Five years back, most youngsters would have frowned in confusion at the mention of B-boxing or beatboxing. But today, hip-hop culture is rampant in the city with every college fest filled with events like street dance and beatbox battles and numerous corporate and commercial events tuning into the trend. How did it all begin? And what sustains the hype that this subculture enjoys?
Once an audience huddles in a loose circle on the floor, what happens is a street dance performance - a collaboration of different styles like B-Boxing, freestyling, popping and locking. “Earlier, people used to dismiss this form of dance as mere stunts. It’s only from the past two years or so that we’ve started to get good response,” says Kevin, member of a 16-member dance crew called Black Ice which won the National Level Turtle Championship in 2010.
The crew has played a major role in promoting the hip-hop culture in Bangalore with their annual fest, perhaps one of the biggest in India, called Freeze which hosts an array of street dance and beatbox competitions.
“We only get judges from outside of India so that it’s a fair competition. However, it’s been difficult to get sponsors since this culture is still a growing one,” says Ritu, another member of Black Ice.
The next Freeze is rumoured to happen around November this year. Another crew called The Biscuits took matter into their own hands when they hosted a hip-hop fest called Got Creamed for the first time last September.
“We had absolutely no sponsors for this event but the response we got was crazy - the venue was packed and the energy was simply amazing,” says Benson, a member of the crew. “Bangalore is the best hub for street dance because it’s very chilled out - everybody knows everybody else,” says Peter, another member.
Beatboxing - a fascinating form of art which combines different kinds of music such as hip hop, electronic music, rock and even thapang (local beats), all produced by the vocal chords of a single person - has swept the hip-hop scene in Bangalore. While many beatboxers start off by watching Youtube videos of other beatboxers, some believe in stark originality. “The first time I saw a beatbox performance was on MTV and this really got me hooked. I never wanted to copy someone else’s style so I came up with all the beats myself,” says Abhishek Bhaskar, founder of Voicebox Production - a company that has been giving beatbox tutorials since 2012. Abhishek performs in corporate events and judges beatbox battles in numerous college fests.
“Compared to other cities, Bangalore is definitely leading as far as appreciation for hip-hop culture goes,” he says.
Rahul Iyengar, winner of the Indian Beatbox Battle 2013 and performer in many events, finds another way of honing his skills. “I Skype-with many international beatboxers from Bulgaria and Malaysia. This, along with Youtube and jamming with other beatboxers, is the best way to get to know new styles and come up with originals,” he says.
Among the lesser celebrated arts in the hip hop scene in Bangalore is rapping. “A few years back, people used to laugh at rap. Now, every other artist wants to collaborate with a rapper,” says Vignesh Shivanand, a Bangalorean rapper who has performed in more than hundred gigs and has recently signed with Sony Productions.
While the hip-hop culture in Bangalore is clearly thriving, one can only speculate upon its longevity. Perhaps, backed by the enthusiasm of the youth, this culture will mature further in the coming years or perhaps, like most trends, will peter out sooner than expected.