soundhound appWhen I heard a hummable little ditty during a karaoke session at my local karaoke joint here in southern Taiwan — the song was in Chinese  but the lyrics contained one word in Japanese that started me on this  wild goose chase, as you will see below — I was told by Taiwanese old-timers who knew the song and the melody that they thought it was  actually originally a song from Japan that was translated to Chinese  and made popular by a TV star for the karaoke market.

By the way, did you know that karaoke is actually pronounced in Japanese as “karah-okay” and not as Jay Leno and Jon Stewart  mispronounce it as “carry-okie”? Yes, and the word is actually two Japanese characters which stand for “empty” — kara as in kara-te, or karate, which means “empty hands” — and “okay” which is a  Japanese-English way of shortening the English word “orchestra” to “orkay” and then to just “okay.” So kara-oke acutally means “empty orchestra.” Interesting.

Now back to my Internet search for this karaoke song I heard in Taiwan of which I wanted to find the original Japanese version, if one existed. So I emailed my friends Satoru and Mitsuko in Tokyo and they replied: “Dear Daniel, We’ve found a special app  from the Apple Store here in Tokyo (for iPhone) that is able to identify a song by just hearing the melody. We have installed the application, so we will try it with your song from Taiwan. Is it really originally a song from Japan in Japanese that was translated and re-released in Taiwan? Will let you know the result later and soon.”

The song is titled ”牽K耐” in Taiwan. Satoru and Mitsuko wrote to me a few days later with this news: ”This song sounds very familiar to us. Sounds like a Japanese enka song… We think it is from Japan. Let us have more time to find the song.”

And then, a day later, the results came in: “Dear Daniel, We would like to tell you what our song-identifying app has found out. The result is that  the song is not from Japan. It is a Taiwanese song or Chinese song. The application, named ‘SoundHound,’ is wonderful.  You just need to place the device near a sound player. We placed our SoundHound near our computer playing the YouTube that you attached in your email. Then, the SoundHound app immediately told us that the song must be ‘牽K耐’ by showing the title on the screen. It is a really wonderful, amazing app. It’s free of charge.”


  1. SOUND HOUND office is telling me today: “This now ranks as one of my favorite articles ever written about Sound Hound – thanks for capturing the magic.


    Funny timing as I literally just saw this article come through on our Twitter feed. I have to agree with Katie, it’s an outstanding story!


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