Michael 'Meek' Somerville on what beatboxing is all about, his thoughts on the 2017 Irish Championships, and the plan for the future of the Irish scene.
What’s the craic Mick Somerville? When did you start beatboxing?
Around 6 years ago, a few of my friends were into beatboxing.There was about 4 of us doing it in the immediate group, and maybe 5 more in all of Dublin.
We used to practice at our sessions down the park every Friday.It wasn’t proper beatboxing then, just kind of funny noises, but eventually it became more percussive and...
It became an absolute addiction and I have an intense passion for it ever since.
Beatbox is a niche but fascinating subculture. Where did it come from?
It started in places like Harlem or the Bronx in the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, it was a big part of urban culture. If there was no speaker, people had to use their mouths to beatbox. People gained respect for the ability.
Beatboxers went from neighbourhood to neighbourhood competing. That’s how battles started. People got beaten up over the pride involved with the reputation of being the best beatboxer around. It’s been called the fifth element of hip hop, along with things like graffiti.
How did you get into a culture that began in 90s New York?
Beatboxing only came back recently as a very European thing, where it’s been picking up a lot of pace since the first Beatbox World Championship in 2002. There were 3 more since then, most recently in 2015. They were all hosted in Berlin, which is largely regarded as the hub, mainly organised by a beatboxer named Bee-low.
One of the largest channels in the early days was Swiss Beatbox. They send judges to the events and showcase talented beatboxers from all over the world. They’ve been doing that channel for years and it’s been a big help to beatboxers everywhere. I was watching it as a kid and that’s pretty much all we had to go off, but we became inspired by some of the things we saw on there.
A famous beatboxer at the time was Reeps One, his videos were incredible. It was inspirational to see what he could do and that lead me to carry it on.
Has the interest in Beatbox grown at the same pace of here in Ireland?
The scene hasn’t grown in the same way here. For a long time, it was a few of us having the odd jam. In 2011 the first Irish beatboxer, White Noise, brought about twenty of us together in Dublin.We’d never seen anything like it. It was amazing because we had a sense of community, We wanted to do it more often so we started hanging out and beatboxing together.
When you’re immersed in a language, you pick it up so much faster compared to learning it in a book. It’s the same kind of vocal thing with beatbox.
We had the first Irish champs in 2014, organised by a beatboxer called Dubsta. Since then, we’ve had it in Limerick, and last year as the Irish Beatbox Association, we hosted it in Dublin. In Ireland were trying to make our stake, we’re not a part of the UK scene, we have our own champs. We’re doing this for the culture in Ireland.
Why did you found the Irish Beatbox Association?
After the 2016 champs, there was a big push to host it in Dublin again. There were a lot of beatboxers here at the time. We decided to make an organisation where we brand ourselves as a unit. We can go busk together, run workshops for kids, and host events like this year’s Championships , [Read Here] which we had on the 6th of October in the Wiley Fox.
So, there was an Irish beatbox scene a few years ago but it wasn’t widespread. Now, it has grown worldwide. You’ve had national championships every year since 2014. What’s next for Irish Beatboxing?
We find that if people pay attention to us for two seconds they’re blown away. Nobody thought it was possible before, just you and microphone and dirty kick drum, and people are loving it. They think; “That’s proper dance music.”
There’s a talented DJ called Mathman working with a rapper called Mango at the moment. They have a studio in RTE Pulse and we’ve been in there recording and doing interviews. People in high places care a lot about things related to hip hop, like beatbox, that are potentially deadly.
Hopefully next year we can get some funding from the council to do family friendly event, and maybe have an under 18s category. We can’t neglect the kids, we must work on getting everyone involved. When you have that interest when you’re young it stays with you. I know it stayed with me. We’re really looking to grow the community, get recognition, continue having good events. It’s very much going to in the route of organising events. Hosting serious club nights with loop station artists, all these new beatbox things, that’s the goal. We want to put beatboxing out there as music.
Images courtesy of Michael Somerville