit around a large spread of food in a residential home. Photo: AFP

A man (R) sings karaoke while a group of other men sit around a large spread of food in a residential home in Vietnam. Photo: AFP

As the two nations built a diplomatic and economic partnership, the popularity of karaoke skyrocketed among all ages and social classes of Vietnam and karaoke bars can be found anywhere, from cities to the countryside.

Unfortunately, karaoke has become synonymous with noise pollution in Vietnam.

Karaoke singers causing a racket in public is a common issue, often due to irresponsible karaoke services failing to provide adequate soundproofing.

Some households may contribute to the problem by hosting their own karaoke sessions at home.

Negishi invented karaoke to be a fun activity that brings people closer together through a love of singing, but instead it is tearing a rift between people of the same villages or neighborhoods.

Despite the Vietnamese government having implemented a decree that bans loud karaoke singing in residential areas after 10:00 pm since 2022, the problem persists.

Singing machine invented by lousy singer

Before inventing karaoke, Negishi ran an electronics company from which he acquired ample experience with machinery.

A collage that consists of a picture showing Sparko Box from the front, and a close up of Sparko Box’s system of buttons. Photo: Kotaku

A collage that consists of a picture showing Sparko Box from the front and a close-up of Sparko Box’s system of buttons. Photo: Kotaku

By the account of the engineer himself, the idea for the very first karaoke machine stemmed from a memorable incident, when a colleague of Negishi's criticized him for being bad at singing.

This led to Negishi deciding to build a machine that can play background music to support the vocal and help the singer stay on beat with the music.

The world’s first karaoke machine was created in 1967 and was named Sparko Box.

The original karaoke machine had a very simple framework, consisting of a device like a speaker that could be easily carried around and a microphone connected to it.

On top of the speaker are a rectangular hole for tape, a knob for volume control, tone balance, tone control, and a coin slot.

Negishi could have made a huge amount of money from this invention, but he stopped improving the Sparko Box machine and did not patent its invention.

A woman sings karaoke with the assistance of a modern karaoke machine. Photo: The National

A woman sings karaoke with the assistance of a modern karaoke machine. Photo: The National

Many Japanese speculated that the initial mixed reception of Sparko Box had made him weary.

Bands and singers of that time, who felt that Sparko Box was a threat to their careers, rallied their fans to boycott the machine and refused to play at venues where this machine was installed.

Furthermore, concerns were raised about Negishi’s invention as a source of public noise pollution.

On the business side of things, juggling both goods distribution and repair service proved to be challenging for a small company like his at the time.

Two people enjoy a full-packaged modern karaoke service, usually including a karaoke machine, a sound-proof room, and an assortment of food and drinks. Photo: KokoroVJ

Two people enjoy a full-packaged modern karaoke service, usually including a karaoke machine, a soundproof room, and an assortment of food and drinks. Photo: KokoroVJ

The Sparko Box venture ultimately failed and Negishi left the playing field to big electronics corporations.

However, experts who study modern world history and Japanese both recognize him as the true father of karaoke.

Negishi has inspired generations of Japanese people on how they can turn a small idea into a global cultural icon.

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Hanh Chu - To Cuong / Tuoi Tre News

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