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Artikel Tagged ‘Beatboxing’

Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 3

17. September 2015 1 Kommentar

Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

And here comes part 3 of my first-hand impressions on last month’s Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) in Shanghai:

Day 3: His soul was reaching directly to my heart

Friday morning (Aug 7) „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu  from Taiwan gave us a fun warm-up session including some body percussion and tai chi exercise.

Then, it was time to learn about the secret how to become an instrument. In their second workshop „How to do your vocal play“  Naturally 7 taught different techniques to imitate drums, harmonica or even DJ scratching sounds. The participants could try their vocal play together with N7. Hilarious was the performance of „DJ scratcher“ Rod Eldridge from N7 together with “Fishball”, the talented VP of the Taiwanese group Mixter.

Rod Eldridge from N7 (USA) and Fishball from Mixter (Taiwan) having a funny vocal play duet.

Garfield Buckley from N7 teaching his harmonica sound.

Garfield Buckley from N7 teaching his harmonica sound.

Deke Sharon coaching The Wanted (Taiwan).

Deke Sharon coaching The Wanted (Taiwan).

In the afternoon, again a lot of workshops in parallel, some groups received professional coaching from  Naturally 7 or  Deke Sharon. Deke also gave some deeper insight of how to produce a cappella for major media in his workshop „Behind the Scene: Aca in media“. And Ray Chu, the pop and artistic director of the Taiwan Choral Music Center, together with Christine Liu (musical director of Voco Novo) talked about how the western sound of a cappella meets the eastern image of poems in their workshop „Poetic A Cappella“.

I had a talk with Ray on how A Cappella developed in Taiwan.

Interview with „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu from Taiwan

Ray Chu demonstrating Tai Chi exercise in the warm up session.

Ray Chu demonstrating Tai Chi exercise in the warm up session.

Juliana: Ray Chu, you are the „Aca Papa“ of Taiwan or even Asia. Everyone who knows you simply loves you! What have you done, what is your secret…?

Ray: I love them too, that’s simple.

Juliana: (laugh) A Cappella in Taiwan is becoming more and more popular and Taiwanese a cappella groups are increasingly successful all around Asia. The Wanted, a Taiwanese group of six high school students, won the 2015 China Competition as well as the Asia Cup Competition a few days ago. How would you describe the development of a cappella in Taiwan?

Ray: In Taiwan, what we did is we invited a lot of European groups coming to Taiwan to have „tour concerts“. Every group who came had about 10 to 12 concerts all over Taiwan in different cities. We did that since 2005 until now, so it’s been many years by now. So, many cities, many places, many groups have seen good groups from Europe. So, they have opened their eyes and their ears. I think, that is the most important contribution to their improvement. They can hear a good sound, so they can imitate or have a good choice of repertoire. I think it is a very good method to let them learn. Actually, Taiwanese a cappella started really late, about 15 years later than Japan, Korea and also Singapore. But now, we catch up. I think, this is all thanks to the many international groups visiting us. And we have a lot of international events in Taiwan. I think, our competitions are the most significant competitions in whole Asia, because we invite all the champions and winners from all over the world to compete in Taiwan. So, our competitions become really high standard.

Juliana: Would you say that A Cappella in Taiwan is more developing and copying Western styles or do they develop their own style.

Ray: At the beginning it was more like Western styles. We learnt a lot from them. And then we were thinking, what do we have ourselves. So, what Christine (Liu) and I am doing, we are doing a lot of poem rearrangements in Taiwan that we use a lot of oriental or Chinese elements into rearrange or compose these poems and rearrange by foreigners like some Chinese arrangers like Christine. So we did a lot of oriental things now. And I think it is very successful. West and East, the combination of melody and western language, music language, pop language, jazz language… It is suitable, a very good combination.

Juliana: What is your impression about the Asia Cup winners „The Wanted“?

Ray: Well, of course, they are very good. But they are still high school or just graduated. I am waiting for them if they can still continue at college time. And they have to go through military service and all these things. So, looking at their future, of course … We will see.

Juliana: Deke Sharon said, they have the potential to become the Pentatonix of Asia.

Ray: Well, that must be after college, after military service. They have to be stable in life first. They are still students. I don’t want them to be professional in college time, they have to finish their studies. They have to grow up also mentally and they have to be mature before doing these things. This is better for them (laugh)

Juliana: I am really interested in your special method of teaching without scores, the chord singing. You are even teaching a choir of blind singers.

