Israel-bred, classically trained jazz musician Simon Shlomo Kahn was looking for ways to impress people. And by accident, the entertainer soon discovered that he could beatbox. “I’ve been making funny noises my whole life, since before I knew it was called beatboxing. It was just a way to practise my drumming. Then one day in my teens, somebody played me a tape of a beatboxer doing a show and I was amazed. That did the trick,” says Shlomo.
Since then, Shlomo has performed at the biggest stages in the world including Glastonbury and The Big Chill. He has even lent his vocal drum kit to Bjork for Oceania at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics, for which he earned a Grammy nominton. He’s collaborated with artistes like Nitin Sawhney, Public Enemy and Imogen Heap.
And now, he is on a three-city tour of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, where he will collaborate live on stage with local artistes like Sid Coutto, Swarathma, mridangam player Vivek Rajagopalan and Rajasthani folk artiste Raeis Khan. “Playing live is like an aphrodisiac. It’s also a great experience to make music with local artistes,” says Shlomo.
An original indie artiste, Shlomo never released his music on a label and went for the free music download option online. “For me it was the obvious way to do it — I was never going to make money from selling records as beatboxing is such a live experience,” he says.
Speaking of innovations, Shlomo also pioneered dance beatboxing and community hip-hop beatoxing. “I’ve always enjoyed taking the art-form to new places. Earlier this year I performed a specially commissioned Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra, which was the first fully scored classical beatbox piece,” he says.
Shlomo now plans to explore the depths of Indian music and will look for ways of taking it back home. “I think it will be interesting to learn the nuances of Indian music,” he says.