Beatbox Bangladesh: Not your average music scene
The mainstream music scene in Bangladesh saw the rise of rock bands and emergence of hip-hop groups, but beatboxing was unheard of until recently. Often considered an offshoot of hip-hop, beatboxing does not limit itself to a particular genre. It has roots in early rural music from ragtime, blues and church songs in America to traditional African music. Bands and musicians such as Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, and Michael Jackson have been known to use vocal percussions in their songs. Since then, the West has taken to beatboxing in a big way, but it has yet to make major inroads in the subcontinent.
All that however is changing. Beatbox Bangladesh, a community of beatboxers of all ages and genders, was formed in 2014, with Moktadir Dewan Shanto and Ronesh Biswas, also known by their stage names BeatBaksho and Han-X respectively, being early members. Shanto had seen Ronesh perform at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy for a show called “Next Level Bangladesh” and impressed by his routine, proposed they collaborate. In 2015, a Facebook page called “Beatbox Bangladesh” was created, aimed at uniting beatboxers in Bangladesh, and teaching and inspiring new members as well as each other through video tutorials. “We try to meet once a month,” said Ronesh, “but this year regular meets have been challenging as many of our young members are having their SSC or HSC exams.” They do not have a specific venue for group meetings, but hold practice sessions and performances at EMK Center occasionally.
Shanto had come up with 'BeatBaksho' a couple of years ago. “My fascination for beatboxing began in the '90s, after realising Michael Jackson had used vocal percussions in some of his songs. In the year 2000, Justin Timberlake beatboxed on stage during an NSYNC concert, which confirmed to me what Michael Jackson had been doing all along,” said Shanto. For his routines, Shanto uses a live looping device during performing. For Ronesh, this journey began in the year 2011, after watching a YouTube tutorial called “Hey Monkey”. They now have their own YouTube channels where they upload videos of practice sessions and tutorials.
“Although we are a niche community, we are growing,” said Shanto. At the moment, there are around 40 beatboxers of varying skills. They are gearing up for a competitive event in Dhaka next year, to prepare themselves for a global tournament in 2018 in Berlin, Germany.