Interview with UK Beatbox Star MC Zani
MC ZANI is one of Britain’s brightest Beatboxing stars.
After becoming UK Champion at the Vauxhall UK Beatboxing Championships in 2008, the talented Muslim star has excelled. He’s worked with Jay Sean and Taio Cruz, and supported the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Missy Elliot and Chris Brown on Tour. Not bad for a 24-year-old from South London.
This year he’s back at the Vauxhall UK Beatboxing Championships – not as a contestant, but as a judge.
We caught up with MC Zani to find out more about the man behind the Beatbox…
MC Zani, thank you for speaking to us. Let’s start with this almighty skill you have – how did you get into Beatboxing?
I started Beatboxing when I was 14. I played the drums previously so I always had the sense of rhythm and used to make silly noises but it wasn’t Beatboxing. Then I heard US Beatboxer Rahzel (former member of The Roots) who absolutely blew me away with the crazy beats he was making along with the complexity and clarity of the sounds. He was a pioneer that took Beatboxing from the side stage and brought it to the centre stage as a main act.
Was Beatboxing something that came naturally to you or was it a case of constant practicing to perfect your skill?
I guess Beatboxing did come a bit naturally to me as I already had the musicality, but you don’t get good just like that. I practiced for years until I got to a level where I thought I was OK. It’s like learning an instrument. If you buy a guitar you won’t be able to play it. But if you practice for a few years you are able to play a few songs. It’s the same with Beatboxing – practice makes perfect! Nowadays Beatboxing is so easily accessible. When I started there were hardly any videos just audio clips of a few people but nowadays all you have to do is type ‘Beatboxing’ on YouTube and there are thousands and thousands of videos at your disposal!
When did you decide Beatboxing was something you wanted to pursue full time?
I’ve always loved Beatboxing but I never thought I could have a career in it. I realised I wanted to pursue Beatboxing when I left university. I was already getting quite a few gigs here and in Europe so it wasn’t that hard of a decision. The hard thing now is having the hunger and longevity to stay in the music industry.
What inspires your Beatboxing?
Good music inspires my Beatboxing. Sick beats, crazy basslines – anything that sounds challenging. Hearing other Beatboxers come up with new crazy sounds. The beauty of Beatboxing is that it’s always with you so if you hear a sound or a song you can try it there and then.
Do you think Beatboxing gets the recognition it deserves?
In my opinion, Beatboxing is definitely starting to get the recognition and respect it deserves as an art form. Also, the collaboration with different musical genres such as classical means it is becoming accessible to a greater audience and a style in its own right – check out the recent ‘Concerto for Beatboxers and orchestra’ at the South Bank. We do need to be careful how it is used in adverts and launches for new products though as companies always want to use the new thing that’s ‘cool’ and we need to be aware it is not seen as a gimmick and that it doesn’t become saturated.
You’ve supported major A-list stars – Jay Sean, Missy Elliot, Ludacris – what were those experiences like?
Yeah supporting major artists is great. I’ve been working with Jay Sean quite a while now. I’ve been lucky to travel the world with him to India, Japan, Poland, Romania and just recently in December in USA. It’s been an amazing experience as you get to see the world and meet so many people and rub shoulders with people you usually see on TV.
What advice would you give aspiring Beatboxers?
For all aspiring Beatboxers out there I would say practice makes perfect and also try to be original and find your own style. Visit www.humanbeatbox.com a great site with hundreds of video tutorials and also a forum with thousands of Beatboxers all over the world that share ideas and also battle each other. It also has information about Beatbox conventions and events.
The Vauxhall Beatbox Championships – you’re helping judge this year’s competition. Is it weird being on the ‘other side’ just two years after you were crowned champion?
Yeah I judged the London Heats, which was great. It is weird being on the other side because there is no pressure on you and you can relax. I remember competing and the adrenaline rush is intense fuelled with the energy of the crowd and other competitors. It’s also great to see the next generation of Beatboxers. There is some really good talent out there.
How important do you think the Beatbox Championships are in showcasing the UK scene?
They are massively important in showcasing the scene because apart from the champs and the Beatbox Convention there aren’t any other events apart from gigs where people can see Beatboxing.
Finally, what have you got lined up for 2010?
This year hopefully will be as busy as the past 2 years. The one thing I want to do differently this year is record more. I’ve been touring so much that I haven’t had time to record. I have an Australia tour coming up this month with Jay Sean for ‘Jamfest’. That’s going to be amazing as I’ve never been to Australia! Other artists on the bill include Kelly Rowland, Pitbul, Sean Paul and Eve so I’m really looking forward to that. Also this year I’m working a lot with UK collective Foreign Beggars. I’m also helping run a Beatbox Academy at the Battersea Arts Centre with Shlomo and Jes* (formerly of the Swingle Singers). It’s a great youth scheme to help encourage kids with their confidence and expressing themselves. It’s great to give them something to do instead of hanging around the streets causing mischief! We run a six-week course then put on a show to show for parents and friends. I love it!
For more information on the Vauxhall UK Beatbox Championships 2010 log onto www.vauxhallbeatboxchamps.co.uk