Beatboxer extraordinaire Shlomo has come a long way in a short time. He studied astrophysics before touring the world, has played to billions at the Athens Olympics and has been appointed one of Southbank Centre’s Artists In Residence. As part of this role, he launched a series of collaborative concerts called Music Through Unconventional Means, the latest of which brought together female UK beatboxing champion Bellatrix, veteran hip hop poet Charlie Dark, laidback rapper Polarbear and Radio 4 Poetry Slam winner Dizraeli and the Small Gods.
A quick video prologue kicks off the show, introducing each of the acts and describing how they have been working together over the last few days. Shlomo pops on to introduce Polarbear, a man with an enticing lyrical flow who will be the perfect successor to fellow Brummie The Streets when the latter hangs up their mike next year. Charlie Dark delves deep into the soul of the black community to bring us universal truths about South London gang life and the humble knuckle bump. Shlomo twangs his jaw harp and shows off his new toy, a Loopstation with which he can record percussion and lyrics, layering them as he goes to create a multi-level musical montage. Last, and perhaps least, Dizraeli and his band comes on with support from Bellatrix on double bass. While he brought a robust rock dimension to proceedings, Dizraeli’s diction and lyrics paled in comparison to his predecessors.
After a brief interval, the acts return to show off the efforts of their recent collaborations. Bellatrix finally has a chance to demonstrate her vocal skills and all plaudits are deserved. This woman attacks the beat like it was a cheating ex she just caught inflagrante and her beatbox battle with Shlomo was the highlight of the evening. When all the combinations were played out, the ensemble sang us off after an incredible two-and-a-half hours of entertainment with a hip-hop inspired version of Come Together. Spread the word: if you want to catch some exciting little-heard acts brought together by a man with exquisite taste, follow the ‘mo.
All pictures (c) RJ Fernandez
On December 18-21, you can see The Lost Voice, a beatboxing Christmas show suitable for all the family at the Southbank Centre.
Alongside The Lost Voice, the centre is running beatboxing workshops in Spirit Level at Royal Festival Hall at 12 noon on Saturday 18 to Tuesday 21 December. Workshop tickets cost £2 and can be booked when buying tickets for The Lost Voice. No experience is necessary.