Is human beatboxing a genuine art form? The British beatboxer Shlomo, 23, who has worked with Björk, has been appointed artist-in-residence at the Southbank Centre. His new position will serve to challenge preconceptions of beatboxing and market it as an art form.
In the first of a series of "Music Through Unconventional Means" concerts, Shlomo will collaborate with special guests including Martha Wainwright and Teddy Thompson at the Queen Elizabeth Hall to bring beatboxing into the mainstream. "I used to see beatboxing as a party trick. It was my way of showing off. But when I got to the studio to record with Björk for the Athens Olympics in 2004, there was no hint of it being some kind of novelty," says Shlomo.
"She treated me like a musician because she wanted to make music with me. I had to rethink my own attitude towards beatboxing."
Since then he has formed the UK's first beatbox choir, this year, which headlined at the International Human Beatbox Convention, as part of this year's Southbank Centre Ether Festival. He has also incorporated a loop sampler into his solo show in order to create layers of vocal sounds.
"The beatboxers who make it into an art form are musicians in the first place. I still do a lot of tricks in my show. I perform realistic cover songs, note for note, using just my mouth. I sing and beatbox at the same time. I do vocal scratching and imitate a scratch DJ – but if you get hung up on tricks, it is just a gimmick."
Beatboxing is the art of vocal percussion, producing drum beats, rhythm and musical sounds primarily using one's mouth, lips, tongue and voice. There is no limit to the sounds that can be made. There is, however, some controversy over who was the first human beatbox. "No one can agree. Some name Doug E Fresh, others Buffy from the Fat Boys. The truth is, people have been making music with their mouths for much longer. It dates right back to caveman times."
2 December (www.southbankcentre.co.uk)Reuse content