Artists break barriers with beatboxing in India

Moving from novelty to mainstream music


September 16, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Artists break barriers with beatboxing in India

Jaipur-based folk beat boxer Divyansh Kacholia performing at a college in New Delhi

Beatboxing is a musical art form that uses the vocal tract to mimic percussion sounds and other sound effects, using one's mouth, lips, tongue and voice. It is a skill that requires an incredible amount of control over the vocal cords. It is becoming increasingly popular in India.

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Beat boxing finds its contemporary roots in the hip hop subculture in 1980s in America. Though it took over three decades to reach India, the art has been gaining ground here over the past few years. Now it is widely spreading in mainstream cultural art by using different musicality, with different patterns while focusing on speed of sound. Musical expression through mouth makes this art very organic.

Due to its novelty as an art or skill in India, there are few opportunities to learn this art form and pursue this art as career in India. Most of the well-known beat boxers from Indian say they have learnt it by watching YouTube tutorial videos.

“At the age of 13, I used to make random kinds of sounds from my throat. Then I explored myself and started watching YouTube video of Jospeh Poolpo. I got inspired by him and learnt this art. Every day, I began spending at least half the day learning beat boxing, but my family did not know of anything. I used to listen every kind of music so that I could demonstrate and add versatility to my style of beat boxing,” says Bhavesh Sharma, a Mumbai-based beat boxing enthusiast, who won the first Indian National Beatbox Championship in 2016.

Sharma says his success in this art is due to support that he received from his peers rather than his parents. “My peers and colleagues were always supported and motivated me. But convincing my parents about this art was an extremely difficult challenge for me and I could never get any support from them until I won the Championship. However, once they saw my performance and success, they were convinced about my choice,” Sharma tells Media India Group.

Accidental attraction

Like Sharma, 23-year-old Hari Haran from Bengaluru, too, attributes his first attraction to beatboxing to his seniors in the domain, but says he had never planned on taking it up seriously.

“It was completely a coincidence for me to end up with beat boxing. I got inspired by the art through one of my seniors. I am a self-trained beatboxer through YouTube tutorials and then I started performing in college cultural fests which went a long way in helping me,” says Hari Haran, who is referred to as India’s first beat boxer to use Kazoo, a vibrating and voice changing instrument that is increasingly becoming popular in India. Hariharan also excels as a Thai Flute beat boxer and finds mention in specialist books like Book of World Records.

“Using musical instruments in beatboxing is my strength and several wind instruments go well with beat boxing. I checked few of them, but the Thai Flutes caught my attention as it felt unique and interesting to play along with beat boxing. Kazoo, which adds a buzzing sound quality in the music when the player vocalises it, is another favourite of mine,” Hariharan tells Media India Group.

With the growing popularity of beatboxing in India, a few platforms to help promote the art have emerged of late. Beatbox India is one of the largest beatboxing organisations in the subcontinent and it has branches all over India.

Hariharan, a Kazoo beat boxer, performing in Bengaluru (Photo: Hariharan)

“Every year the number of beat boxers in India has been rapidly rising and Indian beatboxers always try and create their own beat. Sometimes artists express our Indian art folk beat concepts like Konnakol with western rhythm through beat boxing to make a unique beat,” says Raka Vee, a musician and founder of BXX India team, who is based in Chennai. He set up BBX India in 2016 and within a year, BBX India had established official relationships with beatboxing communities around the world, like Beatbox Battle TV, organiser of the World Championships and Swiss beatbox, the largest beatbox platform in the world and many more. From there, BBX India has grown to be India’s largest beatbox platform, and hosts the official Indian Beatbox Championship.

“BBX India has received support from not only its partners overseas and other professional beatboxing organisations, but also some of the best-known Indian beatboxers. This helps us organise the Indian championship,” Vee tells Media India Group.

Jaipur-based Divyansh Kacholia first got attracted to beatboxing about 11 years ago and like most Indian beatboxers he learnt the art from his seniors. But since then, he has come a long way and is now an established beatboxer in his own right.

“I was not even aware of this art from, I came to know about this art by my senior, then I started to make different voices and it randomly popped in my mind. I explored and learned beat boxing by watching few videos. It was a kind of pastime for me in the beginning. But when I met the 2012 Beatboxing World Champion Skiller from Bulgaria, this interaction inspired me and then I wanted to become a professional beatboxer. From that day, I started to practice nine to ten hours in a day to create my own style,” Kacholia tells Media India Group.

Kacholia adds that he wanted to add Rajasthan’s folk music in beat boxing, because since childhood he had been used to listening to folk songs and classical music and it helped him add his own spin to the western art. Kacholia says that now he creates original music and has also started composing.

The enthusiastic response from the audience has helped propel Kacholia to new heights in his performances, he says. Kacholia also used his skills to participate in Dil Hai Hindustani, a reality show, in 2018, where he went on to reach the finals and this made him very popular across the country. He says that after this show, he got to work in a lot of shows with well-known artists, not only in India, but in several other countries as well.

Social media opens new doors for beatboxing

While earlier the beatboxing artists, pretty much like most other artists, relied almost exclusively on television to gain recognition, the widespread presence of social media in India has opened new doors to established as well as budding artists, besides helping in propagation of the art.

Many artists are turning to social media to enhance the popularity of beat boxing and hence help the budding artists and make general population more aware of the art. They hope that by popularising it and spreading awareness across the country, they will help future artists escape the problems that they themselves had faced while trying to get into the art in a serious manner.

And as the audience becomes more aware of beatboxing, the understanding of the nuances and styles of the art also rises. “People find it fascinating, and cool whenever beat boxing is performed. Beatboxing is not about making sounds and imitating sounds it’s much more than that audience always gives a positive vibe. I feel alive whenever I perform on stages” says Kacholia.

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