By Russell McMahon, Marketing Director

“Boots ‘n’ cats ‘n’ boots ‘n’ cats ‘n’ boots ‘n’ cats”. That is the sound of scat, one of the origins of what we now refer to as ‘beatboxing’. We take a look at how this branch of musical culture is progressing. Did you know that it is a part of Scottish history? imageBeardyman

What is it?

We’ve all got the ability to beatbox, though most of us will probably just look like we are sneezing and send spit flying from our mouths. Beatboxing is simply a way of making music with your mouth by utilising vocal percussion to create drum beats, rythms and melodies using the lips, tongue, voice and hands. The term was taken from the name given to the earliest drum machines used by artists in the 20th century and the mimicry of this sound using the voice box. ‘Beatboxers’ mimic the sounds created by musical instruments or immitate turntabalism techniques, such as scratching. These sounds can be combined with equipment like loop machines or other instruments to create whole ensembles and entertaining, inexpensive live performances. The most charming thing about it is it’s unconventionality and how impromptu it can be. It is very much music that belongs to the streets. 

The origins of beatboxing can be traced back to a traditional Scottish form of music, puirt a bel. In more contemporary times one of the earliest forms was Scat. Jazz, and later Hip-hop, were the pioneers of integrated beatboxing into popular music. Doug E Fresh was one of the earliest artists in hip-hop to do this. By no means is it restricted to any shortlist of music.

It was in the ‘naughties’ as the digital music generation was growing that the humble street art of beatboxing started to grab attention all over the world. The ability to share videos of beatboxers creating music was something of an internet sensation. Before all of that you might have only caught it on the street, and if you did you would have been a fan straight away. So audiences grew, more people started doing it and techniques developed to the point where you weren’t sure if the sound you were hearing was really coming from the performer or a band hidden somewhere nearby. And it’s not only in music, now it’s used in films (Police Academy) and comedy shows (Beardyman).

And now for some videos. Sit back, relax, and be amazed!

Beardyman, live @ the Edinburgh Comedy Festival 2009.

Michael Winslow in Police Academy.

Michael Winslow, again, doing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin.

Petebox, remix of ‘The Pink Panther’ using a loop machine.

Naturally 7 are a 7-piece male beatboxing band.

Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra - a total of 8 beatboxers - performing Massive Attacks ‘Teardrop’.

All female 5-piece beatboxing group The Boxettes.

Bellatrix @ the Female World Beatboxing Championships.

And last, but not least, a 3-part documentary about two buskers who call themselves ‘Heymoonshaker’ and create blues and dubstep using their guitar and beatboxing.