We all start playing as children. Whether we know what we are doing or creating, it fascinated us. Little did I know that sometime in the future, what everyone knows as “vocal percussions” in general, would lead me to my passion known as “beatboxing”.
While growing up in the Middle East, I was surrounded by music thanks to my parents being open-minded and creative themselves. At a young age, I started trying to learn singing, playing the harmonium and tabla. So playing around with different sounds using my mouth was just normal and listening to Bobby McFerrin's “Don't Worry Be Happy” intrigued me more though it was more to do with vocals/acappella. Watching Michael Winslow on the Police Academy was another experience itself. But I discovered more about vocal percussions through one of my biggest idols—Michael Jackson.
I always felt that there was something more human to his music besides all the production we used to listen to, and later I found that that was exactly what it was. Michael Jackson used to use “beatboxing” to compose his tracks and even include them in hits like, “Beat it”, “Who Is It?”, “Strange in Moscow” and many more. I used to sing his songs to myself and try playing with the tape-recorder to chop bits of his songs to know more.
We didn't really have access to the internet back then. This fascination was around 1996/97. Besides listening to Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and many other bands around the 90s and of music from the 80s, old school beats from the likes of 2pac, Nate Dogg and many others started bringing me more towards the hip-hop sound.
But little did I know beatboxing was a huge part of hiphop, because there was no source from where I could find it. I heard samples of beatboxing through N'Sync's Justin Timberlake, and found that they had a lot of that in their songs. In one of their live concert CDs that I found one day, JT says “prepare yourself for the human beatbox…” and it hits me. THIS IS WHAT I WAS DOING! THIS IS BEATBOXING! EXPLORE EXPLORE EXPLORE!
I started to find out more and try different sounds. But back then, beatboxing was mostly old school beats. After 2000, the world beatboxing scene changed and went Steller. But I had no idea about it sadly, especially because I never came across anyone interested in this “strange” thing I used to do. Didn't meet anyone who knew what it was.
After moving to Bangladesh, my beatboxing was dormant until a few musician friends heard it and suggested that I try to implement it with rock and maybe fusion. That's when I started getting back to beatboxing to explore more. And with the release of Kata Taarer Bera, the first official hip-hop mixed album, in 2008, a proper recording of beatboxing was released to the masses. It was something that I recorded around 2006 for the album.
From the KTB release till 2009, I worked and performed with beatboxing with my bands and even opened a show for Bombay Rockers and Arash with my friend a Jasper and the Deshi MCs crew. Finally came across Sri Lankan beatboxer called Thilina who used to study in Chittagong, and we organised a hip-hop show around the end of 2009.
That was the first time I met another beatboxer and I was ecstatic. Things started to change and spread from 2009, as I joined the band Old School as guitarist/beatboxer and we started incorporating acappella and beatboxing in our covers and originals (one was called “Bango”).
We performed dozens of shows mixing fusion, pop and even metal with the use of violin, tabla, flute and beatboxing. Later, while in Old School, I also joined Blunderware (which I am still a part of). There is a song called “Gouro (Prem Korona Shondhakale)” where the song changes into a blues/funk/sexy groove with beatboxing.
I gradually started to meet young beatboxers, who faced the same thing I did back in my early days—they didn't know if there were other people into this crazy thing. But that's when I started to see a spark of interest. Meanwhile I started working on my own project called Beatbaksho and started using beatboxing as my primary identity. I was being called “BeatBaksho”, a name I made using the idea of the very thing I love doing—beatboxing.
I had a short stint touring several cities and venues, as Beat-Baksho, with the band AvoidRafa. There were shows where the whole setup was just me on beatboxing, Rafa on vocals and guitars and Pavel on Bass. With a set-list which lasted to atleast 2-3 hours. Through the tours, I was able to meet more people interested in beatboxing and also go to new locations and even talk about it.
Things started to take a different turn, positively after a show called “Next Level” around the end of 2014, where I got to see beatboxing being a huge part of the local hip-hop scene. This is where I met Ronesh Biswas a.k.a Han-X my brother, partner and co-founder of our community called “Beatbox Bangladesh.”
Beatbox Bangladesh took off and established itself as the face and official community of beatboxers in Bangladesh. Since its inception, we have organised several beatbox workshops and meets in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Through the show we found a few dozen beatboxers and chose 16 from them to be a part of the first beatbox battle (competition) in Bangladesh called "Battlebox BD 2017.”
This event was supported by several pro-beatboxers and beatboxing communities from the USA, Japan, Netherlands, Jordan, Australia, France and also by the humanbeatbox.com. But most of all, the newfound love and interest for beatboxing. It was a small step, but the first of its kind. With the amount of interest that I have seen among the youngsters, I am sure beatboxing can grow a lot more in the coming days.
Moktadir Dewan Shanto is a beatboxer, professional voice-artist, guitarist, radio jockey, creative professional, live looping artist and a guitarist