Like many others around the world at the start of the year, I made a New Year’s resolution. I decided to try something different from the usual ones: to do more exercise, eat more vegetables, etc. (Those are GOOD resolutions but I never stick to them.) So, after getting lost in YouTube videos one day, I developed an interest in beatboxing. Beatboxing is making drum sounds just by using your mouth and voice.
Where did beatbox begin?
Hip-hop, a subculture emerging on the streets of New York, incorporated several urban art forms. Beatbox, alongside DJ-ing, MC-ing, break-dancing and graffiti, were all created in this movement. The idea of making sounds with our mouths can be traced back to traditional African music where singers often created percussion with their bodies – like clapping or stamping. However, it was on the streets of Harlem where the word beatbox (or two words: beat box) was originally invented. Beat box was a slang term for drum machines being manufactured around the time. Drum machines made drum sounds without actually needing a drum kit.
Drum machines were very expensive, especially for those rapping in poorer communities on the streets of New York. Therefore, MCs (rappers) would often rap with someone else beatboxing to provide a beat.
Beatbox over the years
Beatboxing grew into a known and respected art form throughout the 80s and 90s. Nowadays, beatboxers get millions of views on YouTube and people watch them on talent show programmes. The Beatbox Battle World Championships first took place in Germany in 2005 and occurs every three years. In August 2018 it will take place in Berlin. Around 180 artists will battle against each other in several different categories to find the best beatboxer!
Try it yourself
There are many good YouTube tutorials on how to beatbox. That’s how I’m learning for my New Year’s resolution! And of course there’s the old trick of saying ‘boots and cats’ very quickly to create a beat. Go on! Give it a go.