All together now

<strong>Karaoke: the global phenomenon</strong>

Zhou Xun and Francesca Tarocco<br /><em>Reaktion,

Before you scoff at this title, bear in mind that we are, apparently, a “karaoke people”. The winners

of the first Karaoke World Championships, held in Finland in 2003, were Brits.

Zhou Xun and Francesca Tarocco trace the history of karaoke from its emergence in postwar Japan to its spread through east Asia and saunas in Russia, hotels in Brussels and churches in Britain and America. They peek into KTV rooms in China and nude karaoke in Toronto, providing listings and over 60 photographs and illustrations. They also examine how karaoke has become an integral part of the sex tourism industry in Thailand and Indonesia, and how in Burma karaoke VCDs have aided the revival of the ancient Mon language and culture.

Their book is not, they are keen to stress, a Lonely Planet guide to televised singalong. Karaoke, just like disease or tourism, is a lens through which broader global trends can be explored. And indeed, with a robust bibliography of sociocultural studies, this book has the air of rigorous academic inquiry. But the writers are also paid-up members of the fan club – in China, they tell us, while “a few pretentious middle-class urban professionals go to Starbucks, real people go to karaoke”.

This article first appeared in the 28 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Gaza: The jailed state