After getting his start as a busker on the streets of Boston, Gene Shinozaki has gone on to become a world class professional beatboxer, musician, performer and artist. He sat down with me recently via telephone to answer a few questions abou the state of beatboxing and what he has planned for the upcoming All Together Now Showcase at the LIlly Pad in Cambridge on April 29, 2017.
JS: So, you started out as a Beatboxer busking in Boston if I’m correct, what was that like?
GS: It’s very scary. No one is there to see you. No one cares and the thing about beatboxing is that not a lot of people are doing it, and so for a lot of the people who are walking down the street its the first time they have ever seen beatboxing, so it always has a wow factor to it. Once you make people stop and listen, you’ve done your job. That’s the most gratifying feeling when complete strangers who aren’t there to see you stop for a little bit.
JS: How is beatboxing different from other types of music?
GS: There really is no difference it’s just another type of musical expression. Beatboxing is the art of making music, of any genre, using only your mouth but it is still fairly new so there is still a wow factor to it, for the audience.
JS: What do you think some of the biggest misconceptions that people have about Beatboxing, and Beatboxers are?
GS: Beatboxing is often portrayed as a party trick more than an artform. It was born through Hip Hop and in the beginning it was just to back up MC’s but its evolved into its own thing, and now we’re doing just that and its not strictly Hip Hop anymore.
JS: Would you say that Beathboxing has an ability to cross musical genre’s?
GS: Absolutely. It really breaks down barriers for each genre. Basically beatboxing is an instrument and you are able to play any genre. It doesn’t even have to be music. It could be a theatre piece. It could be comedy it could be all sorts of entertainment.
JS: Is that one of the things that initially attracted you to beatboxing?
GS: The idea of being able to conjure any type of music out of thin air and to be able to speak music, I think that’s just super fascinating to me.
JS: What would you have say the biggest inspiration for your work has been?
GS: Bobby McFerrin. He’s the guy who made “Don’t Worry Be happy.” In reality that’s not the only song that he wrote. He’s actually a musical genius. What he does is he sings the melody and singes the base and arpeggiates all the harmony and plays drums on his chest all at the same time. He’s basically he’s a one man band and he sings all the parts at once and that to me was, wow, this needs to be included into my beatboxing. This technique this way of singing. So, I’ve been trying to establish my own style of that approach, but adding beatbox textures to it.
JS: Is there a big beatboxing community?
GS: There are millions of beatboxers out there and It is a very friendly community. If I were to go to Italy right now I would go on Facebook and see if there were any fellow beatboxers I could stay with. Honestly, anywhere in the world I could just go and there will be a fellow beatboxer there that I can hang out with.
JS: It sounds like there is a strong community developing around this art form.
GS: Oh yea, wherever you are from you are part of a beatbox family. At the world championships in 2016 which I competed in, before the battle there were some mock fantasy battles and there was a guy from the Ukraine and another beatboxer from Russia. At the time the Ukraine and Russia had this crazy conflict happening but after the battle they said “I love you, man” and hugged it out. It was a really powerful moment for me, it showed me that beatboxing can breakdown borders between differences.
JS: What are some things that people should keep in mind if they’re experiencing Beat Boxing for the first time?
GS: Keep in mind that its all coming from someone’s mouth and if you keep that in mind you will potentially be mind blown.
JS: What can we expect from your performance at the upcoming All Together Now Multimedia Arts Showcase?
GS: Some good quality beatboxing.
Shinozaki currently resides in Brooklyn NY and will be performing at The Lilly Pad in Cambridge, MA as one of the featured artists in the upcoming All Together Now Multimedia Arts Showcase on April 29th 2017. Tickets are $10.