You take your voice with you wherever you go.
Some people like to travel light. And the idea of taking a musical instrument with them on the road just seems like too much hassle. Guitar strings break, harmonicas get filled up with dust and while a double bass can be used as a sledge in emergency blizzard conditions (if you happen to have the huskies), if you travel only with a toothbrush and a towel then an instrument is just one item too much.
But that’s no reason for you not to become a virtuoso musician along the way.
Human beatboxing is within the reach of any traveler who finds themselves hitchhiking for hours by the side of the road, waiting for trains that arrive hours late and generally walking the streets of foreign cities, spinning out at angels in the architecture.
Beatboxing is about simulating the sounds of instruments, laying down rhythms and generally making strange sounds using the mouth and throat alone. Check out Felix Zenger:
It’s possible that the Indians started beatboxing with Bol) singing, the vocal representation of tabla music but most likely it came from black kids in the US doing rap routines in the street and humming along to hiphop, making music in an organic, ground-up kind of way.
How to Become a Human Beatbox
So how do you learn to beatbox?
There are guides available on Beatbox.tv and humanbeatbox.com but mostly all you need is some imagination. Styles of beatboxing vary from the cute sounds made by Camille, to the wheezy gasps of Tom Waits to the altogether weird garbles made in the beatboxing competions.
But really, you learn by yourself.
When you’re waiting for a ride or a train or stuck in some lousy hotel room, you have all the time in the world to start making ridiculous sounds with your lips, cheeks, tongue and throad. Keep a steady beat by clapping your hands and see if you can get some rhythmic cycles going. Improvise over a tune that you already know and see if you can do a beatbox version of White Christmas or Summertime.
If you can carry a little recorder with you then you can listen to your latest efforts and work on honing your sounds. You can get inspired by checking out the beatbox artists on Youtube at any internet cafe and when you’re confident of your licks you can start to jam with musicians you meet on the road.
And if you get any good, you can buy yourself a loop machine and start laying down multiple tracks and voila, you have an original busking act that’s sure to pay for your next flight ticket.
Here’s Dokaka for inspiration, doing just that with a Nirvana interpretation:
And Tom Waits: