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INTERVIEW: SHLOMO ON THE ART OF BEATBOXING

By Jethro Jenkins, Youth Blogger
POSTED 5 FEBRUARY 2015

Ahead of his performance at Roundhouse Rising, record-holding vocalist Shlomo shares digital tricks, advice for young beatboxers and how he takes his art form to a new level.

- What was your first contact with beatboxing?
My parents bought me a drum kit for my 8th birthday on the condition that I wouldn’t play after 6pm, because it would wake the neighbours up. So I had to find other ways to practice! I accidentally invented beatboxing without realising it was a thing!

- Did you know about other beatboxers at the time?
It was only when in my teens that I heard other beatboxers. Back then we had Rahzel, from America; in the UK it was Killa Kela. They were my main inspirations, along with Michael Winslow, from Police Academy, who I later worked with. We did a show called ‘Winshlo’. I was pinching myself throughout!

- Having worked with UK hip-hop artists like Foreign Beggars, would you consider yourself part of that scene?
The hip-hop scene was how I was born as an artist. When I met Foreign Beggars I hadn’t done any gigs yet; the frontman was MCing at a rave in Leeds when I was a fresher at the university! I was there outside at 5 or 6 in the morning, beatboxing my face off to anyone who’d listen. He came and started rapping with me and took my number, asking me to be in the band. I really cut my teeth with the group. That was my introduction to the public in terms of being a performer. I feel like these days I exist in my own world, but I still have love for that whole scene, it’s an amazing place.

- Any other highlights to share from your career?
Getting a phone call from Bjork when I was still working in a day job! She asked me if I could beatbox on her all-vocal album… that was a real turning point for me. Also, playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.

- What’s your advice for those starting out?
Do something that’s ‘you’, not just what others are doing. If you take apart what they’ve created, you’ll understand how it works. You can then take that knowledge to create something that represents yourself. That’s what will truly satisfy you and take you to new places.

- These days you can make your own opportunities. Post videos, build and interact with an audience, see what excites them, approach artists you admire and ask to collaborate. Some people have had practice and have skill but haven’t quite taken the initiative to make it happen. They just need a bit of encouragement. And then they fly.

- Is Beatboxing very competitive?
There’s a flourishing battle scene, but I’ve never taken part or been much of a fan of it. It’s great as long as you use it to have fun, further yourself and celebrate. I prefer to encourage people to create their own music rather than trying to beatbox at a million miles per hour, because ultimately it just gets a bit tiring! When you start thinking you’re a better musician than another, that’s when you stop being musical. I realised the one thing I’ve got that nobody else has is my own life, experiences and thoughts. I started putting those into my music and got a much stronger reaction from my audience

- When you perform, what experience are you trying to create for your audience?
It’s always got to be a celebration. As a beatboxer, you don’t have any rules about what genre of music you play. I can pay tribute to a lot of artists I love by covering their music or playing songs inspired by them, but also put a lot of my own ideas into the mix and make my own tunes and people will still dance and smile.
As long as everyone’s smiling, I’m happy!
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