What is Karaoke? And why at the AALL Annual Meeting?

Beginning with the 1997 meeting in Baltimore a small group had found a karaoke bar and listened to at least one of the group attempt a song or two. In 2001 the event became officially sponsored by the Computing Services Special Interest Section and there were 25 in attendance, several of whom sang their own rendition of familiar songs. For those of you not familiar with karaoke, in Japanese it means “without orchestra,” or at least that is what web sites and urban legend say.

Of course, you can check out the Wikipedia entry. The singer reviews the venue’s selection list, picks out the song he or she wants to attempt, and waits for the turn to play pop, Broadway musical, or opera star while the music and lyrics are provided by a karaoke machine. Well, maybe not opera. Without consulting any reference sources beyond my own memory, I can tell you the concept first became popular in the U.S. in the 1980′s, faded for a little while, and has been enjoying a resurgence here since 1994. If you need a primer, rent the video of “Duets,” the 2000 movie starring Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow. The pair teamed up on “Baby Let’s Cruise,” earlier a hit for Smoky Robinson as “Cruisin.” But one need not be as talented as that star duo. Karaoke singers range from the truly great, who regularly enter and win contests; to the truly awful, who enjoy singing in front of an audience and who equally enjoy an audience who is relaxed – or slightly intoxicated – enough to not object to any and all comers. In addition to Ken Hirsh, previous AALL singers have included Tori Trotta and George Pike, along with many others. The 2009 excursion to Cafe Japone in Washington, D.C. brought out more than 75 attendees, and many new singers in the group.  We had a slightly smaller group but just as much fun in Denver in 2010.