2003 – How it all began
The first Karaoke World Championships event (KWC) was held in Heinola, Finland, in 2003. The amazing Summertheatre of Heinola, surrounded by the beautiful nature of Finland, had the honour of hosting the very first KWC event. The weather was perfect throughout the entire event with everyone enjoying their share of the lovely sunshine. During the four days, circa 10 000 visitors witnessed the KWC event. Popular Finnish singer, Jari Sillanpää, was the star of the opening show.
The first KWC event had participants from seven countries. England had reason to celebrate with both Champion titles awarded to their singers – Danni Cadby in the women’s category and Uche Eke in the men’s category.
14 countries participated in 2004 as the world started to learn more about KWC and the KWC event. The competition remained in Heinola’s beautiful Summertheatre in Finland. The summer of 2004 was very rainy and unfortunately KWC 2004 was no exception – it rained every day during the event. In 2004, Finland saw its highest rainfall since 1914.
Regardless of the rain, KWC 2004 was a success. The singers enjoyed themselves and the audience was pleased with what they saw. Finnish performers Marion Rung and Viktor Klimenko opened show. The number of participating countries had doubled and the competition was more exciting and tougher. Samantha Sayegh, Lebanon and Thomas Strübler, Austria were crowned the World Champions of 2004.
KWC continued to grow in 2005 as 21 countries took part in the event in Heinola’s Summertheatre. The organizers were nervous about the weather after last year’s rainfall. Rain greeted Heinola on the morning of the opening day but as the day progressed, the sun shone through just in time for the start of the event. Warm and sunny weather continued for the rest of the event.
This year’s event was extended to include more feature shows. Top Finnish rock band, Virve Rosti, opened the show with their entertaining brand of popular Finnish & English rock. Finland’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest 2005, Geir Rönning, then entertained the crowd before the Scandinavian Hunks Show took to the stage.
Friday night saw Australian band, “Thunder From Down Under” performing their Australian comedy cabaret show with the female dancing group, the Lamourettes Show, dazzling the stage on Saturday night.
The competition for the title of World Champion was again very tight with the rankings of each singer varying after each round. To become World Champion, singers needed to master five different songs with the points of all five songs calculated together. Rachel Brown, Ireland and Iyad Sfeir, Lebanon were crowned the World Champions for 2005.
Karaoke fans from all over the world filled the cruise ship, M/S Galaxy, for the fourth annual Karaoke World Championships – 8th – 10th September, 2006. Passengers had the opportunity to visit both Finland and Estonia with the international atmosphere of KWC 2006 offering a magnificent program for everyone. There were several places for the general public to test their karaoke singing skills – ‘Heavy Karaoke’ was performed in the disco with general karaoke in the other bars. You could even grab the mike while relaxing in the sauna and jump into the pool while singing karaoke! General karaoke was so popular that singers had to queue for several hours to wait their turn.
A Finnish TV crew joined KWC 2006 to record the hit TV Show, “Grab The Mike” – a show where people sing karaoke and celebrities from the music industry try to guess what song they are singing.
Once again, the standard of the KWC singers was very high. The crowd were delighted and the KWC Jury had a very difficult job selecting the winners. All of the singers performed their first song in the evening on Friday, 8th September, with their second song being performed the following afternoon. Eventually, the pool of singers were then narrowed down to the top 15 men and top 15 women before the finals began. After each round, five (5) men and five (5) women were eliminated until eventually the top five (5) men and top five (5) women remained for the final round. Songs were performed throughout the competition in many different languages including English, Swedish, Estonian, Polish, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian.
After the final rounds on the Saturday night, the KWC 2006 winners were announced. Tham Hui Chyi from Malaysia won the female category with Mark Wilson from Australia winning the male category. Mark was very touched by his victory, expressing it with tears of happiness. Being a part of the KWC 2006 event was an experience in itself for Mark as he had never travelled outside of his home country before. Both Mark & Tham Hui Chyi received a trip to the following year’s KWC event as a part of their wonderful prize package.
The announcement of the host country for KWC 2007 was made just before the KWC 2006 Victory Ceremony with Thailand being given the honours. Also responsible for the organisation of ‘Miss Universe’ in 2005, Team Thailand enticed the audience with their presentation of an event that would be full of shimmer and shine in Bangkok.
In 2007, the Karaoke World Championships were held for the very first time in Asia.