Ray: Yes, I do. Of course, they have to learn by listening. So, actually I use a software called Vocaloid, a singing voice synthesizer which can read out the lyrics, even the Chinese lyrics. So I can divide the parts for them with lyrics. So with this software it is easier now. But still,every time, every song that I use Vocaloid, I need 3 to 4 hours to finish all the individual parts for them to practice.

Juliana: How do you approach your choir of blind people? Is there anything special you have to prepare or consider?

Ray: Actually, I treat them like anybody else. That’s the right way. Don’t treat them like they are blind. Sometimes, I even say: „Look at that“ – They will say „you know I can’t see“ – „Oh, I’m sorry!“ (laugh). You know, just purposely treat them like ordinary people. That’s the way.

Juliana: I wish you great success in the future, continue your fantastic contribution to choir music and a cappella! We love you all! (laugh)

Ray: I love you all!

Just 4 hours before the VAF Concert and our opening performance, we had our second and last 90-minutes-class of Single Singers. Since last rehearsal we lost about 20 people, maybe they were too scared to perform. But we won Kaichiro Kitamura, a brilliant vocal percussionist from Japan, who would support us on stage. I forgot to mention that the two songs we were intending to sing were arrangements from DeltaCappella, the special guests from Memphis, Tennessee, and from Naturally 7, the master group of this festival.

I don’t know if the idea of singing „Easy“ in front of DeltaCappella and singing „Soldier Down“ in front of Naturally 7 was more exciting or more frightening, especially at that level of practice. Never ever have I been so ill-prepared before going on stage. But the rehearsal turned out to be my favorite moment of the day. None of us expected this big surprise: both groups DeltaCappella and Naturally 7 joined our last rehearsal, practiced and sang with us. Standing next to Garfield Buckley and singing my Solo of Soldier Down with him – it is hard to describe, but it felt just like his soul was reaching directly to my heart and without any words he was teaching me how to sing and feel this song. Vocal music is indeed strong and intimate. This was absolutely my moment of the day! Thank you, Garfield!


A snapshot of Single Singers’ rehearsal with Naturally 7.

The Single Singers' performance at the VAF Concert in the evening of day 3

The Single Singers’ performance at the VAF Concert in the evening of day 3

Feels like heaven

13. August 2009 3 Kommentare

by Tobias Hug, the Swingle Singers

Take 6, The New York Voices, The Real Group, Rhiannon, Rajaton, Vocal Line, Jazzchor Freiburg, Gene Puerling, Phil Mattson…If you were to draw a picture of an cappella paradise, a vocal jazz heaven,  that would come pretty close to it! And yet, this was the line-up of an actual festival that triggered and inspired a series of new festivals all over Europe, yes all around the world.. It was the line-up of the 1st Vocal Jazz Summit! But not only were these groups performing, but they were actually staying in Mainz .. and they were teaching! A masterclass with Marc Kibble coaching with Peder Karlson, a scat lesson with Darmon Meader.. and then listening to the grandseigneurs of vocal jazz bantering on stage in the evening followed by a concert of Montezumas Revenge.. This festival was one of a kind. dozens of groups from all over Europe came to stay, to listen, to learn, to sing.. and to enjoy the company of the greatest groups on this planet.

I think everyone went away transformed.. and took the idea to their homelands.. the Real Group started their very own, wonderful Real Festival in Sweden and Amazing Voice in South Korea, Jens Johanson from Vocal Line initiated the Aarhus Vocal Festival (the first edition was actually before the 1st VJS), Cosmos took the spirit to the Baltics… Other, already established festivals thrived: The german festivals in Leipzig and in Hannover, Vokal Total in Austria and Solevoci in Italy – they have all have come to age and matured into prestigious, established festivals, developed their core audiences, grabbed a fair bit of media attention.. and ultimately spread the word of a cappella to the common man… many more festivals are springing up all over the place – and of course I haven’t even mentioned yet the homeland of contemporary a cappella, the USA.

We all know that cappella is cool – and fortunately, this has finally caught on. One of the reasons is that a cappella has finally come out of its niche.

