Electronic organ and sound system, with manual, Sankei TCH-8800, 'Entertainer', plastic / metal, made by Sankei Manufacturing Co Ltd, Japan, 1978
The Sankei TCH-8800 electronic organ is an early example of a domestic entertainment unit that incorporated functions that supported the growing trend towards karaoke. It provided an all-in-one unit to sing along to pre-recorded music through the machine using external microphones. Although karaoke appears to have developed in Japan during the early 1970s, it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that it became an extremely popular form of entertainment in Australia. This entertainment unit is significant as a relatively early piece (1978) of domestic electronic equipment that was available in Australia and which incorporated some karaoke-like functions.
The sing-along is not a new idea but received a new lease of life with the popularity of karaoke. Karaoke uses the idea of singing to a pre-recorded song which is missing the recorded vocal line and machines that play these types of recordings allow people to follow the lyrics on a screen and sing along via a microphone. Pitch can also be adjusted to suit the singers range. These particular features were not available on the Sankei unit but it was able to input two external microphones that enabled solo and duet singing to either the radio, the cassette player or the keyboard that were part of the unit. Performances could also be recorded onto a cassette recorder or through an external recorder attached to the unit for continued use later. Pre-programmed rhythm tracks stored in the unit could also be added to enhance the performance, a function that continues on modern domestic electronic keyboards.
Singing songs using an artificial machine that both played music and presented the lyrics goes back to the early twentieth century. Player pianos (pianolas) had provided a system of pre-recorded (encoded) music from the 1900s in which the piano played a tune or song from a music roll. Later, song lyrics were printed along the side of the roll, allowing people to sing along by following the words as the roll turned. This basic idea is now a feature of some modern karaoke machines, where the lyrics scroll through on a television screen or monitor.
Curator, music & musical instruments
Manufactured by Sankei Manufacturing Co Ltd in Japan in about 1978. Little information is known about the company and the production numbers. Two advertisements from The Straits Times in Singapore advertising the instrument date from late 1978 and early 1979. The price in Singapore dollars in 1978 as an introductory offer was $750.00. In 1979 the price by hire purchase was about $876.00.
Bought by the donor in a garage sale in Dee Why in mid 2009. Original owner had bought the unit new in the 1970s for domestic use.