Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Beat boxing: The Art of Verbal Vocal Percussion

Beat boxing ranks among MCing, break dancing and graffiti as one of the major trendy pillars of hip-hop culture.

Beat boxing is generally described by the popular images of a rapper wearing a hoodie, with his/her hands cupped over his/her mouth, and making musical noises.

Back in the eighties, there were popular images of hip hop heads who used to walk around blasting a large stereo over their shoulders. This was well before i-pods and walkmans came into being.
In beat boxing, artists compose regular music by imitating drums and turntable sounds. Using only a microphone, beat boxers use their lips, hands, tongue, voice and mouth to reproduce instrumental sounds.

Beat boxing is now linked with other urban cultures. Although it originally began with hip hop culture, it is lately not only connected to hip hop music alone. It was created and made popular by African Americans in Harlem and the Bronx, imitating what they heard on records. Beat boxing then became widely popularised by Bobby Mc Ferrin with his long time favourite song, namely ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. The artist created the whole song using only his voice dubbed on different tracks to create many instruments by beat boxing.

Beat boxing as a culture has always been a popular trend amongst the urban youth of Gaborone. Though it is still rare, it is a sub culture that has grown tremendously since as early as 1998. It became even more popular in 2000. This was the year Rahzel made beat boxing even more famous when he did a mainstream performing the late Aaliyah’s song ‘If your mother only knew.’ Since then his performance video footage is still credited by You Tube as number one in the world. He’s best known for simultaneously beat boxing and singing Aaliyah’s song at the same time. To date Rahzel is regarded as the best known beat boxer in the world. Rahzel’s success inspired other beat boxers like Kefentse ‘Kef’ Kefentse, one of the founding members of the Exodus Live Poetry Sessions.
Kefentse says that beat boxing has got its own style which depends on the type of music heard as a source for inspiration. ‘Different freestylers have developed extremely individual ways of performing the art’ he said.

‘It’s an artful way of developing a really nice song which some one can actually rap or sing to. I think that to this day no one is really regarded to as a professional.’

Greek ‘Di-Beats’ Peolwane a popular underground beat boxer who resides in Phase two, Gaborone, is another recognisable practitioner. He says that local beat boxers are amateurs. He argues that one can organise a challenge. A competition will help to find out the best beat boxers in Botswana. This remains a big unanswered question. The artist would be judged based upon his reproductive style in music, melody, instrument drum imitation and rhythm of turntables.


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