The Karaoke World Championships 2007 were held in Bangkok, Thailand at the Suan Lum Bangkok Night Bazaar – a shopping mecca for tourists that provided an audience of thousands for the singers. In the true team spirit of KWC, all of the singers supported each other along the way. Mark Wilson, KWC 2006 Karaoke World Champion and Australian Champion, was invited to Thailand as a special guest to perform his winning songs and to hand over his crown.
One of the most thrilling moments of KWC history was the moment the crowd waited for the results on that humid Bangkok night. It was up to the judges as to who the new Karaoke World Champions would be. After a final performance of ‘One Moment In Time’ from Mark Wilson before handing over his crown, the announcements started with 5th place. Austria’s Corina Susanna Mitchell was announced in the female section and Hungary’s Gabor Erdelyi in the male section. 4th place went to Sweden’s Tina Fischer in the female section with Finland’s own ‘Patrick Swayze’ look-a-like, Juha Karvonen in the male section. 3rd place honours went to Hungary’s Gabriella Lukacs in the female section and Ireland’s David Naughton in the male section.
It was now down to the top two – Ireland & Australia in the women’s section and USA & Malaysia in the men’s section. The tension mounted as everyone sat on the edge of their seat. The remaining four contestants were asked what their KWC experience was like.
The time finally arrived for the announcement of the 2nd place winner in the female section. Cameras and flags at the ready, the Irish contingent leapt to their feet as their representative, Vanessa Cooney was announced in second place. The Australians also began cheering as it also meant that their representative, Julie Walter-Sgro, had won the female section of the Karaoke World Championships 2007. Michael Moses from the USA was announced as the runner up in the male section, leaving Lu Hee Wah from Malaysia to take the honours.
It was now time to present to the world the new Karaoke World Champions for 2007 – Julie Walter-Sgro from Australia & Kelvin Lu Hee Wah from Malaysia. The international crowd cheered as they received their trophies and the traditional final ritual began. Everyone joined in to sing ‘We Are The World’ as microphones were passed around and hands and flags in the audience were raised. Our new world champions then performed their winning songs. Julie started her reign with ‘I Believe In You & Me’ while Kelvin indulged the audience one more time with his extraordinary performance of ‘I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You’.
The aftershow party continued on in the foyer of the hotel with an impromptu performance around the piano. The staff were more than obliging, reopening the bar and allowing the revellers from around the world to party until dawn. Early morning guests on their way to breakfast were also treated to an impromptu performance.
KWC 2007 in a nutshell – Daytime, there was shopping to be done but at night time, Bangkok came alive with the sound of music from around the world. Over two nights & five elimination rounds, the competition heated up with the top five men and women competing to the end with Australia & Malaysia both scooping the pool for a second year in a row. With celebrations continuing on into the early hours of the morning and impromptu performances around the piano back at the hotel, KWC 2007 will be one to remember.
KWC 2008 was The sixth annual Karaoke World Championship Event. KWC Organization, Eastway and Lahden Messut hopes that everyone enjoyed the three days of karaoke and togetherness. The international community crowned a new male and female karaoke champion. Michael Bates of Australia and Juliet Gonnet of France are the reigning karaoke champions succeeding Julie Walter-Sgro of Australia and Lu Hee Wah of Malaysia. The winners receive studio time to record a single and an international recording deal with IVK Music. Immediately after the announcement, Michael and Juliet were both given an mp3 player with a brand new song written especially for each of the winners to record. While Juliet will travel back to Finland to record her song, Michael had 12 hours to learn his.
Karaoke World Champions for 2008: Juliet Gonnet, France and Michael Bates, Australia.
The lavish event was held in the newly built Lahti Hall, a 45,000 sq. ft. convention hall complete with three karaoke restaurants offering various music themes (pop, rock, classic) and languages. Professional bands provided dance music and food and drink was served until the wee hours of the morning. These accoutrements made for the perfect three night party, and the largest celebration of karaoke the world has ever seen.
First runner up in female category is Elaine O’Halloran, Ireland. First runner up in male category is Anthony Garcia, Great Britain.
Second runner ups are Jasmin Khatib-Nia, Sweden and Medhanie Mezgebe, Sweden.
