From the Funky Mofo archive: 16th August 2004: 7h50 in the morning, the postman delivers a parcel. I look at the time and realise I’m 30 years old this minute exactly. Jo opens the parcel and out jumps the new Björk album, Medúlla. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. After waking up my young sister, who came to spend a month under the British sun (!), we get set to hear this incredible piece of vocal magic. And it’s only after a second play that the three of us become aware that every single harmony, every single beat, every single note is SUNG, not played but vocally created (with the exception of ‘Mouth’s Cradle’, ‘Desired Constellation’ and ‘Oceania’). No need to mention we got on these voices’ case very rapidly.
First to respond to our call was Shlomo, a talented beatboxer appearing on ‘Oceania’. It took us a while to put this interview together but we finally pulled it in time for this Special Björk Edition. Jayal and myself were in charge of grilling Shlomo with some red-hot questions…
CB Lux: Can you give those of us who don’t know you a brief history of yourself?
Shlomo: The name is Shlomo, representing Leeds… I’m a jazz-drummer who discovered that I could do it all with just my mouth!
Shlomo is one of UK’s finest human beatboxers, which means all the sounds you are hearing are made solely using the mouth and vocal chords, no effects, processing or layers, it’s all done in one take. His remarkable ability to re-create all manner of sounds, including complex hip hop, trance, drum’n’bass and garage beats, has been wowing clubbers in his home town of Leeds and in clubs all over the UK for nearly 2 years.
The pinnacle of Shlomo’s career is working with Icelandic superstar Björk, an artist of international reputation. The tune features on her latest album Medúlla and was performed at the Olympics opening ceremony in Athens to an audience of roughly 4.5 billion. (taken from his biography)
C: You will soon be judging a beatbox tournament. How did you get involved with that?
S: I’m actually helping to organise it – judging and sifting through the scores of demos that got sent in! I’ve been involved in running nights since I got to Leeds, and this one is just another excuse for a party to be honest – the beatboxing only goes on for about 45 minutes and then its all about the party vibes…
Jayal: How did Björk get your attention & interest for the collaboration?
S: Her manager emailed, and later that day she left a voicemail on my mobile asking if I’d like to come and lay down a beat for the last track yet to be completed on the album. Of course I was instantly interested!
J: What’s one word, in your opinion, to describe Medúlla?
J: Favourite aspect in collaborating with Björk?
S: Having my beats heard by 4.5 billion viewers when she sang Oceania at the Olympics.
J: Did you need to take extra special care of your precious lovely set of lungs, vocal chords, etc..?
S: Of course. No smoking or drinking, and avoid shouting or even raising your voice just before a set. And drink gallons of water!
J: How much of your own personality/emotion did you put in the song(s)?
S: It’s got my style all over it!
J: What was the amount of spontaneity/creative freedom?
S: I recorded a few different styles of beats for the tune, but the beat we used in the end was something I spontaneously created after Björk suggested I did an ‘electro-rumba beat’.
J: How much manipulation happened to the voices (if any)?
S: Very little, all the beats are pure vocal. There is a section where you can hear two of me at the same time, which was carefully programmed by Mark Bell, but the sounds are solely from the mouth.
J: Most challenging aspect … for working with only voices?
S: I’m used to it. As a beatboxer it’s what I do.
J: What’s the favourite noise you like to make?
S: Drum’n’bass beats!
J: The most fun about the entire collaboration?
S: Björk’s attitude. Was most fun just to chill with her.
C: You’re going on the road next week until 10th December. What can the audience expect from your appearances? Will you be touring some more in the new year?
S: The shows coming up are in a varied format – when I’m with my crew (Foreign Beggars), its a manic stage show which zooms between freestyle rap, turntablism and myself beatboxing. When I’m performing a solo beatbox show expect a 20-30 minute beatbox showcase involving all genres from hip-hop to d’n’b to trance, techno, dub and bhangra! I try not to be genre specific, because for me beatboxing transcends all genres. People are always calling it part of hip-hop, but I got into hip-hop as a result of my beatboxing and not the other way round!
C: Are you planning on releasing any material (either collaborations or solo)?
S: The debut album was a year ago now, since then we have released 3 singles. Plus the Björk release of course… In the New Year there is a new Foreign Beggars single coming out on Dented Records, and we are going on a major UK tour of about 20 dates throughout February, followed by a tour of Canada…
Stay tuned to http://www.foreignbeggars.com.
C: If you could choose, who would you consider collaborating with, within and out of the Hip Hop world, and why?
S: Within hip-hop it would have to be Roots Manuva, as he is by far the most consistently inspired artist in this whole little British scene. Outside hip-hop, I would like to get back into my drumming and work with artists like Keith Jarrett.
C: Thanks for your patience! We’ll try and catch you 3rd December in Bristol.