By JOE CALLAHAN
people sing because they're dared. Some sing to get away from it
all, even if it's just for three short minutes. Others sing because
they've always dreamed of the day when they would make it to
stardom's main stage.
Karaoke is back in Ocala.
Many bar owners
say slow weeknight business has forced them to provide something
different for their customers in hopes of drawing larger crowds. Some
bars have now added nightly karaoke and even dance clubs have joined
in the phenomenon in an effort to get a piece of the action.
Today, karaoke is
not what it was 10 years ago when it first hit the United States --
years after the Japanese began taking their rice field tradition into nightclubs,
Years ago, karaoke
was simple. There was a karaoke machine -- a speaker box with a
microphone attached -- sitting on stage and singers stood before an
audience of bar-stool jockeys.
But soon people
who packed into the bars to laugh at a friend's rendition of ''Brown
Eyed Girl'' or ''Give Them Something to Talk About,'' faded away from
the karaoke scene because the same people sang the same songs every night.
Though a few bars
continued the tradition despite the fading fascination, most bars
ditched karaoke by about 1995. But karaoke is making a comeback,
thanks to better sound, lights and a bigger choice of music.
In the last few
years disc jockeys have started making karaoke a part of their
repertoire Now, good DJs have a way to keep everyone entertained,
without making patrons feel like a ''Gong Show'' audience.
systems pump out a mixture of dance music under strobe lights and
mirrored disco balls, and singers are carefully woven into the show
to keep everyone from getting bored. In some clubs, singers using
wireless microphones to mingle on the dance floor with revelers.
People blend into the crowd and as the night wears on -- and drinks
are consumed -- patrons really don't know who is singing anymore.
No longer do
patrons attending these new-wave karaoke nights have a chance to sit
on bar stools and grumble under their breath about the
window-breaking screech of wannabe singers who bellow for everyone to enjoy.
Karaoke is now all
about entertainment, without embarrassment.
''If I had to
stand on stage and stare out at all those drunk people, sitting there
looking at me, I would never do it,'' said Johnny Smithson of Kansas,
who was visiting a local dance club and was surprised to find karaoke.
remembers back in 1991, just two years after he started Dooley's
restaurant and lounge on Silver Springs Boulevard, that weeknight
business was extremely slow.
He heard about a
new karaoke fad and decided to try it.
customers became hooked,'' Giza said recently. ''They really loved
singing. Every Tuesday since that first night, I have had karaoke
here. We were probably the first to get it and the only business to
have continued it.''
Giza said when
interest started fading, he was forced to find better disc jockeys,
ones with better sound. A few years later, he was forced to find a
good disc jockey with good sound and strobe lights.
''People want to
dance and have a good time,'' Giza said. ''No longer do they come to
hear people sing. They come to dance. You have to have the thumping
music to keep everyone moving and enjoying themselves.''
karaoke establishments actually have made their entertainment solely karaoke.
restaurant and lounge on Silver Springs Boulevard features karaoke
every night of the week. Gringos in The Villages retirement community
offers karaoke Tuesday through Saturday. Other businesses feature it
several times per week.
But until recently
karaoke was missing from the downtown square.
the hometown restaurant and lounge atmosphere. Lillian's -- which has
since closed -- featured live bands most weekends and The Tin Cup
gives patrons a chance to shoot darts and watch television.
Fired Up features
three floors of different types of dance music, and O'Malley's Alley
features two live bands and a disc jockey most weekends. But for many
establishments, weeknight business has been fading.
recently added Wednesday night boxing to boost poor attendance, Fired
Up added karaoke to its Thursday night agenda. O'Malley's followed
and also offers karaoke on the same night.
Fired Up, most
area residents business owners agreed, seemed like the least likely
establishment to take a stab at the renewed fascination with karaoke.
That's because of its strong dance club theme.
''We wanted to add
karaoke to bring more people in here,'' said Richard Mann, who
started Fired Up several years ago. ''Karaoke is back and I felt we
needed to add it to one of the floors on Thursday night and it's been great.''
But Fired Up's
version of karaoke is slightly different than most bars.
On the third floor
Jeff Drummond and Matt McCracken of Elite Entertainment provide their
on type of ''Star Search''-type stage show. Drummond roams the crowd,
keeping action going all night.
''The idea is to
keep the fun times going for everyone and at the same time allowing
people to get their chance to sing,'' Drummond said. ''That's why
it's better to have two working karaoke to keep everyone involved.''
evening, after playing several up-beat dance songs, Drummond
announced waitress Jessie Rogers, 21 -- who took a break from selling
shots who began singing ''Strawberry Wine.''
''I love to sing,
so I sometimes come upstairs on Thursday nights to sing a song or
two,'' said Rogers. ''For a lot of us, we would love to be doing this
for a living. For now, karaoke is all some of us have.''
The bottom line,
karaoke singers say, it's a way to get into the action.
Karaoke is a
common form of entertainment for Japanese business people. They drop
into a bar with colleagues after work, have a drink, and enjoy
singing popular songs to the accompaniment of karaoke.
Karaoke is a
Japanese abbreviated compound word: "kara" comes from
"karappo" meaning empty, and "oke" is the
abbreviation of "okesutura," or orchestra.
Karaoke has been
entertaining people ever since its invention 20 years ago, and has
become firmly established in Japanese society, going far beyond just
a temporary boom.
Though karaoke was
at first an entertainment mainly for business people, it has grown to
be a nationwide amusement, thanks to technological development and a
new business called the "karaoke box," a small facility
containing closed-door, sound-insulated rooms for singing. They are
advertised as a place where customers can sing to their heart's content.
The first karaoke
box appeared in 1984 in a rice field in the countryside of Okayama
Prefecture, just west of the Kansai area. It was built from a
converted rail freight car.
karaoke boxes have been built all over Japan. In urban areas karaoke
rooms, which consist of compartments made by partitioning and
soundproofing rooms in a building, serve the same purpose.
Taken from an
article found in the Marion Country Star-Banner
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