The grand opening ceremony was officiated by the Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Hitoshi Honda, and featured an award ceremony, performances by the 2007 karaoke champions, and performances by two of Finland’s biggest pop stars; Tomi Markkola and Arja Koriseva. Tomi’s best American equivalent is probably Clay Aiken. Arja, a stunning woman, has 15 albums under her belt, and a long list of television and movie appearances, similar to a Whitney Houston. There were three prestigious awards presented on the night for 5 years of cooperation to KWC Ireland, Mr. Jouko Skinnari and Karaoke Service Finland.
The second night launched the beginning of the karaoke heats. Forty contestants (20 men and 20 women) were randomly separated into two groups, with each group performing two songs. Eighty songs later, and well into the night (about 11pm Finnish time) the top 10 male and female finalists were announced. On the third and final night, the remaining 20 contestants were again divided into two groups to perform two songs, after which the judges announced the top five singers. The remaining ten singers perform one final song after which the top three male and female finalists are announced. The event culminates with the anointing of the new champs in a ceremony that is part American Idol and part Olympics, as the winners are announced by the country that they represent, their flags are draped around them and they sing with all the joy and emotion of any Idol winner.
And thus starts a new Karaoke World Championship year, and a chance for all of those would be karaoke champions, with a glimmer in their eye, and a song in their hearts, to go for the 2009 KWC title.
The international finals were held September 11 & 12, 2009. The time had arrived for singers from over 32 different countries to converge on the township of Lahti, Finland for the world’s biggest karaoke event of the year.
After Thursday’s informal meet & greet cocktail party and the karaoke doused Official Launch Party, the competition began on Friday at Lahti’s premier entertainment venue, the 1000 seater, Lahti Hall. All competitors took to the stage for the first round.
Saturday – The top ten started to stand out as each singer performed their second song. With eliminations beginning after the second round, it was their last chance to make an impression. With only the top 10 men and top 10 women competing in the third round, the competition was starting to heat up. Playing it safe over the first two rounds, the top ten were now showing everyone what they were really made of, hitting highs never before seen at KWC. This year’s talent was extremely high. The judges had a tough decision before them.
As the top 5 men and top 5 women were announced, Australia, Panama, Russia, Ireland and Finland stepped on the stage in the women’s section with Lebanon, Ireland, Finland, Poland and Austria battling it out in the men’s. It was now down to the wire.
With the points from all performances contributing towards the final score, it wasn’t necessarily the best final song that would win. It was anyone’s game. After an eclectic array of performances and in particular, an extremely strong performance in the third round of Celine Dion’s, ‘All By Myself’, Nataliya Pilyutina from Russia pipped the title in the women’s section, giving Australia’s Dina David the silver medal and Finland’s, Jenni Roth, the bronze.
Ireland’s, Adrian Kenny stole the show in the men’s section with his renditions of ‘Hallelujah’, ‘I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again’, ‘Purple Rain’ and the Eurovision winner, ‘Fairytale’. Now, there’s a voice to keep an eye out for. Sami Muhonen from Finland won the silver with Elie Hatem from Lebanon receiving the bronze.
Both category winners will be heading back to Finland in the very near future to record an album with IVK Music. After the success of his debut single, Australia’s 2008 champ, Michael Bates, started recording his new album while in Finland for KWC 2009.
The trip of a lifetime awaited the singers as they jetted off to Moscow, Russia to compete against singers from nearly 30 different countries in the karaoke event of the year in September, 2010.
The party began with the official launch party at Club Duets, Moscow’s top karaoke club on Wednesday night, where the singers, KWC country partners and the organizers mingled and met with other competitors and organisers from around the world. After the official speeches, the official performance order draw took place for the first two rounds of competition. The singers drew lucky numbers for their first and second performance. The night continued with karaoke into the wee hours in three separate, opulent karaoke rooms with amazing sound systems as singers relaxed before the first big day of competition.
Thursday morning the singers made their way to the official venue, Forum Hall, for sound check and last minute preparations. Rehearsals were also underway for the group performance of ‘We Are The World’ – the official KWC anthem. The excitement of the upcoming event was building.
The Russians didn’t disappoint with their opening production featuring a choreographed drumming routine to awaken the senses. The room looked like a palace. The lighting and stage production that was set for each performer had them feeling like superstars. This was the world finals of the Karaoke World Championships.
31 singers took to the stage that night, each showing a diverse range of entertainment. This was going to be a tough competition.
Day two and each singer had the chance to show their versatility with their second song. Forum Hall stage saw phenomenal displays of lung capacity and touching moments with heartbreaking ballads being sung by the international line-up of the most professional amateur singers in the world.