An important step was to bridge the gap between contemporary a cappella and the choral scene. The two didn’t really connect until a few years ago (if you ignore the more choral a cappella groups like the Kings Singers).. Now contemporary a cappella groups are featured at every larger choral festival, be it Rajaton at Europa Cantat and the World Choir Symposium. Thus a large market has opened for a cappella groups.

Another avenue, another aspect of vocal music, that has boomed beyond belief in recent years, is the beatbox scene. Initially, beatboxing was purely a solo exercise, a way to show off how many crazy sounds and beats one could fit into 90 seconds… because the platform to perform these were the battles. The last decade has seen beatboxing going mainstream in pop music, but also a new generation of beatboxers has emerged: They can not only can drop amazing beats, but have a lot of other skills: they can sing, perform like a stand-up comedian.. and they are working together with other musicians ! UK beatboxers have been at the forefront of this: Killa Kela creating his R&B crew “Spitkingdom” which included MCs, DJs and singers,  Beardyman working together with “Flutebox” Nathan Lee and including visual artists like Mr. Hopkinson (, Shlomo creating his “Vocal Orchestra” with the Swingle Singers and collaborating with anyone from Bjoerk to Jarvis Cocker.. A cappella obviously has picked up on beatboxing.. Vocal Percussion is something featured now in most groups, but a cappella and “beatbox” as such hadn’t really embraced each other..yet!

So this is partly what this Vocal Jazz Summit is about – vocal percussion and beatboxing are a major focus. And the person who has been blending these two the most seemlessly is a humble bloke from Liedekerke, Belgium called Roxorloops. He also happens to be Belgian Beatbox Champion, came 2nd in the World Championships and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential beatboxers worldwide. (Ask any beatboxer – he will have memorized several of Roxorloops’ routines. Ask the godfather of beatbox, Rahzel and he will tell you how he learnt from this young chap coming onto stage -

Apart from pursuing his solo carreer,  Roxorloops is also providing sound effects for a theatre company – and he beatboxes with a tremendous a cappella group called “Whitloof Bay”. Whitloof Bay’s sound has the warmth of the Real Group, their arrangements are uniquely original (you’ll hear a lot of french and quebecois songs) – and Roxorloops’ beatbox gives it a subtle yet driving rhythmical foundation that is unrivalled. It is to this date the best attempt to incorporate a beatboxer into an a cappella group. Roxorloops will also feature in the opening concert of the Swingle Singers. The Swingles have been working regularly in the UK with Shlomo but have also forged a close relationship with Roxorloops, who brings not only his beats but also his tremendous musicality to the groups classical as well as the more contemporary repertoire that is featured on the new release of “Ferris Wheels”.

So here are four reasons to attend the Vocal Jazz Summit:

The line-up: The Real Group, Manhattan Transfer, The Swingle Singers..
A stellar line-up that you won’t easily catch anywhere else. In addition you’ll see some of the most promising up-and-coming groups: norwegian “Pust” is one of the most original a cappella groups you’ll have heard in many years, Whitloof Bay personally blew me away when I heard them for the first time ! The last VJS was a major milestone/breakthrough for groups like Rajaton .. discover the next rising star..

The atmosphere
The Summit will feature afternoon concerts, a market place to meet other groups and professionals, the coachings.. You’ll have a chance to hang out with the performing groups, get their advice and meet like-minded groups and singers. The atmosphere is about sharing, learning and making music together. Listen to the Manhattan Transfer share their secrets as they let you in one of their rehearsals!

The beatbox:
In the 3-day workshop “Beatbox and Beyond” you’ll have the chance to work with four unique creative vocalists on beatboxing, vocal percussion,  rhythm skills, on improvisation, on exploring the sheer limitless possibilities of the human voice, as well as how to use those skills in a group context. (Roxorloops, Kevin Fox, Tobias Hug and french vocal enfant terrible Jerome Colloud will be teaching). Roxorloops will also perform his a cappella group “Whitloof Bay” and have a guest appearance with the Swingle Singers.

The coaching
For three days, you’ll be able to get coaching with all of these amazing groups: Janis Siegel (ManTran), Anders Jalkeus (TRG), Kevin Fox from the Swingles (ex-Cadence).. a unique possibility to learn the tricks of the trade from some of the most experienced and insightful folks around ! Your group will improve immensely!

I will certainly be there :-)

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