Saturday and day three – with the talent pool now narrowed down to the top ten men and women the competition was heating up. Round three would be the make or break round. Only five men and five women would progress through to the next round.
The Russian opening entertainment took to the stage with traditional folk singing and dancing that had the crowd on their feet. Thomas N’evergreen, one half of Danish duo ‘Chanée & N’evergreen’, performed Denmark’s 2010 Eurovision entry, ‘In A Moment Like This’.
Now it was down to the wire. The competition was strong. A place in the top five was an achievement within itself. The finalists sang and danced with their supporters as the world’s film crews looked on.
Everyone waited in anticipation for the announcement. The talent level was so high, it was anyone’s game. 2011 was to be Finland’s year, for the first time in KWC history, as they took out both the male and female categories. Russia took out a double second place with USA winning the bronze for the women and Austria for the men.
Edward Pimental from the USA won the audience vote and was awarded 1,000,000 pelmenies, a very tasty traditional Russian dumpling – enough to feed him everyday for 27 years.
In the summer of 2011, many karaoke singers around the world found themselves on the journey of a lifetime as they prepared to represent their countries at the world finals of the Karaoke World Championships in Killarney, Ireland in September 2011.
All of them had gone through the local preliminary heats for the Karaoke World Championships and had some tough competition in the National Grand Finals. Everybody is out there with only one thing in their mind – to represent their country at the world finals.
But only one male and one female per participating country could charm the audience and the judges, walking away with the trophy and securing their place in KWC history.
After the national finals, each singer found found themselves on the Emerald Isle, performing on the world stage at the Ireland National Entertainment Centre in Killarney, Ireland and meeting people with the same passion for music and singing from over 30 different countries.
After a night out on the town in Dublin and a few Guinnesses to settle into the new time zone, the teams boarded the train to Killarney, affectionately dubbed the KWC train as most of them joined other KWC parties from around the world.
The Backstage Bar was host to the official launch party where all the participating countries had the chance to meet and socialise with other contestants from around the world. After the official draw, the party was on with karaoke into the night.
The walk from the hotel to venue was short and sweet with the accommodation and venue all featured within the one complex. Thursday morning saw rehearsals for the first round to help calm the nerves of each competitor before their big debut on the world stage.
Local Killarney legend, Liam O’Connor, opened the show with a true Irish spectacular.
Listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as having the fastest fingers in the world and having toured the world as an original cast member of ‘Lord Of The Dance’, Liam O’Connor entranced the audience with his vibrant and energetic show featuring irish dancers, musicians and, of course, Liam’s fast accordian playing.
According to the draw, the competitors started their performances in order to charm the crowd as well as the judges. With 43 singers competing in this year’s event, the competition was red hot and tough.
Day two and all contestants returned for their second round performances. All the singers got to perform on the second round, which meant that they had to leave a lasting impression. All of the songs gained appreciative cheers and support from the audience with many joining in and singing along.
At the end of the night, the top ten male and female singers were announced in preparation for the third round on day three. After the nail biting announcement for qualifiers to the third round the singers made their way back to the hotel for a well earned rest to prepare for the following day.
On the last day of the competition it was time to pull out the big guns. The top 20 singers who had made to the third round all delivered staggering performances that are on the par with many international entertainers. The audience loved them and after the last singer, the decision was up to the judges.
Finally, after a nerve wracking wait, the top five male and female singers were announced to go through to the fourth and final round. With such a talented top ten competing for just five places in the final round, several very talented and deserving finalists were going to miss out. Unfortunately for 10 singers, a place in the top five wasn’t to be, but the experience of their first trip Karaoke World Championships, making new friends from around the world and performing on a world stage is one they surely will never forget.
After the four songs were calculated together, Marc Hatem from Lebanon won the male category while Cassandra Jopp from USA topped the female category. Other runner-ups for the male category were Joel Cruz from Philippines (1st runner-up), Vladimir Pak from Russia (2nd runner-up), Riki James from New Zealand (3rd runner-up) and Toni Laaksonen from Finland (4th runner-up).
Runner-ups for the female category were Estefania Gralla from Spain (1st runner-up), Jerrica Santos from Canada (2nd runner-up), Lyda Shyla Roxas from Philippines (3rd runner-up), and Viktoriia Pakhtusova from Ukraine (4th runner-up).